Appraisers have experienced many challenges in the last couple of years. From juggling high volume demand for appraisals in the middle of a pandemic, appraisers had to radically change their processes. Most took these challenges in stride and adopted innovative strategies to keep everyone safe during COVID-19. But in the face of the ongoing epidemic and increasing volume impacting turn times, the industry will need to use technology to remediate these issues.
Remote inspections have the power to make homeowners and appraisers more comfortable. However, some remote solutions put an added burden on the homeowner. Others don’t provide appraisers with accurate enough data. Incenter Appraisal Management’s new remote appraisal inspection tool streamlines the appraisal process while ensuring appraisers stay in control of the inspection and data collection.
While the immediate need for remote appraisals began in 2020, it soon became clear that these processes were here to stay. Appraiser populations have declined relative to the industry volume in recent years, and the recurring fears of new epidemics, disasters, and the upcoming flood of “Generation Z” buyers that are coming into the workforce in the next 5-7 years will add strain to an already overworked and stretched capacity. Plus, as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve with new virus strains, some people remain hesitant to allow others into their homes.
“We are seeing that homeowners still have an increased level of resistance to let people into their homes,” said Mark Walser, president of Incenter Appraisal Management. “This is a challenge for appraisers who need to visit a property for the home buying process to continue.”
A majority of current remote solutions are alternatives to a traditional appraisal. These are referred to as “hybrids,” where appraisers are provided photos and data – typically collected by the homeowner – rather than obtaining that information themselves. Incenter recognizes the complexity of the appraisal process. Not only is it beneficial for appraisers to actually see the property in real time, but communicating with the homeowner and asking questions about the property is equally important.
“There might be a place for hybrid appraisals in some parts of the industry, but our appraisers are telling us that they want to inspect a property,” explained Walser. “They want to know what they’re inspecting and they want to be able to take the photos.”
RemoteVal by Incenter is a new class of technology that replicates the process an appraiser already performs. This technology is made to empower appraisers – not replace them.
“We understand that appraisers are a crucial part of a complex industry, and that’s why we made this solution so it’s streamlined for them,” said Walser.
RemoteVal allows appraisers to bypass some of the issues that can result when assessing property in person. Whether that’s a potential personal issue between an appraiser and homeowner or a safety concern, RemoteVal removes the opportunity for conflict and focuses the homeowner and the appraiser on the inspection of the property.
With this technology, an appraiser is able to see the home, take photos
and real-time measurements with a built-in digital measuring tape, with the assistance of the homeowner or person at the property holding their phone and pointing where the appraiser tells them to. Similar scenarios can occur with appraiser trainees, agents, contractors and other “lender designated users” at the property.
Benefits the appraiser
Think of RemoteVal’s impact to the industry like you would a Lyft or Uber ride. Through these apps, consumers call a driver, the car shows up and takes them to their destination. Once there, the consumer doesn’t have to physically pay because the app handles everything.
This is the level of streamlining that Incenter aspires to achieve with RemoteVal. And it’s reflected through the solution in many ways, a primary example being that Incenter pays the appraiser in 24 hours.
“About 35% of our appraisers have taken advantage of our 24-hour option, but it’s available to 100% of the appraisers out there,” explained Walser. “The 24-hour pay is kind of groundbreaking in this industry as most appraisal management companies do not pay that quickly.”
RemoteVal automatically generates room sketches with accurate dimensions and integrates that data into standard industry forms, allowing appraisers to spend less time on menial tasks. This solution also enhances productivity by eliminating driving time and gas fees for the appraiser.
“With RemoteVal, appraisers and the lending industry have the technology to maintain accuracy while increasing speed without sacrificing quality,” said Walser.
User-friendly for everyone
“The biggest difference between RemoteVal and other solutions is that we don’t make the homeowner do anything,” said Walser.
Other solutions rely on the homeowner to download an app, learn how to use the app and then take pictures of their home. The problem with this process is it requires a great deal of work for the homeowner and leaves room for error. Similar issues occur with appraisers relying on content generated by a 3rd party such as an inspector. With RemoteVal, the homeowner has one job – click a text link and be connected to an appraiser who will handle it from there.
“It’s just like having a FaceTime call with one of your family members except the individual looking through the camera is an appraiser and they’re taking measurements and telling you when to hold still so they can snap a photo,” added Walser.
Incenter has found this tool works well within older and younger demographics, as it keeps the appraiser in full control and requires little work from the homeowner. Not to mention, the demographic of homebuyers right now are attuned to this type of virtual technology.
“Approximately a third of the current real estate customer base right now, from a home buying perspective, are millennials and they are digital natives,” added Walser. “Some surveys and studies estimate that there will be about 87 million new homebuyers coming into the market in the next five to seven years that’ll be between 12 and 25 years old right now.”
Incenter developed this remote valuation tool with the goal of keeping appraisers in full control while also helping streamline the process for both the appraiser and homeowner.