Appraisal Profession, Appraising

How Vaccines & Value Development Have Sped Up

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Are you concerned about the speed for which the COVID-19 vaccines are being developed? Can they be reliable even though the process has been much faster this time? It used to take years to develop a vaccine. However, as we continue to deal with the fallout from the pandemic, scientists have been working around the clock to develop effective vaccines for this virus. To date, there are  three promising contenders. Early on, I was concerned about the speed of the vaccine development and its safety. That is, until I researched how scientists have been able to accomplish this speed.

How are scientists able to development of the COVID-19 vaccines much more quickly than those of yesteryear?

Technology is one major component. Have you ever purchased a computer or a cell phone? How quickly did it become obsolete because something much better came along? The first iPhone was released in 2007, which to me, does not feel like that long ago. Compare the first iPhone, or other comparable smart phone of the time, to current smart phones. Technology is advancing rapidly. It feels like the growth of technology is exponential. Better technology is one of the key reasons for the rapid development of the COVID-9 vaccines.

Depiction of a coronavirus with its spike proteins

Good data is another reason. Scientists already had data from research made on different coronavirus’. So, they already had a blueprint for how to develop a vaccine that would be effective for this type of virus, with its spike proteins. When you combine advanced technology and good data, you have a process that is much faster, and arguably, more reliable, than it used to be. Interestingly, the same is true with the development of opinions of real estate value.


When I started appraising, back in September of 1997, (which I usually say is 1998 because it’s my first full year of appraising) the appraisal process was much slower! At that time, it took weeks for a client to receive my report, compared to today, when often it only takes days. Why? Technology and better data.

Back in the day, I used a 35mm camera. Once I took the pictures of the subject and comparable sales, I had to take that little black or clear plastic canister with the film to the fast-photo joint to have the pictures developed. Those pictures were then pasted to the reports that had been printed out. A copy of the map, from a map book, was pasted to the map addendum page, with sticker arrows being attached to the map, pointing to each property I used as a comparable sale in my report, and the property I was appraising. The inspection process was different too. At that time, and for years, I used a clipboard and a pencil. Attached was some grid paper for the sketch, and a blank appraisal form to fill out while I made my inspection. (Which we now often call the “observation”) I used a tape measure to measure the house and other amenities. 

At that time, the MLS in my area was DOS based. Remember those F-Keys? It was a slow process. Pulling data was slow and cumbersome. The available pictures on the MLS were few, and had poor quality, at least by today’s standards. It took a long time to research sales and market data, and then print out the information needed to develop a supportable opinion of value for my work file. 

We typed every word into the appraisal report form. This was long before data transfer services like Spark or DataMaster existed. Some appraisers had offices where they hired someone to type the information into the report. I never had that. So, I typed everything myself. Once the report was typed, printed and the pictures and map affixed to the report, the reports were then shipped out, usually via FedEx.

What if the client decided that they needed another copy of the report? No problem. We just went back to the fast-photo shop with the negatives, and then had more pictures made. Then we printed out the report again. Rinse and repeat as needed. Of course, no one expected an appraisal report to be delivered within a few days. It took weeks to get an appraisal report to the client.


How things have changed! Often, I can complete a report within a few days. Especially if it’s not a complex report, or a report with a scope of work that requires more time. How did appraisers go from weeks to days in completing a report? It is for the same two changes that have aided scientists in developing vaccines much faster than in times past. Namely, advances in technology and access to better data.

Today, I collect all my field data using my phone. I use my phone to take all the photos of the subject and comparable sales. The quality of the photos rivals many cameras today. I also use my phone to record my observations of the subject, including my sketch and other important information. Phones and software have come a long way baby!

Instead of using a tape measure, I use a laser to measure the home I am appraising, and its amenities. (At times I do still need a tape measure or tape wheel, but it’s not often) All of the mapping is digital. Once I have finished my field work, I simply upload the data from my phone into my appraisal software on my computer. Many of the fields in the report are automatically populated with the data that I collected, including the sketch. This saves me a lot of time. I also use a data transfer service called Spark to transfer data from the County Auditor and the MLS into my report. This is a huge time saver. I may still have to change some of the data, based upon further analysis. However, it saves me a lot of data entry time, which can really slow the process down.

For my appraiser colleagues that may be reading this, I have used both DataMaster and Spark. Both are excellent. However, in my experience, Spark offers features that I like better. You can’t go wrong with either one though. In addition to advances in technology for the inspection and field work, the availability of data, and the ease of accessing it has also helped to speed up the process.

The MLS systems of today are much more advanced, including the ability to search for specific property types as well as to pull massive amounts of data from specific areas. This has also been a game changer when it comes to the time it takes to perform my analysis of market conditions and to search for sales data. Additionally, software is much more powerful today.  They assist in the analysis of market trends and measuring market reactions to different components of value. The photos in the MLS are also much better! I look closely at these. Sometimes the pictures indicate things about a home that may not be reported accurately in the listing itself. For instance, a listing might say that the home has a finished basement. But the photos of the basement clearly show that it is not finished.  

Improved technology, and better data, have not only changed the speed for which appraisers can perform appraisals, it has also freed up time for us to make a much deeper analysis of available data when performing an appraisal. I spend a lot more time analyzing the data these days. That’s a good thing! Therefore, the appraisals completed by appraisers today are not only faster, but better supported. At least in my opinion. That is, when completed correctly and with the proper due diligence.


Just because something can be done much faster than in times past, does not always mean the quality is inferior. In my opinion, this is true with the development of vaccines (at least based upon the information I have read on the subject) and appraiser’s opinions of value. When it comes to vaccine development, the advances in science could not come at a better time.

Several weeks ago, my friend and colleague, Jonathan Miller, in his Housing Notes, had a clever title that said “The Housing Market Learned That “V-Shaped” Recovery Stands For “Vaccine”. This is so true! Until a large portion of the population is vaccinated with an effective vaccine, the economy is not going to get better.  By the way, I recommend subscribing to Jonathan’s Housing Notes. They always provide a little humor with a large helping of insights into the housing market.

In the meantime, please be safe out there. This pandemic is wearing on everyone. But if we let our guard down now, especially with numerous vaccines on the way, it would be like jumping into the waves of a tsunami when the rescue choppers are on the way. Hang in there! As always, thanks so much for being here!  

  • photo credit to Upsplash & Giphy

Have a great weekend everyone! Be safe out there! 


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If you are interested in stats, and nothing but the stats, for neighborhoods in Northeast Ohio, check out my other podcast. In it, I provide short episodes that provide you with stats on median sales prices, marketing times, housing inventory and other related stats, on specific neighborhoods in Northeast Ohio. You can find me on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Play Music, Breaker, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Radio Public or you can listen right here at the Cleveland Appraisal Blog.


Here are some links to other articles I’ve enjoyed recently! I hope you will also…

Black Friday Housing Tryptophan Wake Up Call –  Housing Notes by Jonathan Miller How much are buyers paying above the list price? – Sacramento Appraisal Blog  Why should you use a face mask? – COVID Science For Everyone!  (This is a newer blog created by Appraiser Ann O’Rourke, who is also the author of APPRAISAL TODAY. This is an excellent blog if you want relevant and up to date information on COVID-19. Please check it out.) Appraisal highest and best use analysis – APPRAISAL TODAY What Is The Home Appraisal Timeline? – Birmingham Appraisal Blog

Valuation Bias? Part II – George Dell’s Analogue Blog      

4 thoughts on “How Vaccines & Value Development Have Sped Up”

  1. We are spoiled today with so many things. I own all the MLS books from the 80s and 90s and use them for retro valuations. I never had to use them in real life though and I’m okay with that. 🙂

  2. Hi Jamie,

    Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. I became an appraiser in 2002 and was very happy to start with a digital camera. No trips to the 24 hour photo shop for me!

    I was concerned about outside influences in vaccine approval but fortunately for all of us, looks like that didn’t occur. I highly recommend Ann’s blog to everyone. It’s a great resource.

    My question now is when do appraisers get a vaccine? Where do we fall in line? We are essential workers, at least in my state, and routinely go into strangers’ homes as part of our job.

    1. Thanks Joe! Shortly after I started appraising Kodak came out with one of the first digital cameras. It was so expensive that it was not worth buying at the time. I’m grateful the costs came down. I’m even more grateful that I can use my phone now!

      I do love Ann’s new blog! Great info!

      Hopefully, the vaccine will be available sooner rather than later! Scary times!

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