I love music. In the spring, I like country music. A lot of country songs make me think of flip-flops, soaking up the sun and having some fun! Country songs also make me reminisce about yesteryear. Country music has a way of doing that.
When I started appraising in 1998, things were very different. The other day I was listening to an Alan Jackson song (because its spring time), that made me think about how things have changed in the appraisal profession. So, I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane. Don’t worry, this is just a happy little trip. Nothing negative or deep. Just a little fun. I hope you enjoy the trip, and the song that inspired this blog, at the end.
When I started appraising, the MLS system in my area was DOS based. At the time I liked it. There were a few photos that could be accessed. But not many. F-keys ruled! At the time, it worked just fine. We also used MLS books, which listed homes that were listed for sale or that had sold in the past year. Then our local MLS system changed over to a Windows Operating System. It was a game changer. It was like going from riding a bicycle to a motorcycle.
Better data, more pictures and more helpful information. Today, there is more real estate data available, not only to real estate professionals, but to the general public, than ever before. The availability of data to the public is changing how appraisers, real estate agents and title companies perform our work. We have to adapt. Of course, adaptation has always been necessary to remain successful, no matter the profession.
When I started appraising, I used 35mm camera for taking photos. I would make my pictures and then drop off the role of film to the Photo-Fast developer who could usually develop the film in about an hour.
When I completed the report, I printed it out and faxed a copy (without the photos) to the client. Then, I pasted the photos to the reports and shipped the report out via FedEx. Of course, if the client called and wanted an additional copy, I would have to take the negatives back to the store, have new photos printed. Rinse and repeat. Email was clunky and reports could not be emailed at that time.
Some appraisers used Polaroid cameras that printed the picture on the spot. There was nothing wrong with that. I didn’t like using Polaroid photos because the shape of the printed Polaroid photos didn’t line up nicely on the photo box on the printed appraisal photo page, where the photos were to be pasted. I am a little OCD, which is sometimes good, and sometimes bad.
Then along came digital cameras. Actually, digital cameras were in existence. However, they were so expensive, I didn’t feel that I could justify shelling out the moolah for one. However, in a relatively short period of time, the prices came down to where I figured I would buy one. This is a picture of one of the first digital cameras I used. It would save the pictures to a 3.5 inch floppy disc that was inserted into the camera on the side. It was pretty slick!
Since that camera, I have used numerous other types of digital cameras until our smart phone cameras became so good at taking pictures that now, I just use my iPhone for taking the pictures.
For many years, I used map books. I really never had a problem with them. I will say that they are dangerous to use when trying to drive though. When Microsoft Streets came out, I used that program for many years. I just printed a page that showed the location of the subject and comparable sales. It was a good at the time. When GPS systems started catching on, my friends all tried talking me into buying one. I resisted for a long time because I just didn’t see the benefit of using it. To me, they seemed like more of a pain than just printing out the maps I needed.
Of course, eventually I purchased one. After a couple of weeks of using it, I began to wish I had purchased one earlier. GPS has made my life so much easier. I find it extremely helpful that GPS now offers traffic avoidance and other information like the estimated time of arrival to your destination.
Now, I just use my smartphone as my GPS. I use ApplePlay in my car. I just plug my phone into the car. The map comes up on the screen, which is actually larger than a typical GPS screen. This has been another game changer for me. I use TOTAL’s mobile app for appraising. I can just bring up the map which shows me where each comparable sale is located, along with the subject. I just touch on the pin on the map and hit the navigate button. It sets the destination on the map, and away I go. It doesn’t get much easier than that! By the way, this is not a commercial for TOTAL. That being said, I do love TOTAL software and all that it can do.
I did have a cell phone when I started appraising. However, it was very limited in doing much more than, well, making calls. The texting was clunky at best. A lot of my messages came from my pager. The picture below is the kind of pager I used for years. If one of my clients needed to send me a message, they would just text the message to my pager.
Orders came over my fax machine primarily. Later they came in more through email. (You’ve Got Mail) I have not used a fax machine in years, for anything other than scanning documents. Now I can scan documents using my smart phone. Are you beginning to see a theme? Smart phones continue to be able to accomplish more and more.
I think that’s why we will shell out the amazing amount of money that we do on our cell phones. It’s because, they can do what many of these other tools can do, and sometimes better.
For years I printed out a blank appraisal form, and used a clip-board and pencil. I filled out the report while making my inspection. I used grid paper to draw out the sketch because I can’t draw a straight line if my life depended on it, at least without grid paper.
Then along came the pocket PC. I used one for years. In my experience, using them for the sketches was difficult and frustrating. So, I used the pocket PC to collect all of the field data, with the exception of the sketch, which I still drew by hand. I had a nice set up. I had a leather binder that held my pocket PC in a little pocket on one side, and the graph paper on the other side, for sketching and any note taking. It worked pretty well. Using the pocket PC really saved me time because I could then transfer much of the data I collected, directly into my report. It saved me a lot of time. The picture below is similar to the pocket PC I used.
Now I use my iPhone and iPad to take all of my photos, draw my sketch and document all of the data that I need in the inspection process. My phone also contains a digital copy of my work file for the property I am appraising, so that I can instantly find information I may need while completing my field work.
In addition to my field work, I also use my phone to make crazy videos for advertising, search the web and to chip away at my next blog. Wow, things have changed. While changing technology can be overwhelming at times, I do enjoy the many cool things that we can do with this tech. It has made my life easier in many ways.
When DataMaster came along, it was yet another game changer. It is a program that transfers data from the MLS and public records, directly into the appraisal report. In the past couple of years, a competing software called Spark has come out. I love it even more than DataMaster, though both are awesome! Spark will also automatically transfer the data from public records right into my work file. It also provides tools for analyzing market trends, which is very helpful. I would highly recommend using either one, if they are available in your area. I would recommend Spark if you have the choice.
I could not write this article without mentioning using a laser for measuring. For many years I used a tape measure. They can be challenging to use when it is wet or muddy outside. With most laser measuring devices, you can stand in one place and measure an entire wall. They are also very handy when trying to measure things like the area of the second floor that is open to the first floor. Many homes with more than one story have this type of set up in the foyer or in the great room. I also measure the finished areas of basements. A laser makes measuring much faster.
I have used a laser for so long now, that I had forgotten how much time they save, until I forgot mine one day last year. It took me twice as long to measure the home. I appraise a good number of luxury homes. Using a laser is a huge time saver. Laser measuring devices are very inexpensive these days. You can pick one up at most big-box hardware stores. I use a Disto by Leica. But there are many other types out there that are great!
No matter what profession you may be in, things are always changing. When it comes to change, generally, it makes some things better and some things worse. In my experience, changes in technology create more positive changes, than negative. What’s changed in your profession? Whether you’re an appraiser, or in a totally different profession, feel free to share a comment below. I would love to hear from you! Change is a constant. Focus on the positive aspects of the changes, and adapt accordingly.
Thanks so much for reading my article! I hope you enjoyed our trip down memory lane. As promised, here is the Alan Jackson song that I love called www.memory. And if you’re in the mood to reminisce about the good old days of appraising, just go to www.ClevelandAppraisalBlog.com and hover your mouse over www.appraisermemories and enjoy this article again!
Have a great long weekend ahead!
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Here are some other articles and videos I enjoyed recently! I hope you will also…
Squirreling Away Our Housing Data – Housing Notes by Jonathan Miller
Closing doors open many windows of opportunity! – Voice of Appraisal with Phil Crawford (PODCAST)
Overworked and Underpaid? – The Real Value Podcast! (PODCAST)
You Have A Movie Studio, Use it – The Appraiser Coach Podcast
What is a Barndominium? – DW Slater Appraisal Blog
Dancing and Crooked Houses; Will Appraisals Be Transformed?? – APPRAISAL TODAY
Ch-ch-ch-change in neighborhoods – Sacramento Appraisal Blog
Bank Stresss Testing – A Valuation Function? Part 1 – George Dell’s Valuemetrics Blog
5 Signs That Your Home Is Overpriced And What To Do About It – Birmingham Appraisal Blog
Here are some articles I enjoyed related to Northeast Ohio
Shiny and not-so-new : Celebration of Preservation honors CLE’s shing stars in historic restoration – Karin Connelly Rice Freshwater Cleveland
Portrait of a neighborhood: How culturalhub La Villa Hispana is evolving and embracing its future – Mark Oprea – Freshwater Cleveland
Greater Cleveland Film Commission wants to ensure Ohio’s film incentive doesn’t have its last act – Fresh Water Cleveland
Is Lorain Avenue the new ‘heart’ of Ohio City? These urban entrepreneurs seem to think so – Lee Chilcote – Freshwater Cleveland