Real world appraisers tell us what they're doing to save money now.
While "speed" and "efficiency" were the buzzwords of the first part of this decade, many appraisers are looking for ways to cut costs now. To get real world methods, we asked some of our customers what they've done in their own businesses. Here are some basic things they told us.
1. Use letter-sized paper instead of legal for things like printing MLS sheets or other documents you carry with you. Over a year, it's a big price difference. Or better yet, print to PDF and take them on your laptop.
2. When reviewing reports before delivery, view them as PDFs instead of printing it on paper.
3. Don't drive around, wandering for comps. Plan your route ahead, using a mapping program and GPS.
4. In real world use, a Prius gets 48mpg. Even if you're not "going green," saving on fuel can make a big difference.
5. Refill printer cartridges with ink purchased in bulk at a fraction of the cost. You can also try printing your internal office papers in "draft mode".
6. Use a cell phone for long distance calls. You probably have more minutes than you need in a month anyway, so why not use them?
The methods above don't require you to be tech-savvy and are things you can do by simply making minor adjustments. If you want to "push the envelope", here are some additional ideas they brought up. Remember, these are recommendations from real, full-time appraisers based on their own experiences.
Wireless USB modem/Air Card: You can get these from your cell phone provider for a monthly fee, giving you Internet access wherever you go. They plug right into your laptop, and when turned on give you a near high-speed Internet connection. This means you can take your office with you in the front seat of your car, out in the boonies, and on vacation. Communicating with clients via e-mail, doing property research, searching the MLS, accessing your office network, or virtually anything else you do in the office can be done on a laptop on-the-fly when you have Internet access. This saves you on the astronomical Internet fees that hotspots charge and keeps you from having to drive back to the office.
Route planning/GPS: Everyone knows that route planning can help save fuel and time, but coupled with a dash-mounted GPS like a Co-Pilot® or TomTom®, you may be surprised to find that it can help you find better routes even though you're familiar with an area. Should you need to veer away from your planned route, it can help you efficiently get back on course and cut down on wasted time and mileage. At $4 a gallon in many places, route planning is vital to saving money. (Click here to see our Bluetooth article for an even less expensive solution.)
Rigid Scheduling: Try scheduling inspections on specific days of the week. For example, schedule inspections on Thursdays and Fridays, and writing reports on Monday through Wednesday. Also, give the contact person a range of time (9a-12p, 1p-4p) to expect you. By cutting down the days you drive, planning your routes and keeping your inspection times loose, you can save the amount of driving you do.
VoIP: Look into switching from a plain old telephone service line to a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) provider like Vonage. Many VoIP providers will allow you to keep your existing telephone number so you won't have to worry about updating clients and contacts. Basic VoIP plans can start around $25/month and include unlimited long distance service, caller ID, call forwarding, and simultaneous ring features (i.e. rings at your office AND your cell phone so you never miss a call). If you've never heard of VoIP and want to know more, visit www.Wikipedia.org and search for VoIP.
Internet Fax: Drop your dedicated fax line in favor of one of the Internet-based fax services like MyFaxTM or eFaxTM. With one of these services, you can send and receive faxes via your e-mail as an electronic file that can be included in your WinTOTAL Digital Workfile without having to be printed. Many services cost less than $15 per month, and are often cheaper than a dedicated fax line. Some VoIP providers also offer a separate fax line as part of their package.
MICROSOFT ONENOTE®: OneNote lets you create "workbooks" where you can keep just about anything in a completely free-form nature. Photos, e-mail, web pages, Word docs, PDFs, lists, Excel sheets, you name it. So saving all your files and research digitally in a OneNote file which can then be added to the WinTOTAL Digital Workfile is an incredibly effective way to cut down on paper and ink. Learn more at www.Microsoft.com/OneNote.
WinTOTAL Digital Workfile: Rather than printing and keeping paper copies of reports and research, scan them into digital format or use your XSite's DirectFax feature to convert them to PDF. They can be easily added (automatically with DirectFax) to your report's Digital Workfile. When you archive your report files, you're archiving the workfile and its contents as well. We suggest you use our Vault service to back your files up off-site, automatically.
As you can see, there are ways to cut costs both easily and effectively. Some of these suggestions might require a little more "know-how" and perhaps an up-front investment, but they are helping appraisers save money right now. Hopefully, one or two of them will lower your expenses, too.