Pandemic served as an ‘eye opener’ for all of us, veteran appraiser says

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In many ways, the pandemic served as an “eye-opener” for all of us, according to Clear Capital Chief Appraiser John Brenan. While it’s difficult to think of anything associated with COVID as being positive, the fact is mortgage lending and appraising not only continued but thrived during this challenging time.

For appraisers, the industry veteran noted, the appraisal flexibilities allowed by the GSEs offered a glimpse into potential benefits that appraisal modernization may offer. “While we all hope COVID will soon become a distant memory, events like the emergence of the Delta variant have many people questioning what the ‘new normal’ will be, or if there will be one at all,” Brenan told Valuation Review. “Some wonder if society will ever fully return to the way things were, or whether some type of social distancing will
become the norm?“

Regardless of the answers to these questions, it’s clear that appraisers would be well-served to embrace new opportunities and not be stuck in their ways,” he added. “Long term success always requires adaptation and as we navigate a post-COVID world, appraisers should be ready to embrace changes that will move the profession forward.”

As to Brenan rating appraiser adaptability over the course of the past year, he said while some in the appraisal profession displayed a reluctance to change in the past, many appraisers adapted quickly to the new environment they were thrust into as a result of the pandemic. This point, he said, is unmistakable; records were established for mortgage lending and appraisal volume, which could not have occurred without appraisers adapting quickly.

Also unmistakable, is what advanced technology did for the profession, and what impact it will have in the valuation arena moving forward. “New technology seems to be an ever-increasing aspect of everyone’s lives, and appraisers are obviously no exception. In fact, some of the technological advances available to appraisers are really game-changers, and represent a giant leap forward for the profession,” Brenan said. “From tools that can scan a property with a smartphone and render a high-fidelity digital sketch and GLA calculation, to a complete redesign of GSE appraisal forms and reporting software, the tools and technologies available to appraisers is exhilarating.

“Appraisers continue to gain trust in these new technologies and find them to be reliable tools in developing credible opinions of value. As this acceptance continues to grow, appraisers will reap the benefits of working smarter, not harder,” he added. Brenan also touched on the additional opportunities he sees coming to the profession as a result of the pandemic and suggested probably the most significant opportunity is greater volume in the hybrid appraisal workspace. The pandemic, he said, helped to shine a light on hybrid assignments, and there has been a dramatic increase in the volume of this type of appraisal assignment.

He also recognized a sizable increase in the number of appraisers willing to perform hybrid appraisal assignments, so this combination is poised to result in significant growth.

Brenan alluded to “normal,” earlier, and we asked if he felt appraisers were getting comfortable again in terms of dealing with clients and especially, homeowners. Additionally, he addressed if there will be an even stronger need for more education and training resulting in the recruiting of more appraisers to join the profession.

“Like much of society, many appraisers have been anxious to see a return to normalcy,” he said. “As a result, a number of appraisers have felt comfortable working with clients and homeowners again. The recent surge of the Delta variant may raise new concerns for some appraisers along these lines and may result in more appraisers considering alternatives to traditional appraisal assignments and to take another look at assignments like hybrids.

“The recent issues surrounding claims of bias and discrimination will likely create a renewed focus on education specific to fair housing. While such additional training might certainly benefit the profession in the long run, the primary impediment to new appraisers entering the industry remains the well-documented difficulty of finding willing supervisory appraisers,” Brenan added. “Along those lines, we are very excited to be bringing a PAREA simulated training program to market, where individuals will be able to gain the required experience to obtain an appraiser license or certification. We believe PAREA will attract both younger and more diverse individuals into the profession.”

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently coming out suggesting mask mandates could return as a result of the delta variant relating to the COVID-19 virus, Brenan spoke of the impact that situation could have in the days, months to come.

The one thing we’ve all learned over the past 18 months, he said, is how quickly the situation on the ground can change.

“At times, safety protocols can seem to change before the ink dries on what’s been published. While the Delta variant has created a significant ‘hiccup’ in moving past the pandemic, it also raises questions not only about
additional future variants, but other potential viruses as well,” Brenan said. “Appraisers, like everyone else, will have to monitor the situation and move forward cautiously. Appraisers should never have to risk their own health or safety to perform an appraisal assignment.

“If one thing is clear, it’s that different people have different viewpoints on health and safety protocols,” Brenan added. “Whether it’s going to the grocery store or performing an appraisal inspection, it’s important to weigh one’s own comfort level in light of applicable laws and regulations. Again, many appraisers that have been concerned with face-to-face contact have found hybrid assignments as a viable option to maintain their income.”

He also discussed technology and said advances in this arena will certainly continue as appraisers march into the future.

“As we’ve learned with the pandemic, these tools may frequently be utilized safely and effectively, allowing for business and economic growth to continue instead of grinding to a halt,” Brenan said. “Technological advancements often come at a fast pace, so it’s entirely possible there will be tools we use a few short months from now that may not even exist at this time.”


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