Tech Revolution Will Change Appraisals

Computershare Loan Services has released new data that suggest U.S. appraisers believe their industry is on the brink of significant change.

The top-rated provider of end-to-end mortgage operations recently asked its network of appraisers to share their experiences and views on a range of subjects, with the 400+ answers providing a snapshot of current industry thinking.

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Although 35% of respondents said that they currently use desktop technology for at least a quarter of appraisals, twice as many (70%) said that they expected to deploy such methods for at least the same amount of their work over the next two to three years.

In addition, although only 12% said that desktop appraisals, which exclude a property visit by the appraiser that completes the opinion of value, represent at least half of their work now, 37% said they expect to undertake more than half of their role using desktop technology by 2020 or 2021.

The survey’s results form part of Computershare Loan Services’ white paper, Property Appraisals in 2020 – Embracing New Technology to Reinvigorate the Industry, which was released today.

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Nick Oldfield, CEO at Computershare Loan Services, said: “Like many professions, property appraising currently faces some interesting challenges as well as the emergence of significant technological changes.

“However, our white paper shows that, by embracing new methods, whether desktop appraisals, cloud computing or the use of drones, the industry can dramatically increase its efficiency and overcome other issues, such as declining numbers and a shortage of new appraisers entering the industry.

“Interestingly, despite inevitable reservations about the nature of these changes, respondents to our survey seem to appreciate some of the benefits that new tech can bring.

“We’re looking forward to continuing to engage with our appraiser network and beyond on how the industry can best use new ideas and methods to improve standards – and the professional lives of appraisers themselves.”

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The survey also revealed an appreciation of the need for greater education to prepare appraisers for change, with more than 60% of respondents saying that they support continuing education programs for desktop appraisals.

Although respondents expressed concerns about the effect that technological change may bring their profession, there was also pragmatism about the benefits, with more than 93% of respondents saying that they would like to see the appraisal software tools that are used for agency loans (Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae) made available to all appraisers.

Desktop appraisals can enable a smaller group of appraisers to conduct more jobs between them: particularly relevant when some sources estimate that the number of appraisers in the U.S. decreased by 21% between 2008 and 2017, and when nearly two-thirds of appraisers are over 50.

65% of respondents to Computershare Loan Services’ survey were over 50, and none were under 30.

Respondents rated higher fees as the most important change needed by the industry to attract “a new generation” of appraisers, rating “easier entry into the profession” second.

More than eight out of ten respondents said that their work was more efficient as a result of their use of digital cameras (92%), electronic databases (90%), computer forms (85%) and email (81%).

71% said that digital access to data, flood maps, public records and aerial or satellite imagery had been the technological development that had most helped improve their work, with 21% citing appraisal software enhancements, form filing and autocalcuation and 5% regression analysis, analytics, charts and graphs.

69% said that valuation and data analysis were more important components to appraisals than inspections.

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