There are so many things in our everyday lives that we take for granted, most of which have been abruptly affected by COVID-19. The workforce of the nation has had to make some huge and sometimes unorthodox changes and adaptations. Appraisers are no exception.
Here are some examples of changes that have been made in our day-to-day operations. This shows just how many small things we take for granted, plus how we have adapted to still offer a professional and responsible service for our clients.
Much of our business relies on local courthouses when it comes to obtaining important information for our appraisal reports, such as tax information, property legal descriptions and ownership information.
Most of local courthouses have been either closed or operating with limited access during this crisis. Fortunately, we’re still able to acquire a lot of information via the county’s websites or over the phone.
However, sometimes these avenues fail, due to some courthouses not staying up with current technology. In that case, we must note in the appraisal report that we were unable to access the information needed. This is something that was rarely ever done before.
The appraisal profession has been indirectly affected by Realtors not being able to do their jobs completely. Since open houses are no longer being done, and since private showings are limited, we are unable to access sales data from Realtors. Public land and property auctions have been put on hold, which also affects the need for appraisal work.
Change in business practices
Other small changes in lifestyle have been made in the way we conduct business. For instance, in the U.S., handshakes have always been a strong tradition, both as a greeting and a way of closing a business deal. This tradition may be put on hold for a long time.
Social distancing is also something that is a very new concept. This bothers some people more than others. When doing an appraisal on a residence, it’s commonplace to enter that residence and take photos of the interior to put in the appraisal. Many people are now uncomfortable with this. We are, too.
In many cases, the homeowners are happy to take their own photos and send them to us. This also makes it easier on us during our inspections. Most clients have been very flexible and understanding during this time.
There are a few other new changes that have even been beneficial to the appraisal business. For instance, the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates to near-record lows. This has prompted many people to buy or refinance property.
Since banks have also taken precautionary measures, they have lightened many requirements from us and their customers. Even the two largest secondary lenders, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have started accepting “drive-by appraisals” or exterior-only inspections.
Banks are also doing more business online or by phone. They’re even changing notary guidelines, making it possible to do everything electronically, as opposed to in person. Under normal circumstances, all of these would be welcome procedures, but we know they are only temporary.
In conclusion, appraisal professionals have had to make many changes due to COVID-19. We are fortunate, however, that our lives have not been affected as drastically as other professionals’. As appraisers, we rely strongly on past data to estimate the value of a property. Hopefully, the present situation will not have a major effect on these things going forward.
Mason Spurgeon is a certified general appraiser with Spurgeon Appraisals which services Missouri, Illinois and Iowa. Connect with him on Facebook.
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