Appraisal Profession, Appraising

Copacabana? No Silly, It’s Cubicasa!

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Have you been to the Copacabana? Perhaps you’ve been to the Copacabana nightclub in New York City, made popular by Barry Manilow’s song Copacabana in 1978. Of course, the original Copacabana is a vacation destination in Rio De Janeiro, South America. Both are places where people go to have a good time enjoying music, food, and beautiful beaches in the case of the South American location.

Enjoy this little tour of Copacabana before we move on.

Today, I’m not talking about either location, although, I wouldn’t mind spending some time on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.

In the meantime, I want to visit with you about an awesome software and service that is changing the way real estate professionals measure homes and provide floor plans. The service is called Cubicasa. What does Cubicasa have to do with Copacabana? Not a thing! Well, there may be a little connection I can make, but I’ll wait until the end of this post.

When Cubicasa first came out, they started following me on my Instagram page. Then I began to see their videos as well as videos of fellow appraisers who have posted things about this service.

Here’s one of their advertisements on YouTube. It shows a person scanning a property to create a floor plan. It looks pretty easy.

When I first saw these advertisements, I thought the tech was slick! I am a huge fan of using technology when appraising properties. I remember using pocket PCs to collect field data. Remember them? And I remember the first time I started using a digital camera instead of a 35mm camera to take pictures during my inspections. That was a huge game-changer. And I’ve been measuring homes using a laser for many years now. Enter the next new and cool tool.

SOMETHING NEW

Before we talk about this new tool, let me share an experience I recently had. If you’re an appraiser, you may have already experienced this.

One of my bank clients ordered one of the new Desktop Appraisals that Fannie Mae is accepting. I have no problem with them for certain situations. In my view, they are not misleading if the appraiser makes clear what they did, and how they did it.

The catch with these types of Desktop appraisals is that Fannie Mae requires that the appraiser include a sketch of the home being appraised that shows the exterior dimensions and an interior layout which consists of the interior doors and walls. (Click here for a link to Fannie Mae’s Selling Guide that discusses this)

However, Certification #25 in the 1004P form states that the appraiser, “Unless otherwise noted”, the appraiser has “not made a personal inspection of the subject property or the comparable properties identified in” the report. How does an appraiser obtain this information?

I called the listing agent on the property I was to appraise and asked if they knew how an appraiser might go about obtaining a floor plan. She had no idea and had never heard of this type of thing being needed. I was really at a dead end here. I called the bank and explained the situation. They ended up converting the assignment to a traditional type of appraisal so that I could just make the inspection myself.

Ironically, when making the inspection myself, no interior walls need to be provided. The reasoning for this is that, if I am walking thru the interior, I will be able to see any functional issues with the flow of the home and will be able to account for any functional obsolescence created by a strange or unusual layout. Of course, if there is a strange layout causing some obsolescence, I need to provide a floor plan with interior walls anyway.

So, what’s an appraiser to do? Some AMCs like Class Valuation have a crew that goes out and collects that information and then provides it to the appraiser. But what about lenders that do not provide this information?

I called the chief appraiser of the bank that ordered the appraisal. I know him well and have worked together with him on some complex assignments. He said the whole thing is a mess. Some appraisers are submitting reports where they have the listing agent hand-draw the interior walls on copies of the county auditor’s sketch outline. This is also a no-no. Nothing hand-drawn will be accepted by Fannie Mae in terms of the sketch.

A SOLUTION

An appraiser might think, hey, I can take the Desktop assignment and then just do the inspection myself. However, that would be misleading, because as I mentioned earlier, the certification says that the appraiser didn’t inspect the property. So, to inspect a property that we said we didn’t inspect would be misleading.

It was at this point that I remembered Cubiasa. Cubicasa is scanning software that can be installed on most smartphones as an app that you can use to scan each room on each floor of a home. Once the scan is uploaded, within a day or less, they will send you the floor plan. The floor plan reflects exterior dimensions and interior walls, windows doors, and even where the kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures are located.

Oh, by the way, the measurements are based on ANSI Standards. It is “ANSI-Aligned” which means that its square footage measurements use ANSI principles. However, they don’t guarantee that their measurements completely adhere to ANSI Standards. I have noted that in several of the scans I made, I had to make a couple of minor adjustments to the finished square footage calculations. The software allows you to do so. So, it still takes a human eye to double-check the accuracy of the scan.

Does this sound too good to be true? As a fan of technology, I believed that it was probably fairly accurate. My concern was how easy it is to use. After all, at times, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed.

I downloaded the software to my iPhone 11, went through some things with my contact at Cubicasa, and then set up an account and gave to give it a try. I must tell you that I was very impressed! The scan took 15 minutes to do. By the way, I measured the home also. It took about 15 minutes for me to measure the home. But it would have taken a lot longer if I had to add walls and doors!

I made one attempt at the scan and then uploaded it. I was worried because there were cats and a dog running around and, in the scan at times. Additionally, some people were sitting on a couch as I scanned the area. I was curious to see how it would do with these situations. These things didn’t have any negative impact on the scan results.

In less than a day, the sketch was sent to me via email, and it was awesome! It was professional looking and had all the data that I needed. Its measurements were within 15 square feet of mine on a home that was just over 2,400 square feet. It also broke down the square footage of each floor as well as the dimensions of each room and its gross living area calculations.

It will also deduct the areas of the second floor that are open to the first floor. Additionally, if the home has walls that are not 90 degrees, it calculates the angles. In some complex measures, I have a tool I use to get the proper angle degree of walls. No need when using Cubicasa. Pretty awesome!

I have been using it and then comparing my measurements with its measurements. It is consistently within 1-3% of my measurements. The 3% variance is with larger homes with difficult angles and areas that are tricky to measure. In my view, that’s pretty good!

I noticed when scanning, that you can direct your phone up to catch portions of the ceiling in certain areas and it will calculate based upon ANSI Standards when it comes to the 5′ slope of the ceiling to the floor and calculates that area correctly.

I watched a YouTube video where a photographer compared Cubicasa to Matterport for accuracy. The person said that Cubicasa was off in some rooms. But the person was measuring the room wall to wall, not accounting for the thickness of the walls. When measuring to ANSI Standards, the thickness of the walls is included. When factoring this in Cubicasa was very accurate!

By the way, one of their reps told me that they are working on a way to change the thickness of the walls in the calculations. Currently, they use 6”. However, some homes with higher quality construction may have thicker walls and some with less quality may have thinner walls. Stay tuned for more improvements to the software.

NOW WHAT

Now that I’m comfortable with the accuracy, how am I going to use this tool? After all, I still can’t make the inspection on these Desktop or Hybrid Appraisals. My wife and a friend of mine are going to do the scanning of the homes when I accept a Desktop or Hybrid style appraisal report. And I will disclose their professional assistance in my report.

I also provide home measurement and home floorplan services. In the past, due to the time needed to provide a complex floor plan with interior walls and doors, I charged so much that often, my price was too high, so my customers usually would just order a basic home measurement.

Click here to see a sample copy of one of the floor plans I scanned. It’s towards the bottom of the page on my website.

However, with this service, I have been able to reduce my floor plan fees because it takes much less time with this tool. This has translated into my floor plan business starting to increase. This week I was hired by a REALTOR to provide a floor plan because there was an addition to the home they are getting ready to list, that the county auditor did not reflect in their measurements.

house floor plan
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I also have an order from a homeowner that is going to remodel their home and needs a floor plan with general dimensions of each room and the total square footage of each floor. This will aid them in their new addition planning.

FOR REALTORS ALSO

Anyone can use this service. So, if you’re a real estate agent, this service is something you can use for homes you are going to list. Or hire an appraiser like me to provide the sketch and floor plan for you. Then, if an appraiser asks you for it, you’ll already have this information ready for them, and it will help to keep things moving a little faster. (In theory anyway)

Having a detailed floor plan is nice to have not only if an appraiser from the bank is looking for one, but also for marketing the property! It can give buyers an idea of the layout that they can more easily visualize.

So, there ya have it! Cubicasa to the rescue! Thanks to Cubicasa, I can perform Desktop and Hybrid Appraisals in Copacabana while others do the scans for me in the winter months! Maybe one day. Hey, a man can dream.

And there’s the connection between Cubicasa and Copacabana.

Thanks, Cubicasa!

I do believe that this technology is a game-changer.

I think you’ll be impressed by the ease of use and the quality of the product! By the way, just for the record, Cubicasa didn’t ask for me to write about them. I’m just so impressed that I thought I would share my experience with you. It has already changed the way I do business.

This week, it feels appropriate to leave you with the classic Barry Manilow song, Copacabana. This is the version without the lyrics. For fun, try singing the song replacing Copacabana with Cubicasa. Something like…”At the Cubi… the Cubi-casa…” It will take some practice, but you can do it!

Have a great weekend!


If you enjoy listening to podcasts, check out mine. I hope you enjoy it! You can find me on Apple Podcast, iHeart Radio, Spotify, Google Play Music, Sound Cloud, Radio.com, RadioPublic, Deezer, Breaker, Stitcher as well as other feeds.

You can also listen right here at Cleveland Appraisal Blog! 

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I am a member of the National Association of Appraisers. If you’re an appraiser, and you’re looking to join an appraisal organization, please check them out. The NAA is made up of fantastic appraisers from across the country who are working hard to keep their fellow appraisers up to date on what’s happening.

Click here to visit their website.


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

Higher Mortgage Rates’ Impact On Housing Are Like “Fresh-ish” Clams – Housing Notes by Jonathan Miller

Things Appraisers Think They Know About USPAP, but Are Really Crap – The Appraiser Coach Podcast with Dustin Harris

The housing market has shifted – Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Did You Mislead Your Client Today? – Tim Andersen, The Appraiser’s Advocate Podcast

How this consultant saved a Manhannan co-op $340,000 – The Folson Group Blog

Green Home Appraisals – Ideas for Appraisers – APPRAISAL TODAY

Do We Need a Neighborhood Section? Part 3 – George Dell’s Analog Blog

April Newsletter – Markets Still Flying – DW Slater Company Blog

For my readers in the CLE area… here are some articles related to news in our local area. I hope you enjoy these also… 

Rolling on the River: New 150-foot mural at The Foundry depicts rowing, teamwork, diversity – Karin Connelly Rice of Fresh Water Cleveland

Growing roots: Gateway 105 Farmers’ Market returns to Glenville, in a new home and location – Karin Connelly Rice of Fresh Water Cleveland

19 thoughts on “Copacabana? No Silly, It’s Cubicasa!”

    1. Thanks Joe! My iPhone 11 does not have Lidar. The person I me with at Cubicasa said your phone doesn’t need Lidar to work. Although you
      might get a little more accuracy if your phone has Lidar. Our scans have been great without it.

  1. Hi Jamie, hope all is well back in the world of rock n roll. Just had a friend of mine (appraiser) give some good comments about Cubicasa, your timing was good. Think I will reach out to them and see what they have to say and how this newfangled thing works. Guys wearing Stetsons are a little leery. Take good care.

    1. It is $23 for the very basic plan. $30 for the more complex floor plan. For an additional $10 you can get the plans from the scan back with 6 hours, which I have used on one. They deliver as promised.

  2. Interesting. I appreciate hearing the write-up. It’s such a weird expectation for the appraiser to be responsible to provide a floorplan during a desktop situation. If this standard sticks, it will be a game-changer for the real estate profession as a whole to have floorplans readily available.

    1. It really is strange! I understand part if the rationale, but it seems a little convoluted. It certainly has not sped things up or saved anyone money. Those of us who provide appraisals for lending will just have to adjust or not complete appraisals with this kind of scope of work.

  3. Good article, Jamie! Some appraisers will always resist change, but I think this technology will be another tool to help streamline the process.

    1. Ben, thank you so much for saying so! I know some appraisers are not happy with those of us who are taking on these types of assignments or using this type of technology. I feel as you do though. This technology is tool that can help us. I do know of other appraisers who are using CubiCasa and love it. I use it for more than just desktop appraisals. It’s a fantastic tool when appraising more complex homes. I really appreciate your writing in! My best to you!

  4. Well after the Supreme Court kicked the Floor Plan issue back to the lower court. Y’all doing Desktops and Hybrids might want to be careful. Not sure how the floor plan issue will fly especially right now. Just a thought from a Stetson wearing appraiser. And No I don’t really care what other appraisers are doing for their business, it is their business. I just have a different take on things, especially since I do litigation work and I see what is coming on the horizon for appraisers. Be safe and careful out there.

    1. Thanks Brad! I agree that we should be careful right now. It will be interesting to see what the lower courts do with this case. I appreciate your insights! Their decision may change the way we do things, again.

  5. Hey, Jamie. It looks like I’m a little late to the rodeo here commenting on your post but you did a great job of sharing your experience. I have not had time to test this out but feel like I may be doing so soon. Great job on the review.

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