Unfortunately, neither of the aforementioned topics deserves the limelight in lieu of discussing what will lead our industry out of the desert of lost consumer confidence we find ourselves in today.
It was only a matter of time before I took my internal dialogue to the streets. I was on a quest to canvass my peers in an effort to determine if my fears were shared by other industry leaders. Turns out, our contemporaries are currently and have been actively engaged in closing the gap between appraising as a vocation and appraising as a profession. We’re going to review some of the options being proposed by our peers later, but for now we’ll focus on the core issues as I see them.
We’ll begin our journey by examining how residential appraisers are currently perceived. Before we get started, I’d like to take this opportunity to warn all those with thin skin to skip this section … or risk exposing yourself to an unpleasant truth!
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the consumer sees residential appraisers as a nemesis that’s hell-bent on killing their deal, whether refinance, purchase or HELOC. The worst of it is our failure to realize that EVERYTHING we do throughout the course of interacting with consumers is being picked apart and is often used to refute the appraiser’s value conclusion. We are playing right into their hands!
Recently, I was privy to a discussion that transpired between a colleague and borrower regarding the borrower’s recent experience with one of my colleague’s panel appraisers. The borrower starts by stating, “The appraiser was rude when scheduling the appraisal inspection.” I think to myself, “We all have our bad days.” He goes on, “The appraiser showed up late without calling and he was wearing flip-flops when he arrived.” OK, so the appraiser’s cell phone died and it was hot out – not the end of the world, right? “While he was here, he said the AMC doesn’t pay him enough to do a full inspection.” Now that’s somewhat disconcerting. “He asked if I would take pictures of my home for him since his digital camera was on the fritz.” This isn’t good … Finally, the death knell: “The appraiser asked if he could use my computer to pull comparable sales because his Internet was, and I quote, ‘F’ed up.’” “Ugh” is all my colleague was able to muster. The sad fact is this behavior is systemic. This is not an isolated incident. The truth is, there are bad actors among us and they’re not helping our cause. I ask you, Mr. and Ms. Appraisal Professional, is this how we should conduct ourselves?
That behavior is not only unpleasant from the borrower’s perspective, it’s also incredibly damaging to the profession. I refer to residential appraising as a profession because it is a profession; it is not simply a vocation of happenstance. If you are reading this article and find yourself empathetic to the appraiser’s side in this story, you are in the wrong line of work! I implore you to take what you do seriously or “ease on down the road.”
Professionalism isn’t simply knowing what to do and when to do it, it’s exemplified by doing what you need to even when you don’t want to. In some cases, professionalism means going the extra mile because you’re supposed to, even if that decision leads to more work without additional remuneration. When given an option of cutting a corner or taking a shortcut that may be received poorly by a borrower, client or a peer, stop and ask yourself, “Is my decision furthering my profession, or is it likely to be interpreted as substandard behavior?” If we all get on the same page, there is hope we will not only survive, but thrive once again in the coming years.
Now it’s time for some good news. Industry leadership is bound and determined to re-engineer the process of obtaining certification through enhanced academic requirements and greater support from appraisal industry organizations that bestow designations. This is a great first step in achieving the goal of transitioning public perception from that of mistrust to that of confidence in our defined responsibilities.
A lot of appraisers operating today didn’t grow up with dreams of becoming a residential appraiser. They found their way into the world of appraising by chance. Many bubbled up through their apprenticeships during a time when little more than three closed sales gave an appraiser enough information to derive a value conclusion. As we all know, those days are long gone, but the attitude that evolved from little oversight and unprecedented appreciation lives on. That attitude, and the resulting propagation of malfeasant behavior, needs to be mitigated in short order, otherwise the actions of some will negatively impact us all.
In the course of my research for this article, I came across a paper that described some key principles of professionalism. The first aspect that was noted is “putting customer satisfaction first.” If you treat everyone that interacts with you, day in and day out, as a client, you’re well on your way to achieving “professional” status. This may seem intuitive, but think about the interaction we discussed earlier. Did the appraiser in that situation treat the borrower as a client?
In addition to all things customer service-related, professionalism is defined by an ethical and moral obligation to do the right thing. At my organization, TSI Appraisal®, we have an Ism or corporate tenant that goes as follows: “It’s not about who is right, it’s about what is right.” I can’t stress how important that mindset is when faced with changing the consumer’s perception of residential appraisers.