Appraising

A Spoon Full of Sugar

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Remember when you were a kid? No, not a goat. You know, a young human. Remember your parents giving you that thick, pink, nasty tasting medicine, called an antibiotic? While we hated the taste, we needed the medicine. And, after a few days, we began to feel better.

When it comes to appraisals, the information they provide can help to protect us from making a bad financial decision. However, there are times when the results of an appraisal may leave a bad taste in the mouths of those reading the report. Sometimes people can become very upset with the appraiser. Does that mean that the report was bad? Not necessarily. A home owner’s viewpoint about the value of their home may simply not match what is the reality of the market. My wife and I refinanced our home not too long ago. The appraiser’s value estimate was fair, in my opinion. However, their value estimate came in lower than I anticipated. Some of that might simply be my own emotions connected with our home.

There are times when a home owner, real estate agent, or other party involved, becomes irate if the appraiser’s value estimate comes in lower than their expectations. After all, a lot of things hinge on the outcome of an appraisal. The results may make or break a loan that a home owner may really want or need. The results may kill a “deal”, which has a direct impact on the loan officer or real estate agent’s income.  Whatever the case, they may call the appraiser and give them a piece of their mind.

When this happens, the way an appraiser handles the situation is critical! It should first of all be noted that, as appraisers, we can only discuss the appraisal with our client and/or anyone our client says we can. So if the borrower calls an appraiser, the appraiser has to be careful about what they say. Some lenders state in their letter of engagement that the appraiser cannot even discuss the appraisal process, as it relates to that assignment, with anyone other than the lender. As appraisers, we also need to use some caution in the way that we communicate with those who call us in this situation.

In a fairly recent on-line podcast, Peter Christensen, a real estate attorney who represents appraisers, valuation firms, mortgage service providers, valuation technology companies and investors, made a point that I have heard before. Namely, that the appraiser’s own actions and/or words may escalate an already difficult situation into a complaint to the state.

WHAT TO DO WHEN AN IRATE PERSON CALLS US

You might remember how one song from Mary Poppins goes. “A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down.” The “sugar” that might make the “medicine” or appraisal results, be more palatable, may come from the way we handle the situation.

There is an ancient proverb that says: “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out…”. (Prov. 26:20) In other words, don’t fuel the fire of an angry caller by responding in a less than professional manner.

As appraisers, we must keep our cool and stay professional. So what do we do if our client calls us and is upset with our valuation? Be compassionate and understanding in our tone of voice and our choice of words.  Kindly explain our rationale in how we derived our opinion of value. Patiently explain the process.  We may have to explain things more than once.  Be a good listener. Really listen to the concerns of our client. Try to see beyond their anger.  Perhaps they are pointing out something that we really got wrong in our report.  It would be horrible to make a mistake and then ignore our client when they were brining it to our attention. Of course, we may not have made a mistake. If that’s the case, we can portray confidence without arrogance.

IF THE PERSON CALLING IS NOT OUR CLIENT

What if the person calling is not our client? There is nothing in USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice) that states that we cannot show compassion. We can show some compassion without violating any laws. We can be a good listener. Simply listening respectfully to what the person has to say can be helpful.  We can tactfully explain the steps they need to take if they have a grievance with our work. As professionals, we should be respectful of the person on the other line, whether they are our clients or not. Doing so may go a long way towards de-escalating a difficult situation.

That would include never hanging up on someone. In the 20 years that I have been appraising, I can only remember hanging up on one person. It was in the early 2000’s. At that time, there was a loan officer that I found very difficult to work with. He was not a bad guy. Just super needy and a big waster of my time. He called me on a continual basis, with requests that were a little strange and totally unnecessary. One day I told him that I didn’t want to take on any more appraisal work from him. Well, he kept calling me over and over anyway. He would keep me on the phone for long periods of time trying to get me to accept more appraisals work from him. I think he may have had a similar situation with numerous appraisers prior to me. Over and over I explained to him that I just didn’t want his business anymore. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. So, after telling him that I was going to hang up on him three times, I finally did. Click.  True story! (If you’re out there Lucky, I hope you’re doing well man! It was nothing personal.)

Usually when I have an irate person on the phone, I will just kindly explain what I am able to explain, over and over, until they get the point. They usually do, or at least they give up arguing.

We live in a small world. That is something to keep in mind when it comes to customer service and the way we handle difficult situations. People talk! If an appraiser is unprofessional, even if the other person is completely rude and nasty, word can travel quickly about the way we handled a situation. If we’re professional, they are likely cool down later. When they think back to how we treated them, hopefully with respect and professionalism, even if they did not treat us in the same manner, they may come to at least realize that we were just doing our job to the best of our ability.

The good news is that this kind of call doesn’t happen all that often. The bad news is that when it does, it may catch us off guard. It’s pretty easy to write a blog about what we can do in this situation. However, when we are personally being attacked, or our work is, it is extremely difficult to respond professionally. Nonetheless, if we add a “spoon full of sugar” to our reaction, it might go a long way in helping ease the situation.

Whether you are a home owner, a real estate agent, a loan officer, an appraiser or are in a totally different profession,  I hope that you find the principles stated in this article to be helpful!  I’m certainly not trying to tell anyone how to run their business. The purpose of this article is just to share an approach to difficult situations that has served me well over the years. Thanks as always for reading my article!



Here are some other articles and videos I enjoyed this week! I hope you will also.

Can Housing Lighting Strike Twice? – Housing Notes by Jonathan Miller

The problem of not listening in a slower market – Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Cash Buyers Beware! – Birmingham Appraisal Blog

Right Business, Wrong Time? – The Real Value Podcast

For The Potential Trainee – Ann Arbor Appraisal Blog

What Is A Hybrid Appraisal, Part 3: Why? – George Dell’s Analogue Blog

Working Together – Is it for you? SW Slater Company, Real Estate Appraisal Blog

Frivolous Complaints Against Appraisers – Michael Ford – Appraisers Blogs

2 thoughts on “A Spoon Full of Sugar”

  1. We always have the choice to respond in a professional way. I will say sometimes it’s just best not to respond to a really angry phone call too. That is, only if conversation is not going to be possible. Then it’s probably best to table any further discussion. But no matter what, handling things professionally is something I’m completely on board with. You are 100% correct too that people are not always going to be happy with the results. There are times though when results are not welcome, but then later on they actually are once a property hits the market and doesn’t sell at the price everyone thought (but does sell around the appraised value eventually). Great thoughts Jamie.

    1. Thanks Ryan! Great point about not responding to an angry phone call if it is not going to be productive. I’ve taken that path a time or two.😃

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