Appraisalport polls on comp photos
By Steve Costello, www.appraisalport.com
This month I want to discuss three recent polls dealing with comp photos. In the first poll, we asked “With the availability of MLS photos, do you still feel it is necessary to drive by and photograph every comp?” We had a total of 3819 responses and the top two answers were very close. The winner, with 40 percent of the vote, was “Sometimes, it depends on the complexity of the specific assignment.” Coming in a close second was “Yes, I always want to see any property I use in a report” with 38 percent of the vote. The final answer of “No, I would rather just use MLS photos” only scored about half the votes as the first two answers, finishing with 22 percent. This makes sense because I think most appraisers want to look at a comp before they include it in a report, especially if they aren’t already familiar with the property. I can also see where some appraisers are very familiar with the properties in their area, use many of the same comps over and over again, and don’t feel a need to drive by and photograph them every time they use them.
In the next poll, we asked “In your opinion, with MLS, Google, and other photo sources available to clients, the main reason original comp photos are required from the appraiser is:” This poll had 3986 responses and had a pretty clear winner. A full 63 percent of the appraisers chose the answer “To make sure the appraiser actually drives by the comps.” So it looks like most appraisers don’t think their clients care as much about the actual photo compared to just making sure the appraiser actually visited the comp. The answer we expected to be very popular, “To provide the client with up-to-date photos of the comps – ensuring they exist in the stated condition,” only received 22 percent of the vote. A third response of “So the clients won’t have to take the time to look up the photos from one of the sources noted above” didn’t do well, only pulling in 3 percent of the vote. Not a surprise — we didn’t really expect many appraisers to choose that answer. Finally, 13 percent of appraisers went with “Other reason” as the best choice for this question. We really don’t know if there were one or many “other reasons” or what they are.
Finally, we asked “Would you be in favor of eliminating the requirement to include an original photo of every comp as long as a recent MLS photo of the property could be included with your report?” This question was very popular with 4770 total votes. It also produced a landslide vote with 79 percent of the appraisers selecting the answer “Yes.” Only 15 percent answered “No” and would not want to use an MLS photo instead of an original if it were available. A final 6 percent were “Not sure” how they felt about this issue. So, from this poll it is clear that appraisers feel that an original photo is not a necessity to produce a quality appraisal as long as a good representative photo is available from another source like an MLS.
My comment: As we all know, a photo taken at the time of listing from the MLS is often better than one taken later and USPAP does not require comp photos. Fannie Mae certifications require that the appraiser inspect the exterior of the comp, not take a photo. What about re-using a comp photo? Why the requirement of an “original” photo? To be sure appraisers drive by the comps.