By Ann OíRourke, MAI, SRA, Appraisal
Today Conference Organizer
||The Third Annual Appraisal
Today National Conference is August 4-6 at the South San Francisco
Conference Center. I get lots of questions about it, so I am
answering some of them below.
Why did you start doing conferences?
I have been doing CE locally since 1995 but I didnít want to teach
anymore after 4-5 years. I hired instructors but didnít want to be only
an administrator either. California is on a 4-year CE renewal cycle, so
the business is good during the two peak years and then is slow the other
two years. There is profit in CE, but not that much, even if you teach the
I started my newsletter business in 1992.
Many newsletters also have conferences. It is a good match as when you
write a newsletter you develop contacts all over the country. However,
conferences are risky financially due to the high costs and uncertainty of
attendance. Also, I had never sold trade show booths.
On the plus side, I had been offering CE
locally since 1995, so I had some "regulars." I had also been
helping out on my Appraisal Institute chapterís annual one day fall
conference, which has a similar format, plus arranging speakers and topics
for workshops and chapter meetings for many years.
My first conference was AppraisalTech 2001.
I set it up about a year ahead of time, during the final days of the
dot-com boom, with the encouragement of a local appraisal-related dot-com
company. They had to drop out of supporting the conference after the bust
so I did it myself. It cost $75,000 with about 250 paid attendees and I
broke even, which was my goal.
My husband had a stroke 6 weeks before the
2001 conference, so I didnít have one in 2002. In 2003 I had about 400
paid attendees. This year I expect about 500.
For me, the conference is like a party
where I am the hostess. I try to make sure everyone has a good time. I
spend a lot of money on food and try to get the best speakers and topics.
Why do you have exhibitors?
Exhibitors help pay for the conference facilities and other expenses.
Attendees want lots of exhibitors. They want to visit with their current
vendors and check out new products. Some appraisers are looking for staff
or AMC work.
I had exhibited several times but had never
tried to sell exhibit space before my first conference. I sold 22 booths
at my first conference and 32 at my second conference. This year I expect
to sell out my 45 booths.
I try to get vendors who would be of
interest to my attendees. I also try to get more than one exhibitor in a
category, so attendees can compare them. For example, I will have two
commercial appraisal reporting software vendors, all the major residential
forms software vendors, 3 E&O providers, 5 education and/or book
vendors, 5 appraisal companies/AMCs, 4 data providers, 2 sketch programs,
and 2 mapping software programs.
How much work is a conference?
I start about 9 months ahead of time. I do the education and the
marketing myself. My office staff handles the registrations and mailings.
I have two regular part-time office assistants and hire two college
students for the summer for additional help. I have a staff of 6-7 at the
last conference plus extra people for registration on the first day.
I have all my conferences in the same
location and used the same caterer and booth management companies, so that
part is done.
The biggest hassle is getting CE credit
from the states. Requirements vary widely among the states. Many are
confused by conferences as they are familiar with the standard one day
seminar that never changes. This year I have 12 sessions and over 20
speakers. I get the California credit myself and use another company to
get approvals from all the states who donít offer CE reciprocity with
Why are you offering the National USPAP
Appraisers are now required to take USPAP every two years, so demand
has doubled in states such as California, which only required it every
four years previously.
It is not very profitable due to instructor
cost (must be approved by the AQB) and materials cost (each student must
have a copy of USPAP and the student manual). I am offering it mostly as a
convenience for attendees.
I am trying it this year on the day before
the main part of the conference.
Who comes to your conferences?
I get appraisers with all levels of experience. Last year, for the
first time, I had many trainees plus some wannabes who were still taking
their classes. They often get the most out of the conference as it is all
new to them.
For experienced appraisers, it is an update
on what is happening now and some good ideas on how to approach different
Both commercial and residential appraisers
attend. I have a commercial appraisal "track" this year.
I try to give attendees something they can
use. I also try to make it interesting and entertaining.
What types of topics do you select?
Iím a practicing appraiser myself so I just look in the mirror for
many of the topics! My session topics reflect what is in my newsletter,
Appraisal Today. I donít try to tell people how to appraise, but focus
on practical ideas to help you in your appraisal business or job. Plus the
latest hot topics, although that is tough to figure out 9 months ahead of
This year I have a Fannie Mae session as
they have introduced a new URAR form. The two USPAP sessions (commercial
and residential) are taught by ASB members and focus on upcoming changes
and practical tips. The four technology sessions always have new
Where do you get your speakers?
Because of my newsletter, getting topics is easy. The key to a
successful conference is the speakers. I prefer to ask people I have heard
speak before or are highly recommended by someone I trust. A few of this
yearís panelists donít have much speaking experience but the other
members of the panel, and the moderator, have experience.
All the speakers are experts on their
What do attendees like about the
Attendees like the topics, the speakers, and they really love the
food! Last year I spent $100 per attendee for food. They also like the
location, 3 miles north of the San Francisco Airport and next to a major
highway. I rent the entire facility, a municipal conference center.
Hotel rooms at the two nearby hotels are
under $100 per night, a good price for this area. A large Holiday Inn is
next door and a smaller Sheraton is across the street. There are lots of
other hotels nearby.
Residential vs. commercial
I do both commercial and residential appraisals myself. Finding good
commercial topics for a national conference is tough. Local conferences
emphasize local topics, such as an update on the local office market.
For many popular topics such as liability
and USPAP, commercial and residential appraisers want different examples
and have different issues. This year I have separate USPAP sessions and a
session on commercial appraisal liability.
In 2001 I had a special commercial
"track," attended by about 25% of the attendees. In 2003 I didnít
offer any specifically commercial sessions. This year I have three
concurrent sessions instead of two, including a special commercial track.
Hot topics sessions
Because I have to apply for CE credits over 6 months before the
conference, I have two "hot topics" sessions, one for commercial
and one for residential. These are "grab bag" sessions to cover
whatever are the hottest topics at the time of the conference. The format
is "talk show" where the moderator and the audience ask
questions. I had residential hot topics sessions at the last two
conferences and they were great, with lots of humor.
This year I have Sue Potteiger at the
residential session. She is the former chief appraiser at Washington
Mutual, Inc. and is an excellent speaker who is a real
"insider." Danny Wiley is also on the panel, plus Karen Mann, a
local appraiser. All have a good sense of humor.
Gary Taylor, MAI, SRA, the president of the
Appraisal Institute, is on the commercial panel. Victor Unsinn, MAI, a
commmercial appraisal manager for Wells Fargo Bank, Larry Ofner MAI, of
the ASB, and Norm Hulberg, MAI, a local appraiser, are also on the panel.
I know there will be some great insights and comments from the panelists,
plus lots of questions about the proposed AI changes.
The highest rated session at last yearís conference was Danny Wileyís
USPAP update session. Attendees got lots of great practical advice and
explanations from Danny, who is the chair of the ASB and an excellent
This year I have both commercial and
residential sessions. Danny Wiley is speaking at the residential session.
Larry Ofner, MAI, is also on the ASB and is speaking at the commercial
Bring your tough USPAP questions!
The future of residential appraising
The two speakers are excellent and controversial, with lots of
speaking experience. Dave Biggers is the CEO of a la mode, inc. and Frank
Lucco always keep attendees awake with lots of interesting and
entertaining opinions. He was the top rated speaker at my first conference
I have one residential, one commercial, and two sessions for everyone
The "Residential forms - whatís new
in technology" session will have information on new applications such
as forms on the Internet, using wireless technology, etc. There will be
speakers from ACI, Day One, and Bradford software.
The newest technology for appraisers are
commercial appraisal narrative software programs. All three of them will
be speaking on their software - Appraisers Paradise, @value, and Valuetech.
Using the software really does cut down on report production time and
errors. Appraisers Paradise and @value will be exhibiting so you can
"test drive" their software at the conference. There is rivalry
among the three companies, so the session should be interesting.
The two general technology sessions donít
focus on commercial or residential software. Instead they cover technology
for all appraisers.
The speaker for "How to use the latest
appraisal technology" is Wayne Pugh. He has given technology
presentations many times and always has the latest hot stuff plus
information on Web sites and cheap software you can use today. I am
planning one or two "special guests" for this session.
The "Computer hardware and
software" session will have lots of information on hardware and how
to keep your computer running. The speakers, Marv Downey and Mary Dum, are
"the" experts on appraisal computer technology. Marv has been
helping appraisers with computer installation and problems for over 20
years. Mary has been writing articles about technology for appraisers for
over 20 years and has had articles in many appraisal publications,
including this one.
Residential reviews session
Reviews have shifted to national reviewers, who review appraisals from
all over the country, often using AVMs.
Bradley Ellis, IFA is a national reviewer
and an excellent speaker. Nancy Francis provides the perspective of a
local fee appraiser who does both appraisals and reviews.
The moderator, Dawn Molitor-Gennrich, SRA
has many years of lender review experience, does compliance consulting for
lenders, and is an excellent speaker and moderator.
Commercial liability session
Most lawsuits and almost all criminal actions are residential, so
liability sessions typically focus on residential issues. This session is
for commercial appraisers, with advice and examples for them specifically.
Attorney Claudia Gaglione manages defense
of appraisers for two E&O companies all over the country. She has
spoken many times to appraisers and has a wry sense of humor. Attorney
Todd Stevens also defends appraisers.
One of the case studies will be of an
expert witness who got sued.
Fannie Mae session
Fannie Mae expects to has released two of their new test forms - URAR
and exterior-only. They are scrapping the URAR and the 2055 and replacing
them with new forms.
Fannieís new forms are very
controversial. Joe Minnich, the speaker, is an excellent presenter and
promises to bring lots of copies of the new forms. He works in Fannie Maeís
Washington office and is on the team developing the forms.
Where to get more information
For conference updates and lots of news and tips, sign up for my free
email newsletter at www.appraisaltoday.com
See you there!!