10 Steps to a Paperless Office

By Mike Fletcher

Excerpts: If you’ve talked to appraisers who have gone digital, you know they love not having boxes of old reports and workfiles cluttering their offices, homes, and garages and not spending money on paper, toner, and other equipment. Even better, appraisers who run a paperless office often enjoy increased productivity and efficiency.

If you’re ready to enjoy the benefits of getting rid of paper, I’m sharing 10 steps to switch to a completely paperless office. While you may need to tailor this blueprint to your preferred methods and workflows, this will help you get started.


Switching to digital files and a paperless office saves you time and offers better protection for your files. Making the shift to get rid of printed documents and handwritten notes isn’t easy at first, but by going one step at a time and relying on your appraisal software’s tools, you’ll be paperless in no time.

Topics with detailed and practical advice:

1. Why do you want a paperless office?

2. Commit to change – Be aware of wanting to stay in the familiar

3. Identify your paper and how to go paperless

4. Obtain needed equipment for your paperless office

5. Determine your storage needs in a paperless office

6. Establish a new workflow in your paperless office

7. Going paperless starts small

8. Add another paperless item

9. Get trained

10. Seek out your peers

To read more, Click Here

My comments: What appraiser does not want to go paperless? No one. Read this article with lots of good advice!

Business is slow for many appraisers. Going paperless is an excellent option to consider.

This is by far the best article I have read on going paperless. It is written for appraisers, is understandable, and is not too long. The author is a veteran residential appraiser and self-proclaimed “Data Nerd.” He is currently a Senior Data Steward at Corelogic.

I have a home garage and business office full of appraisal files, plus my business records for taxes. I keep hoping someone will come in and steal all the paper and the filing cabinets

Appraisal Business Tips 

Humor for Appraisers

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NOTE: Please scroll down to read the other topics in this long blog post on HUD bias Complaints, E&O insurance, home fire insurance, unusual homes, mortgage origination stats, etc


Can Fresh Staging and a Big Price Drop Help Sell This Grand Mansion in Lake Forest, Illinois?

Excerpts: 7 bedrooms, 8.5+ baths, 15,000 sq.ft., 5.4 acre lot, built in 1934

The original asking price back in October 2022 was $10.1 million but was later dropped to $6.9 million. It’s now available for $5,495,000—a nearly 50% reduction in two years.

Now, the mansion is staged to attract a different kind of buyer, says listing agent Jennifer Ames… “The buyers that are now looking at the house are all younger,” she notes. “We took out all of the heavy, antique, dark furniture. We put in fresh, patterned furniture and photographed it. What that did is change the narrative. Now everyone that’s looking at the house is in their 40s. The perception is that the house is [in] more move-in condition, because it feels more modern to the eye.”

Known as Suffield House, the neo-Georgian-style home was built for a widow named Lolita Armour (who was married to meatpacking magnate J. Ogden Armour). David Adler designed the 15,000-square-foot home in 1934, collaborating with his sister, Frances Adler Elkins.

“Everything in the house is original except for the kitchen counters and kitchen appliances,” says Ames. “Nothing was changed. Normally, [a house] will change, with different finishes and all. All of the lighting, except for one or two fixtures, we believe to be original; and those are quite valuable.”

One reason the home’s remained intact? It hasn’t changed hands in decades. “There’s only been three owners,” Ames notes, adding that the current owners have had the place 50 years.

All nine fireplaces feature unique mantels and original hardware, and the library flooring was culled from the deck of an old schooner. “All the baths have the original vanities and original stone work,” Ames says. “You couldn’t replace it now.”

Even though the home is now 90 years old, some of its architectural details are much older. For example, inlaid flooring from England is 300 years old, and woodwork by Grinling Gibbons (who worked on Windsor Castle) dates back to the late 1600s or early 1700s.

To read more, Click Here

To read the listing with more photos, Click Here

My comments: Interesting appraisal challenge! Easier now after the big price drop… Who woulda thought the price would drop so much!


Unresolved Complaints Filed with HUD

Excerpts: The lack of resolution in the fair housing complaints filed with HUD regarding alleged appraisal discrimination has become a pressing concern for all parties involved. As highlighted by Peter Christensen, HUD has received over 200 such complaints since 2020, yet has failed to make a determination on the merits of any of them, either way. This suggests that the complaints are not as straightforward as they may initially appear, and that there are significant challenges in distinguishing legitimate grievances from those driven by other factors.

Unresolved complaints filed with HUD alleging Fair Housing Act violations about appraisals have become a serious problem – the lack of resolution is a concern for the parties involved (on all sides), fair housing advocates and defense counsel. HUD has received 200+ complaints regarding appraisals since 2020, but has not determined any on the merits. This is as much of a problem for the consumers submitting complaints to HUD, as it is for the appraisers, AMCs and lenders responding to them.

HUD’s inaction is also leading consumers to file complaints with alternative agencies. And, it’s now leading some consumers to abandon years-old HUD complaints and file court cases without waiting for HUD. The most recent court case alleging appraisal discrimination makes this point.

To read more, Click Here

My comments: Peter Christen’s post was originally on LinkedIn and reprinted in this blog post. The June newsletter, available June 1, is my annual E&O issue. It includes liability issues, and many other related topics, such as unproven discrimination complaints and what they mean for you.


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New in the June 2024 issue of Appraisal Today

Annual E&O and Liability Issue

  • Threatened with a Lawsuit? By Claudia Gaglione, Esq.
  • Do I really have to report that state board issue to my E&O insurance? By Peter Christensen, Esq.
  • 2024 E&O Insurance Update:Claims, Payment Options, Lawsuits, etc.
  • 2024 E&O Insurance – Where to get E&O Insurance, What to For in a Policy, etc.
  • 2024List of E&O Insurance Brokers
  • Other topics include: what to do if you can’t afford E&O and always get tail coverage if quitting or retiring

To read more about these topics, plus 2+ years of previous issues, subscribe to the paid Appraisal Today.

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Freddie Mac: The cost of homeowners’ insurance

From Freddie’s March 2024 Update

Excerpts: To conclude, as a component of ongoing housing expenses, HO insurance costs are growing but are a small fraction compared to the mortgage principal and interest payment. However, even a small incremental increase in HO insurance cost will impact those at the margin. Our findings highlight substantial heterogeneity in such costs and the cost burdens experienced by borrowers.

We find that the effective HO insurance rates were the highest in the central U.S., leading to notable cost burdens in several states within this region. Among all income groups, lower-income borrowers were more challenged. While the costs of HO insurance remain a small fraction of housing expenses, it’s a trend that we will continue to track going forward.

To read more, Click Here

My comments: The link above goes directly to the insurance part of the long Fannie March 2024 update, which includes a detailed analysis, plus graphs and data. Unfortunately, there is no discussion about requiring insurance if you have a mortgage loan.

I read every day about more homeowners with no mortgages dropping their expensive fire insurance coverage in the Bay Area, increased on renewal.

Locations are often places that had previous fires.

Nearly 39.3% of U.S. homes are mortgage-free, per the 2022 census shows.


The Great Appraiser Bake Off… Same Ingredients, Different Results

By Jamie Owen

Compares Appraisals on the Same Property by Different Appraisers

Excerpts: My wife and I enjoy watching cooking shows, including The Great British Bake Off. In these cooking challenges, different cooks create similar baked items. However, not all results are the same.

In a way, appraising real estate is like this show. Two appraisers may be working to develop an opinion of the market value of the same property.

Let’s call the appraiser’s opinion of the property’s market value the cake. The data available to be analyzed are the ingredients used to make the cake. Our standards, the Uniform Standard of Professional Practice (USPAP), are like the recipe with guidelines on how to do it.

Despite having the same pool of sales to choose from and the same standards to follow, the results of two appraisers’ work are often a little different, like the baker’s dishes. There’s nothing wrong with this. Two appraisers may choose different comparable sales to use. Or they may utilize different methods of extracting the adjustments from the market.

To read more, Click Here

My comments: Another very creative appraisal blog post by Jamie Owen!


Guard Tower #1 with Cowboy Pool in Joshua Tree, California

Excerpts: 2 guests, 1 bedroom, 1 bath, $285 night

Airbnb rental

The ULTIMATE “GLAMPING” experience! Featured on HGTV: The Castle House Estate brings Tiny Home living to another level, located in the heart of Joshua Tree and minutes from the National Park. This unique medieval piece of architecture blends indoor-outdoor living with an emphasis on entertaining. The Castle House Estate is situated on eight picturesque acres, surrounded by many more private undeveloped acres.

To read more, Click Here

My comments: I don’t know why there are so many creative (and sometimes weird) homes in Joshua Tree!


HOW TO USE THE NUMBERS BELOW. Appraisals are ordered after the loan application. These numbers tell you the future for the next few weeks. For more information on how they are compiled, Click Here.

Note: I publish a graph of this data every month in my paid monthly newsletter, Appraisal Today. For more information or get a FREE sample go to www.appraisaltoday.com/order Or call 510-865-8041, MTW, 7 AM to noon, Pacific time.

My comments: Rates are going up and down. Many appraisers are not busy. Some are busy, usually with non-lender appraisals.

Mortgage applications decreased 5.7 percent from one week earlier

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 29, 2024) — Mortgage applications decreased 5.7 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending May 24, 2024.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, decreased 5.7 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 6.3 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index decreased 14 percent from the previous week and was 12 percent higher than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 1 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index decreased 3 percent compared with the previous week and was 10 percent lower than the same week one year ago.

“Mortgage rates increased for the first time in four weeks, with the 30-year fixed rate up to 7.05 percent and all other loan types also seeing increases. The uptick in rates led to a decline in mortgage applications heading into Memorial Day weekend,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Vice President and Deputy Chief Economist. “Both purchase and refinance applications fell, pushing overall activity to the lowest level since early March. Borrowers remain sensitive to small increases in rates, impacting the refinance market and keeping purchase applications below last year’s levels. There continues to be limited levels of existing homes for sale and many buyers are struggling to find listings in their price range that meet their needs.”

The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 31.3 percent of total applications from 34.0 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 6.4 percent of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications decreased to 12.7 percent from 12.8 percent the week prior. The VA share of total applications decreased to 12.0 percent from 13.7 percent the week prior. The USDA share of total applications increased to 0.4 percent from 0.3 percent the week prior.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($766,550 or less) increased to 7.05 percent from 7.01 percent, with points increasing to 0.63 from 0.60 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $766,550) increased to 7.22 percent from 7.18 percent, with points decreasing to 0.43 from 0.44 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA increased to 6.85 percent from 6.77 percent, with points increasing to 0.95 from 0.88 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 6.66 percent from 6.42 percent, with points increasing to 0.69 from 0.54 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs increased to 6.64 percent from 6.48 percent, with points increasing to 0.77 from 0.55 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The survey covers over 75 percent of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications, and has been conducted weekly since 1990. Respondents include mortgage bankers, commercial banks, and thrifts. Base period and value for all indexes is March 16, 1990=100.


 Ann O’Rourke, MAI, SRA, MBA
Appraiser and Publisher Appraisal Today

1826 Clement Ave. Suite 203 Alameda, CA 94501

Phone: 510-865-8041

Email:  ann@appraisaltoday.com

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