Most appraisers are experiencing a significant slowdown in mortgage lending work due to rapidly increasing mortgage rates which are slowing down the housing market. I have seen a slowdown in my lending work also. So what can we do? Half my work is non-lending work, and that’s been a blessing.
Mortgage lending work is only one type of business where appraisals are needed. Appraisals are often required for divorce and marriage dissolutions, probate work, and estate and financial planning. Appraisals are also often needed for tax appeals and for private cash sales. Investors who need a value of a home before and after the proposed repairs are made, sometimes use appraisers. Real estate agents also need appraisals for properties that may be more difficult to price.
I’m not going to dive into the nuances of these different types of appraisal work in this article. I recommend having a visit with an appraiser in your area that performs appraisals for some of these purposes, to learn about what’s involved in these types of assignments.
To develop work outside of the lending world, you need to get the word out there that you are an expert in your field and that you’re ready to take on different types of appraisal work. In this article, I’m going to share some things that have helped me to do so. Hopefully, you will benefit from some of the things I mention here.
GET A WEBSITE
I think it’s important to have a website. Most of my non-lender work comes from referrals and my websites. It’s important to tell a little about your company and the services that you offer. I recommend having some information about your experience and skills, but also some resources that will be helpful to potential clients.
Think of your website as a resource for the public. As an appraiser, you probably know how to create charts and visuals for appraisal reports. Why not create some meaningful charts reflecting housing data in your market area? That will demonstrate to the public that you’re plugged into what’s happening in your market as an appraiser.
A boring website with nothing but a lot of wording, and not much else, may feel exhausting to some visitors. So, have some good visuals that don’t require a lot of reading. When developing your website, try to put yourself in the public’s shoes. What will be of interest to the public? I recommend adding a video, or videos, where you are speaking. I think potential clients appreciate this.
START A BLOG
Starting a blog is not difficult. It does require some diligence though. Blogs don’t have to be long. Talk about your experiences as an appraiser or what’s happening in your market. Everyone’s market is different. Home prices may be tanking in one market and doing well in another. People want to know what’s happening in their market. As appraisers, we know! Share that information.
You can also talk about what we do as appraisers, and how we perform our work. Most people have no idea. Writing a blog can help you to stand out in your market as an expert. And it can help make us better appraisers. When we have to explain something well, we need to have a good understanding of the subject. Sometimes, we may have to do a little studying before writing on a particular topic. Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. Write about what you do know. You would be amazed at how little many know about the appraisal process.
Don’t be afraid to make a mistake in your article. If you’ve been reading my blogs for any length of time, you no doubt have read typos I have made or things I could have conveyed better or more accurately. We’re all imperfect and we all make mistakes. Don’t let fear hold you back from starting a blog if that’s something you would like to try.
START A MONTHLY NEWSLETTER
If blogging sounds a little overwhelming, why not try a simple monthly newsletter? Constant Contact is inexpensive and easy to use. That’s what I use. When people receive your monthly newsletter, it reminds them that we are still out there waiting to help others with our valuation services.
When creating a monthly newsletter, share things about the market. Add some personal things, but be careful to not make too much of the newsletter about you. Think of it as another resource that the public can benefit from. HomeLight’s The Walk Through Podcast had an excellent episode entitled “Bad Email is Dead: 5 Mistakes That Make Your Email Newsletter Unreadable”. It’s worth a listen if you are thinking of starting a newsletter.
You’re going to get some followers. Others will drop off. Don’t take it personally. If you’re slowly getting more subscribers than unsubscribes, that’s great! Have fun with it! If you’re losing subscribers or not gaining new ones, try to figure out what the public in your target market area is interested in and make changes to your newsletter as you go along. You’ll find that some things work, while others don’t.
ANSWER YOUR PHONE AND BE KIND
This seems obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I have answered my phone only to hear the person start by saying how pleased they are that I actually answered. If you can’t answer and don’t have an answering service or an assistant that answers the phone, be quick about returning calls. I’ve also had people say they were happy because I returned their call when many appraisers did not.
I’ve won a good amount of work by just answering my phone or returning calls quickly. It doesn’t get easier than that. Isn’t this just good business practice anyway?
The other thing I recommend is to be kind to people when they are calling to inquire about our services. I’m sure that you are, but some are not. I have had people tell me that they have called some appraisers who were just plain rude to them.
Why is a little kindness and compassion helpful? Think about the times when someone is going to need an appraisal. I mentioned some of them earlier. When someone is buying or selling a home, or when two people are getting a divorce, or when a family member dies and the family is going thru probate. These are some of the most stressful times in a person’s life. Many are very nervous to call the appraiser. They are not sure what they need, other than a value. They don’t know what’s involved. And often, our opinion of value will have an impact on their lives in some way. So, they may already be a little intimidated.
People going thru some of these things need someone they feel comfortable talking to, to walk them thru what they need and what they can expect in terms of the appraisal process. We can maintain our professionalism and still be kind and compassionate. People need a little kindness now more than ever before.
We’re here to help people solve a problem. Help them to know that we want to help them by providing the best customer service and valuation work we can offer as an unbiased third party. Being kind doesn’t mean we are biased. It just means we’re kind, and that can lead to more business and referrals.
OFFER SERVICES OTHER THAN JUST APPRAISING
When performing an appraisal, there are things we do in the process that people are willing to pay for without having an appraisal completed. For instance, what about taking photos? Have you considered starting a little business taking photos for real estate agents, or homeowners who are thinking of selling their home on their own and need someone to take photos of their home? People may want to hire someone to take photos of personal property items that they would like to document that they possess for insurance purposes.
What about measuring a home or creating a floor plan? I do generate a little extra business from offering home measurement and floor plan services. Granted, with the slowing market, the demand might not be what it was, but people still need these services at times. There will still be homeowners who want to sell their homes and may need to know the square footage of their homes. Many like the idea of having a floor plan, but don’t know who offers this type of service.
Earlier in the year, I was hired to create a floor plan by a homeowner because they were planning on renovating their home and wanted to have a current floor plan that they could simply print over and over to use as a rough draft that they could draw on for ideas they had about how they wanted to change the configuration of their home’s interior.
I used CubiCasa. My client loved their floor plan! By the way, I am an Appraiser Ambassador for CubiCasa, so they compensate me to talk about their service. The reason I agreed to become one of their ambassadors is that I truly love their service and how easy their software is to use, and the awesome floor plans they render.
Here’s a little video that shows what it looks like to make the scan and at the end it shows you what the floor plan looks like along with the gross living area report. Pretty slick!
The floor plans are free. Some clients would rather pay me to scan their homes and create the floor plan for them than do it themselves. If we have a client that wants the measurements, it only costs $15 per report. If you would like to add more detail to the sketch, there is an option to do so for an additional $15 per scan.
I will say this regarding the measurements… CubiCasa does an excellent job of measuring things. However, sometimes it may include an area as being finished square footage, while we know that it’s not heated and would not qualify as finished square footage, at least in most parts of the country. CubiCasa’s website makes it very easy to change a room from being included to being excluded as finished square footage. It also offers a lot of other great tool options.
For instance, what about that bonus room over the garage that can only be accessed thru the garage? We don’t include those types of rooms in our gross living area because they are not contiguous with the main living area. There is a box to uncheck if the area is not contiguous with the main living area. It then removes that area from the gross living area and recalculates the square footage. My point is that CubiCasa is a fantastic tool, but it still requires some expertise in understanding what qualifies as gross living area, if we are going to use it to measure a home. But, most of the time, it gets it right the first time, at least in my experience. It also allows you to change the room name to anything that you would like, and it offers customized colors for different rooms.
I’ve been using this software for a good portion of this year and I am very impressed by it. I know you have to take what I say with a grain of salt since I’m being compensated to talk about it. But try it for yourself. See what you think. Especially if you’re trying to expand your business with different services.
When I’m hired to create a floor plan or measure a home, I like to let them know that if they would like an appraisal, the floor plan and measurements are included at no extra charge. So, if they pay a little more and hire me for an appraisal, they are getting a lot for their money!
OFFER A LUNCH AND LEARN
Another way to become a resource is to offer to go into the offices of banks, attorneys, and real estate agents to teach others about what we do, or what’s going on in the market, or simply to answer questions people may have about appraisals.
I’ve done a fair amount of these types of meetings over Zoom in the past couple of years, including teaching a CLE (Continuing Legal Education) class to members of a local bar association, and to real estate sales offices and banks.
It’s a great way to demonstrate that we are a market expert. More importantly, we educate others on what we do and how we can benefit them with our services. I know that public speaking is not for everyone. But if you give it a try, I think you will like it. Especially if you’re well prepared.
You may be afraid of not having the answer to a question thrown your way. Don’t be afraid! If you don’t know the answer, simply say so and let them know that you will do some research and get back to them. I think that wins the respect of most people, and if it doesn’t, you probably don’t want them as a client anyway. No one can possibly have the answer to every question. But I bet that if you are an appraiser, you’re going to be able to adequately answer most questions people have about what we do.
I hope that some of these things will benefit you and your business while we go thru this downward real estate cycle. Thank you so much for reading my blog! By the way, at the end of my blogs, I share other great blogs, newsletters, and podcasts from my fellow appraisers, from who I’ve learned so much, and continue to. Check out their links. You’ll learn a lot about what makes for great content that the public will love!
Growing up in Denver, Colorado, I always looked forward to the official kick-off to the ski season by watching the late Warren Miller’s films. They were always epic! This week, I leave you with a little of one of his films.
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, and other feeds.
You can also listen right here at Cleveland Appraisal Blog!
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.
If you’re an appraiser and you’re looking to gain some new analytical skills, check out George Dell’s Stats, Graphs, and Data Science 1. Click here to register.
Here are some links to other articles I think you might also enjoy…
Are You Pricing Your Home Too High For Today’s Market? – Birmingham Appraisal Blog
Social Media in 2023: What to Post to Maximize Your ROI – HomeLight’s The Walk Through Podcast
The housing market is feeling the pain of higher rates – Sacramento Appraisal Blog
Turning a Corner – October Newsletter 2022 – DW Slater Company Blog
VA Update for Appraisers Interview with VA’s Chief Appraiser – APPRAISAL TODAY
Rudy Robinson, Environmental Appraiser – The Appraiser’s Advocate Podcast
USPAP and Non-Traditional Appraisals – The Appraiser’s Advocate Podcast
Three Ways to Pick Comps? – George Dell’s Analog Blog
For my readers in the CLE area… here are some articles related to news in our local area that you may enjoy…
New York Spaghetti House: A family-run favorite for 74 years – Tom Matowitz of Fresh Water Cleveland
Get your grub on: Cleveland Restaurant Week is Underway – Karin Connelly Rice of Fresh Water Cleveland