With no end in sight to the high demand for housing, the real estate industry faces a serious problem: a dwindling pool of appraisers. HousingWire recently spoke to Chris Knight, CEO and Gabriel Hern, President of Opteon, which consists of a partnered AMC and staff appraiser firm. We discussed the current market and ways the real estate industry is addressing this industry-wide issue.
HousingWire: How is Opteon addressing the appraiser shortage?
Chris Knight: The shortage of appraisers is not going to be remedied without focusing on the larger issue—the lack of focus on recruiting and training new appraisers.
I began my career as an appraiser in Australia. Australians have a different appraisal training process compared to the apprenticeship model in the U.S. Here, even if a person wants to become an appraiser, they’re not able to unless they know an appraiser who is willing to mentor them.
So, the issue we’re facing is appraisers retiring and very few new appraisers coming into the industry. We’re addressing this directly through our Opteon University program. We match interested trainees with experienced mentors. Opteon University opens the door for those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to become appraisers.
Gabriel Hern: Opteon University was created out of necessity during the pandemic. Since early 2020, we’ve trained more than 150 cadets. But in light of the current need for appraisers, we’re beefing up our program so we can accommodate more trainees.
HW: What are the benefits of a staff appraiser vs a panel appraiser?
GH: We’ve built our model to ensure we can provide both options to our clients. Ultimately our goal is always to match the right appraiser with the right order. Having a large pool of panel appraisers allows us to have truly nationwide coverage by providing services in rural areas and ensuring geographical competence.
CK: Staff appraisers allow Opteon to standardize reports and processes in a way
that isn’t possible with panel appraisers. In New Zealand and Australia, Opteon has
created such a streamlined process with staff appraisers that we can provide same-
day turn times. We’re bringing this standardization and our proprietary technology
to Opteon staff appraisers in the United States with the goal of same-day turn times
in the future.
HW: Same-day turn times are a lofty goal. How do you aim to achieve this?
GH: We’ve heard skepticism about same-day turn times, which is understandable. Right now, the average turn time takes 1-2 weeks. I had my own doubts when Chris and I first began discussing the opportunity. Then I flew to Australia and saw firsthand appraisers producing high-quality, same-day turn times. So many companies are trying to modernize the industry by hyper-focusing on technology with the end goal of replacing appraisers. That’s the opposite of our approach—we want to empower appraisers and keep them in the field by providing them with tech, process and data. This approach is in the best interest of appraisers and of our clients.
HW: What are your thoughts on companies that are taking a tech-only approach to the future of appraisals?
CK: I think it’s a big mistake. As I mentioned before, I began my career as an appraiser. I know how much data is needed for every report. Technology simply can’t compete with human knowledge and analytical skills. Don’t get me wrong, I think technology and modernization play a very important role in the future of the real estate industry, but these should serve as tools, not replacements. Give appraisers the data, technology and standardized processes to work more efficiently.
GH: And as an industry, we need to address the issues of long turn times and a
dwindling pool of appraisers head-on. Without a bold approach, the issues will
continue to grow. Opteon is taking the lead, but the industry as a whole must come
together and embrace change if we are to make an impact on these problems.