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2015 AMC Guide
Are You a Tier 1 or Tier 2 Appraiser?
by Richard Hagar, SRA
Nordstrom or Walmart? Mercedes or Yugo? Are you a Tier 1 or Tier 2 appraiser? Appraisers have two different business models to choose from.
I have seen that many lenders classify appraisers into two or three different tiers based on their perception of the quality of your product. Which tier are you? The amount of business you have and the amount you are paid is very likely based on how lenders classify you.
There is a lot of appraisal business right now and lenders are begging for high-quality appraisals. Many firms are buried in business, quoting three-plus weeks out in turn time, with high fees; here in the Northwest we are earning $550 for a standard home. If your company is not busy or you are making far less than this, here are some tips.
The two most common questions lenders ask in the training sessions I conduct for them nationwide are:
- How does my institution find good appraisers? And, even though we are paying high fees, why are we still not receiving high quality work? Do you have any suggestions on how we can solve this problem? Ouch!
- When I share what lenders say with a class full of appraisers, they often reply: if lenders would pay reasonable fees, I’d provide better appraisals! Ouch again!
While we all understand the feeling, that is not how business in America works. So let’s rephrase what the lenders are hearing: Pay me more money and then I’ll provide a good product. Wow! Imagine a TV ad where Apple states: Send us $250 for this new IPhone- it’s a super phone but if you want one that is assembled correctly and will serve its purpose, then you will have to send us $500. That sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? But it’s exactly how many appraisers argue for increased fees.
Appraisers, do you walk into a discount clothing store, pick up a suit and tell the sales person that you are willing to pay more if only they could alter it into a high-quality suit? Probably not. More than likely, you’d skip the store with the poor merchandise and head to Nordstrom to buy the superior quality suit you want and avoid negotiating with the discount store… right!? If appraisers want higher fees, they first have to prove they are capable of providing a superior product and service. Superior product first, increased fees second, not the other way around.
Which “Tier” are You?
Are you a Tier 1 or Tier 2 appraiser? From my non-scientific analysis, Tier 1 appraisers in most every part of the country are commanding near $450 or more in fees, while Tier 2 appraisers are paid significantly less. At this moment, if you are saying: Richard, you don’t understand the pressure for low fees in my area, you’d be wrong. Our firm has the same competitive pressures and issues that you face. Believe me, from what I have heard from them, many Lenders are desperate for good appraisers and are willing to pay top dollar for appraisers capable of Tier 1 work. Imagine how bumping up your fee even $25 or $50 per appraisal might change your attitude!
Low Fee Work
It’s true that certain unscrupulous lenders and AMCs use Tier 2 or 3 appraisers for simple form-filling assignments where they don’t really care about the value or quality. They consider an appraisal a mandated bucket-filler for getting the loan approved. Tier 2 appraisers are quick, cheap and disposable. Use them, abuse them, pay them as little as possible, and when their work is hard-stopped by Fannie Mae’s Collateral Underwriter system, toss them aside and find another. Tier 2 appraisers are disposable pawns in their greedy chess game. This is why some appraisers are consistently paid poorly.
When good clients discover that you have a superior product, they will elevate you to Tier 1 status and will be willing to pay more. Tier 1 appraisers require fewer call-backs, need fewer corrections and provide proof of adjustments within the report. Their reports put the lender at ease, answer questions before they are asked and look professional. Now I’m not saying clients are likely to tell you that you are a Tier 1 appraiser and volunteer to pay you more. Like any shopper, they try to obtain the same product for a lower fee, it’s the American way. You need to prove you are worth it and then you need to ask for what you are worth.
Hooked on Quality
Drug dealers are known for willing to give products away for free, just to get users hooked. Once hooked, they charge the maximum and the drug users will pay or face withdrawal pain. Have you tried getting a client hooked on your appraisal product before demanding more pay, or are you just demanding more pay without proving your own value? Get the client hooked on your product. After a time, they will forget the competitor’s phone number and call you for the difficult assignments as well as the easy appraisal work. Increasing fees is easier now because you’ve earned their trust and respect for your product.
Many appraisers try to compete on price- the Walmart strategy. Trying to compete with cheap fees is a race to the bottom. How many remember White Front, Kmart, Value Mart? These were stores that tried to compete on price. They no longer exist. There only can be one at the bottom and it’s the same for the appraisal business. There used to be 159,000(ish) active appraisers in the U.S., today there are less than 80,000. I predict there will be fewer than 74,000 by the end of the year. Why have so many left the business? They lived in Tier 2 hell: blacklisted by lenders and Fannie Mae, disciplined by their state, drawn into lawsuits from borrowers and/or working for low-fee AMCs that eventually drove them out of business.
At this point in the history of our profession, appraisers must consider their business model. Are you going to accept lower fees in a race to the bottom, where there can be only one winner, or are you going to supply a better product than most everyone else? It’s your business model and your choice as to your income.
Being Tier 1
My suggestion is to try to be better than average, typical, or similar to other appraisers. Shoot for Tier 1-level quality and supply a report that accurately describes the neighborhood, market, subject, and comparable. Make market-based adjustments and include proof of the adjustments in the report. Stop using MLS photographs, it makes you look lazy.Take a live class or webinar on how to determine supportable adjustments; there are more than 25 different methods including mass analysis, single-line regression, matched pair, and capitalization of rent. Have you even tried one or two different methods or are you still using some worn out adjustment sheet your trainer gave you 20 years ago?
Provide a superior product with a polite, service-oriented business at a competitive rate. As appraisers continue to leave the business, now is the time to raise your quality and be the “go to” appraiser. Once you have them hooked on your product, increase your fees- you’ll be worth it and they’ll be glad to pay it.
Upcoming Live Webinars:
July: Working with AMCs
Presenters: Bryan Knowlton, Author of the 2015 AMC Guide and James Baumberger, President of Synergy Appraisal Services
Part 1: July 9th, 10:00 – 11:15 a.m. PST
Part 2: July 16th, 10:00 – 11:15 a.m. PST
“I sat in on your recent webinar and found it truly informative. I wanted to thank you for the service, and also inquire about how my company can get on your AMC list (as I’ve noticed you, or your company are not in our current system).” – Nick Honiotes, Allstate Appraisal
There is no magic wand when working with AMCs but Knowlton’s valuable insights, gained from years of working with AMCs on his terms—in the very competitive San Diego market, will help you save time and effort and move toward working with only the best AMCs (and firing the rest). Working with the best AMCs and negotiating your own fees gives you more power and more choice. Additionally, seasoned appraiser, course developer and instructor James Baumberger, President of AMC Synergy Appraisal Services, shares his insights from the other side of the desk on how work efficiently with AMCs, minimize or avoid the frustrating back and- forth and enjoy a smoother, friendlier, more profitable AMC process. Sign Up Now!
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Part 1: How to Get What You’re Worth (Working with AMCs)
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