Diving In Head First

The appraisal world is changing even more rapidly today than it did following the S&L crisis. This time, however, technology plays a central role in the transformation, and as the overwhelmingly largest supplier of appraisal tools and technology, it seems only logical that we’d jump in the fray in defense of our customers and the industry as a whole. We’ve never been wallflowers, and we aren’t sitting idly by now either.

We realized that producing this monthly print and online newspaper, instead of various printed and online advertising pieces and newsletters, was the best way to really affect the transformation and aid our customers. So, in here, you’ll find candid, first-person, timely, hard-hitting articles and op-ed pieces — usually delivered in irreverent and edgy style. It’s a continuation of the same hunter-killer, say-what-we-mean attitude that we’ve always had as a corporate culture. It’s served us well, and those who stand behind us. (For an example, click here to see the article by Jennifer Miller regarding how our users are getting a bigger and bigger slice of a smaller appraisal pie.)

Not everyone agrees with us all of the time, of course. That will be true of this newspaper just as readily as it exists in everything from valuation topics to software features. As I’ve always said, get a group of appraisers in a room and ask them any question, even about the weather, and you’ll get a dozen staunchly defended opinions. We routinely see it firsthand since we gather thousands of appraisers together at seminars and conventions, and cover a wide variety of topics. (It’s a good thing we don’t allow handguns in panel discussions on AVMs.)

We know that trait, and we welcome “lively debate”, minus weapons of course. But all joking aside, appraisers almost never collectively agree on anything, and it’s both a blessing and a curse for the industry. I think it’s one of the reasons there’s never been a unifying national organization. Of course, the Appraisal Institute has seemed out of touch for years, so that also contributes to the factionalism and discontent. (pq)

I’m not a fan of the Institute and everybody knows it. It’s nothing personal. I just think they run a terrible organization from an appraiser advocacy standpoint. If they’d step up to the plate and do it well, I’d be their biggest supporter. But they seem to have mastered the art of throwing the entire industry under the bus — and ultimately hurting their own members (click here to see Ellana Walker’s article about negative appraisal PR). They’ve done it after the S&L debacle, they’ve done it on national databases and copyright issues, and they did it again in rushing to support the HVCC as it currently stands. Ironically, the Institute produces the best appraisal training on the planet. So why can’t they sit through a training course in organizational leadership?

Consider NAR as an example and you’ll see my point. I deal with NAR both nationally and locally, and they can be really difficult at times. But what they will never be is in any way critical of their own industry, and they will go to the mat to protect it. Look at the issue of copyrighting and owning your work product: NAR has vigorously supported and encouraged agents to copyright listings, whereas the Institute has its chief counsel tell you to give up and just let the clients have free reign over your intellectual property. Say what you will about NAR, but they’ve got the whole advocacy thing nailed down perfectly. We could learn a lot from them.

Why does that all matter to us here at a la mode? What difference does an organization, or scattered opinions, or transformation in the industry make to a technology company? And why would that result in a newspaper like the Appraisal Press?

First, I’m a former appraiser. I know how hard it is to get paid, and to protect and grow your business, when nobody seems to be on your side. But I am on your side. My whole company is on your side. And we never make any bones about that, even when we’re threatened. (Lender pressure isn’t only bestowed upon appraisers. I’ve literally had large institutions tell us to play ball by sending them your reports unlocked or they’d put us out of business. My answer is always negative and easily understood, composed of seven letters forming two words.)

Second, your security is in my best interest. That’s no mystery. I want there to be a lot of wealthy, independent, techno-savvy appraisers who are willing and able to pay me very well for my software. I’ve said so repeatedly at appraisal seminars and conventions. And to make that happen, I have to produce tools that make you money, and I have to go to bat for you when you’re under attack, and I have to do anything I can to help you, or else you won’t — and shouldn’t — pay me.

Third, the current policy shifts and market turmoil are creating an environment in which appraisers could be sideswiped by the very regulations and initiatives ostensibly designed to help them, while simultaneously creating opportunities for both of us. And in the “Wild, Wild West” environment we see today, there are pitch men on every corner. There’s a gold rush on to divvy up your appraisal fees, and they want to stake a claim on land you’ve been mining till now. We think this newspaper can help clear out some of that clutter and help you navigate the new environment to your benefit.

Yellow journalism? I’m sure we’ll hear that levied, because we aren’t going to play neutral. We’re unabashedly pro-appraiser and pro-a la mode. It might be more accurate to say that we’re practicing “green journalism” — the money kind of green, not the environmental. We believe we can help both of us make more and spend less.

So, why not just write a blog and go doubly green by saving a few trees? Well, blogs are cool, but they aren’t read by the majority of appraisers. By printing a real newspaper while also providing a true online destination (www.appraisalpress.com) with the printed articles and more, we reach more people and offer the best of both worlds. We hope you agree.

So dive in and enjoy the first issue. Then let us know what you think. We’re here and we’re listening, and we aren’t scared. (Unless you bring those guns from the AVM panel discussion.)