Attention Road Warrior Appraisers
New and veteran real estate appraisers know that driving is a huge part of the profession. Driving to the property and taking comp photos has to be efficient and maximally productive so that you can maximize your time. Within our office we try to make the inspection and comparable photo collection to be less than 2 hours. Obviously the distance to the property dictates the lion’s share of the road time so each appraiser has different times. Whether you are a new trainee or a longtime veteran, here are the top 10 tips to maximize your drive and inspection time.
#1 – Do Research on the Subject and Comparables
Before you visit the subject property, as an appraiser you should have all the public record data on the property (including but not limited to assessor sketch, GLA value, bedroom / bath count, garages and outbuildings and any notable finish to the property). Its a good idea to have a questionnaire made covering the essential elements of the appraisal so that you can call the homeowner prior to visiting and collect the needed data. Obviously this is not the case if the appraisal is for a purchase and the data is up to date on MLS. Once you have a relatively good idea on what the property is like, you may feel comfortable gathering a preliminary set of comparable that you can review after inspection and take photos of on your way back to the office. We try avoid going back out on the road for comparable property photos. One drive saves time.
#2 – Schedule Inspections During Less Congested Traffic Times
Whether you are a one-man appraisal office or work for a larger appraisal office, you should make attempts to always schedule your inspection times when traffic is at its minimum. This is very easy to do and it can be done with Google Maps and selecting the traffic option. Then go down to the bottom of the page and review the best times to travel.
You already may have a good idea of what times are optimal however the google traffic overlay has saved hours of free time over the course of a week for our appraisers. Play with the tool and find out the best times for your primary coverage areas.
#3 – Use Google Maps For Planning Every Comp Photos
#4 – An Organized and Clean Car is a Productive Ride
If you are operating out of a cluttered vehicle, spend the weekend to declutter the work vehicle. Having a portable trashcan helps with centralizing the mess to one. area – the trashcan. Next you need to have a place where you can easily jot notes down on. Its handy for drive-by appraisals and making notes on properties. For this a mobile car desk is a must-have for real estate appraisers.
AutoExec makes a quality passenger seat car desk that has so many options for it. From optional phone mounts, to rubber topped desk space, printer mounts, this desk makes the utility of your car more like a mobile appraisal office. These are very clean looking and are ease to stow away when need be. Check our review on this car desk. Lastly, a basic portable car vacuum is a must. Keeping a clean and clutter free car keeps our minds focused.
#5 – Stop and Enjoy the Music -Enjoy the Sites
This may seem like it takes away from the productivity but I beg to differ. Last ski season, the subject property was right near a ski resort I have season passes to. If you are passing by a place you want to go to, do it then. You already made the trip. Make micro-trips throughout the week. The best part about being an appraiser is that the schedule is flexible. Skiing mid-week in between typing reports is certainly easier to make happen than waiting for the weekend. How busy are those ski areas on the weekend? It doesn’t have to be a ski area. Even if its a simple round at the driving range or visiting a nearby museum. The power of this action changes the perception of the week. When we work in mundane / repetitive environments, we tend to view our year as a seamless task of continual appraisals. Separating the week with micro-trips adds an element of adventure and likely a new-found love for an area you often travel through. Take Robert Frost’s advice and take the road less traveled. This time is also an optimal time to spend a moment calling a loved one or a close friend. Even if they are at work, set an alert and give them a call. Leave them a message and let them know you care.
#6 – Become A Bionic Appraiser
Whether you still utilize a clipboard or not, becoming a mobile real estate appraiser is a must. What is a mobile appraiser? This simply means utilizing a cloud-based software that connects with your home office via your smartphone. Alamode provides an optimal solution.
Coupling mobile software with your inspections along with a laser measure to tie in your measurements into the program, minutes to hours can be saved on your inspection and car driving times as an appraiser. If you own an iPhone, you can take it a step further and purchase an apple watch. The watch is helpful when your reports are uploading to the cloud. Having another device to communicate or get driving directions allows for zero down time. Simply upload your work on your way back to the office and you have minimized minutes of downtime waiting for files to upload.
By a quality laptop for the road. Personally, they are pricey however an Alienware laptop is one of the most powerful laptops on the market. They have more power than appraisers need for their software however having the speed from their high end components and large screen and keyboard space (includes a 4 x 3 keypad), provides an efficient work environment for appraisers.
#7 – Plan Your For Your Eating / Diet
The appraisal job obviously incorporates a good deal of appraisal writing. Being on the road and then followed up with sitting at a desk caters to looking for fast solutions for lunchtime. Sadly, as you’re well aware, most lunch options on the road are fast food establishments which are not too healthy in the long run. If you do find a healthy place to eat on the road, it can add up (cost-wise) if it becomes a habit. Pack a lunch or snack kits over the weekend or the night before with the children or a loved one. Family loves to take care of one another. Allow them to help you make a healthy and affordable meal plan for your week. Not the chef type? In the Covid-19 pandemic world, a myriad of healthy food delivery options have made their way to the market. These can be costly but not as costly as poor health!
#8 – Invest in a Dash Cam and Radar Detector
Its easy to say “don’t speed”. You really shouldn’t as even speeding 10-20% over the speed limit, may only save a few minutes overall on your travel. Its best to just enjoy the ride. If that cant be done, go with a radar detector.
While a radar detector may not be entirely needed, a quality dash cam is a must for appraisers. We recommend a front and rear / dual dash cam as there’s always potential for a hit and run. Having the Dash cams plugged into a basic phone battery bank or configured as such so that it stays on after its parked is also a good idea to implement. Especially for city appraisers, having an eye on your car can be helpful when dealing with any damage later on. Similarly, with a car accident, having video evidence is a huge help in getting insurance on your side. Don’t risk being left out and exposed. Having some preventatives in place goes a long way for savings and piece of mind.
#9 – Emergency Bag For Your Work Vehicle
You never know what can happen on the road. It honestly is good practice to make sure all your vehicles have some sort of emergency bag in the car. Pack some essentials in the emergency bag (first aid kit, Mylar / space blanket, shelf stable snacks, charged prepaid phone, hazard lights and/or road flares).
#10 – Refrain From Accepting Jobs While On The Road
This doesn’t mean you can’t have an assistant aide in the order acceptance process however you personally should not accept assignments while you are driving on the road. The urgent feeling appraisers have to accept orders as soon as they come in has to be placed in the hands of another individual (office assistant) that has more time and resources to fully vet the property to provide the correct bid on the potential assignments. Far too often you hear complaints of appraisers wishing they didn’t accept a certain job. Its important to spend time vetting your assignments. Doing them on the road is not the time. If this is unavoidable. Go to a coffee shop, take a break, breakout your laptop and do the proper diligence on proposed assignments PRIOR to accepting them.
Driving has unavoidable downtime. Because appraising is essentially piece work, systems need to be implemented. Find a groove and always look for ways to refine the system without compromising on the quality of your appraisal work.