We live in a world where finding out about a product or service before we buy is quick and simple. When we are looking at a potential purchase on Amazon.com or other Internet sites, there are star ratings and reviews to read. Want to try out a new restaurant? Try using Yelp or Google Reviews. Hiring a plumber or house keeper? Angieslist is the place to go. Even fairly obscure companies usually have some sort of grade on the Better Business Bureau’s website to peruse before deciding whether or not to buy. So what about appraisers and appraisal services? Though most appraisal companies have a rating with the BBB, there is no centralized review website for appraisers. There may be good reasons for that.
The complications with rating appraisers for their abilities and quality of work would be the individuals doing the judging and the criteria used. The most probable individual to rate an appraiser on a website (either as a praise or a complaint) would be a borrower/homeowner. Unfortunately, this is probably the last person who should be rating an appraiser (unless they were reviewing him or her strictly on professionalism, punctuality, customer service, etc.) I mean no disrespect to the borrower with this comment. Borrowers, are great people (with very few exceptions), but most of them are not trained in appraisal reading and they have a built-in bias. Appraisals are not written to be easily deciphered by the average homeowner. They are not a defined user in the report. Despite the fact that they may have paid for the appraisal, they are not even the client (the lender usually is). An appraisal report can be complicated and is often misinterpreted. I cannot tell you how many calls my office has received over the years from upset borrowers who claimed we missed bedrooms and bathrooms in the basement (we did not miss anything, they just did not know where to look on the report).
The issue of knowing how to read the report is minor, however, compared to that of bias. Frankly, most homeowners do not care one iota what the appraisal report looks like as long as it ‘hit the value’ they were looking for (or needed for their desired loan). In many homeowners’ minds, a ‘good appraisal’ is one that comes in as high or higher than what they believe their castle is worth. If they think their house is worth $320,000 and the appraiser comes in at $315,000, the appraiser is often branded a ‘bad appraiser’ and this is a ‘bad appraisal report.’ Conversely, an appraiser who hits a value of $350,000 must have done a stellar job and deserves the highest of commendations.
What most homeowners do not appreciate is that the quality of an appraisal report actually has very little to do with the final value. I perform a fair number of peer reviews each year. The most important criteria I am evaluating is the detail of the subject’s description, choice of comparable sales/listings, supportability of the adjustments, reasoning of the final reconciliation, and how well this was all explained. Final value is backseat to all of these (and stems from them all).
I am not suggesting that it would be wrong for a homeowner/borrower to rate an appraiser’s performance, but I am advocating that—depending upon the education of the individual—we take those reviews with a grain of salt. A ‘good appraiser’ is not one who consistently comes in higher than the borrower’s estimate of value and an appraisal is not ‘bad’ because it fails to ‘hit the number.’
Now, go create some value!
Dustin Harris is a multi-business owner, but he has found most of his success as a self-employed, residential real estate appraiser. He has been appraising for nearly two decades. He is the owner and President of Appraisal Precision and Consulting Group, Inc., and is a popular author, speaker and consultant. He owns and operates The Appraiser Coach where he personally advises and mentors other appraisers helping them to also run successful appraisal companies and increase their net worth. He and his wife reside in Idaho with their four children.