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True to form: the future of appraisal forms software. (Technology).

CONTROL FREAKS...don't you just love them? The same lending institutions that foot the bill for a large percentage of all residential mortgage appraisals today are again being accused of attempting to exert too much control over the independent appraiser. This time, through appraisal forms software.

For the last year or so, lenders have been asking appraisal software companies to make changes that will allow lenders to have more control over the way an appraiser goes about doing their work. These changes have been well thought out and will ultimately benefit all of us; however, many appraisers see this as just one more way that banks are trying to get rid of appraisers.

When looking at the history of appraisal forms software, it's easy to see that lenders, not appraisers, have influenced most of the technology we use today. While appraisers' opinions and desires are taken into account on the implementation of most ideas, it's been cash from large institutional users that has funded today's technology.

The notion that banks are attempting to eliminate appraisers is not new--it's been rattling around the appraisal community since just after the savings and loan crisis--but it is misguided. Most technology executives or chief appraisers of lending institutions will tell you that, while the role of an appraiser continues to change drastically, that role becomes more and more important with each passing year.

Last year, lenders wanted appraisers to start sharing their data: this was accomplished through modifications to every major appraisal software package that now allows the appraiser to send their comparables and other report-specific data to national repositories. The Appraisal Institute Residential Database is an example of this. When AIRD was first announced, many appraisers complained that it would put them out of business. The project is now a reality and has benefited many appraisers and lending institutions, without putting any of them out of business. Now, lenders want to take the next step: they want to start pushing more data to the appraiser when they place orders for appraisals and then they want to have some say about what the appraiser does with that data in order to come up with a final determination of value.

Accomplishing this with software is a fairly straightforward process. The programmers build a rules-based system into their workflow engines so that, on certain assignments, the bank will be notified if the appraiser has gone outside the requested guidelines for the appraisal. For example, if a lending institution thinks they know the value of a home and can provide several comparables to support that value, the software can send all of this information to the appraiser. Then, if the appraiser finds that the original estimate of value is flawed, or that different comparables are needed, the bank can be notified electronically. The best way to accomplish this is using Web-based forms software, which is easily modified for rules processing and for the needs of each individual lender or appraiser. Day One, Bradford, Polaroid and others have all displayed Web-based forms solutions at trade shows in the last year.

The benefit to the lending institution of these types of systems is enormous: a bank can know with greater accuracy, early in the process, how long an appraisal will take to deliver. For large lending institutions, being able to standardize the workflow process for thousands of appraisers will cut down on review costs and make it easier to accept new appraisers onto an approved fee panel.

While some feel software automation will turn appraisers into an army of mindless, comp-checking drones all of whom must work exactly as the bank has ordered, lending institutions are hoping appraisers will use their intelligence in ways that can be more directly communicated back to the bank. Technology advances merely help the industry evolve into a more intelligent community. In actuality, the mortgage industry is several years behind other industries that have adopted similar systems. Motorola, McDonalds, carrier and other Fortune-1000 class companies implemented similar systems with their vendors years ago. Those vendors that complied with the request for software automation, for the most part, all grew and became more profitable with their clients.

The role of the residential mortgage appraiser continues to change. And, while there are fewer today than there were last year, those that have aligned themselves with the right clients and advanced with new technology are busier and more profitable than ever. The customers are asking for changes...are you listening carefully?

MARK H. YELLEN is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Buffalo, N.Y-based Appraisal.com, a leading provider of technology solutions for appraisers and appraisal users. Appraisal.com and its subsidiary, Day One, count Washington Mutual Bank, Greenpoint Mortgage and more than 60,000 independent appraisers and lenders as clients.
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Yellen, Mark
Publication:Valuation Insights & Perspectives
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2002
Words:795
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