Incenter Appraisal Management announced on Wednesday the launch of RemoteVal, a software product that aims to directly involve a human appraiser.
The technology enables the appraiser to remotely access the homeowner's smartphone camera via video call to instruct the homeowner to take photos with geotags and timestamps while capturing the area measurements with a 3D digital measuring tape. To ensure security and accuracy, each evaluation is created as a work order and passed on directly to the appraiser by Incenter. The live streaming video goes straight to Incenter's servers so they cannot be edited in any way.
"Reviewers told us they didn't want to leave [the use of] hybrid products behind because they were inconsistent with the way they do business," said Mark Walser, president of Incenter Appraisal Management, in an interview. “[Reviewers] want to see it, they want to touch it. In the end, they sign these evaluation reports and put themselves at risk every time. "
After RemoteVal's pilot test, it took the appraisers an average of eight minutes to get everything they needed for a 2,500-square-foot home from the homeowner, he said. Due to the remote nature, the appraisers would not have to calculate travel times and could increase their volume, which reduces the processing time for the assessment from weeks to five or six days, Walser estimates.
Faster processing times and convenience are becoming more and more important after natural disasters, when backlogs quickly build up in the damage assessment. Delays in real estate appraisals hold back necessary deferral claims. Early calculations by CoreLogic showed that Hurricane Ida caused $ 220 billion in rebuilding costs for 941,392 homes. Walser hopes RemoteVal can help with these inspections.
"Every property is different and so much of the work of the appraiser depends on the conversation with the homeowner, that shouldn't be overlooked," said Walser. "You can't get real-time questions about property remediation or flooding when, for example, you are only fed photos."
The software is released at a time when reviewers are increasingly an endangered species, with few newcomers in the field and advances in technology diminishing the role of humans in the process. The social distancing rules triggered by the pandemic only accelerated this. For the past 18 months, companies like Black Knight, Cape Analytics, Reggora, and Truepic have launched products that streamline reviews through automation and allow homeowners to upload their own pictures and videos. While assessors are still involved in many of these products, they are degraded as backstops and not as active participants in the process.
Nationwide, the total number of reviewers has fallen in recent years from 87,130 in 2014 to 75,100 in 2019, according to the Appraisal Institute and the U.S. Census Bureau. Walser estimates that between 70,000 and 73,000 experts will be working in 2021. Plus, the average appraiser is 61 years old, so the industry could see a wave of retirements in the near future, he said.
These declining numbers add to the rising costs and growing bottleneck in real estate valuation in a scorching hot real estate market.
"Appraisals are in great demand and we have too few appraisers out there," said Sammy Iliopoulos, Senior Loan Officer at Guaranteed Rate. "Their typical turnaround time in Boston was two to three weeks, now they're getting much taller, more expensive and delayed."