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Editor’s Note: Paul Rowe, 37, appraising eight years, says that despite a degree in marketing, he didn’t know what he didn’t know about marketing his appraisal business until he sought the help of experts. He says that what he found helped him turn his business around and get more work and higher fees. (This story is taken from the new print edition of Working RE which is mailing now. Are you a Working RE Subscriber?)
Taking Success into My Own Hands
by Paul Rowe
It wasn’t that long ago that I was struggling to find appraisal work and when I did it always seemed to be at very low fees. Even at night before heading to bed, I made sure my iPhone was right next to my pillow to increase my chances of being first in line to accept any new broadcast appraisal assignments should they became available in the middle of the night.
I set up a special email address that would immediately notify me whenever an email from one of my AMC clients with a potential order would come through. Many nights I would lay asleep and my iPhone alert would go off, after which I would jump up, grab my phone, and log into the client’s system as quickly as possible to accept the assignment before it was gone. If I hesitated a moment or even took the time to look at the address, it usually was too late and the assignment was gone.
This was a process I went through every day and every night. I kept my phone by my side at all times because if I was away from my phone for even a moment, I’d inevitably hear that “ping,” and I knew it was already too late.
Finding myself both emotionally and mentally drained, I finally realized this was no way to sustain a business and that I certainly wasn’t living the life I had imagined when I first became an appraiser. So it was time to decide whether I would get busy trying to change my business and life or stick with the same frustrating road I’d been traveling.
Over the next few years I took as many continuing education courses as possible and during that time several of my clients began noticing the quality of my work. As a result, I began developing closer relationships with them and shortly thereafter began receiving new requests for more complex assignments.
The decision to stand my ground and focus on quality appraisal reports actually resulted in my being added to several preferred or elite status lists which then led to even more work. I was even recognized nationally as an Extraordinary Appraiser by one of the national AMCs, based on a metrics that measured overall quality, including fewest revision requests, turn time, and more. This resulted in additional new lender clients. Soon after, I was able to be much more selective with the clients I worked with and I was also able to narrow down my coverage area which significantly improved my overall efficiency.
Even though I was now equipped with a steady flow of lender work from better paying clients and saw a bump in my overall revenue, my business still plateaued and became un-scalable at a certain point. In an effort to find improved and more efficient ways of running my business, I joined my state appraisal coalition (ICAP), began reading every appraisal article I could get my hands on, joined an appraiser’s Facebook forum, and consulted with other professionals in the industry.
But I knew I needed more help to go to the next level. I hired an appraiser marketing expert (Roy Meyer) to assist me in hiring a Virtual Assistant (VA) including signing up for and going through his Outsourcing Boot Camp. Within six weeks I had a full time VA on board who not only helped with the day to day operations of my business but who also took the lead in marketing my business for non-lender clients. Looking back, I can’t imagine going back to the days without her because not only is my appraisal business much more efficient but the value of my time has greatly increased as well.
What I didn’t realize was that hiring a virtual assistant was only the beginning of what I was about to learn in regards to growing my business. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in marketing from Eastern Illinois University but I had much to learn about appraiser marketing. I completed Roy’s Appraiser Insider program and I now feel like I have a “Master’s Degree” in appraiser marketing.
In regards to growing my business, I’ve learned the importance of knowing how to create an online presence, how to coordinate offline marketing efforts with online marketing efforts, how to create and utilize videos and blogging strategies in my business, lead generation and SEO tips and tricks, how to set up systems and automate my business, how to manage and nurture client relationships, how to network, speak at real estate offices and networking events, how to capitalize on those opportunities, and more.
The marketing team built a new custom website for me, BestChicagoAppraiser.com, which, as of this writing, is ranked number one on Google organically as well as number one in the Google 7-Pack for the keyword “Chicago Appraiser,” even though I’m located in an extremely competitive market area which is heavily saturated with appraisers.
I’ve learned that not only is having a website critical to my business, but also having a website that looks professional, ranks with Google, AND most importantly, that converts visitors into actual paying clients! I think also that it is easier to command higher fees with a professional looking website. I now receive multiple inquiries every week from new non-lender clients which has allowed me to further transition my business away from more restrictive lender work. In fact, I now have more appraisal work coming in than I can handle and my average fees have never been higher.
Although I’m still not where I’d like to be, at least now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I have a roadmap for success. I was just accepted to the Veteran’s Administration panel on my third try, providing an additional boost to my business.
I plan to continue building and maintaining my online presence, to begin speaking at local real estate offices on a regular basis, and to continue transitioning my business into more and more non-lender work. I also plan on continuing to network and share information with like-minded appraisers who are also looking for ways to improve their business.
Everything I’ve learned and implemented over the past few years has taken me from the long days and sleepless nights of the iPhone by my pillow, to my being able to choose who and how much I’ll work for. I’ve learned that by seeking to learn from others and becoming more efficient, running my appraisal business, on the worst day, is manageable, while on the best day is extremely rewarding.
There is a lot of negativity in the appraisal industry and without question, certain things need to change. However, there are also a lot of positives appraisers can focus on to improve their business. It’s certainly not all roses in my business, but I’m light years ahead of where I was just a short time ago and I now have renewed hope and high expectations for the future.
About the Author
Paul Rowe and the Rowe Appraisal Group is located in Park Ridge, IL. They specialize in residential appraisals throughout and around the City of Chicago. Paul can be reached at email@example.com.
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