The Appraisal Institute's 2018 Conference is in Nashville!

Downtown Nashville

We are less than two weeks away from the Appraisal Institute’s 2018 Annual Conference in Nashville Tennessee, for which Valcre is proud to be a Gold Record Sponsor. It is the premier annual event for real estate valuation professionals, and this year’s conference, hosted by Music City itself, promises not to disappoint. Nashville’s rise as a destination hotspot for music, cuisine, and southern charm means there will be just as much to see outside the event when the conference sessions end. Inside the event, you will be sure to see coverage of top-of-mind regulatory, economic, and technological trends at work in increasingly volatile commercial real estate markets.

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Come visit Team Valcre at our booth!

If you want to witness technology truly redefining commercial real estate appraisal, be sure to come by the Valcre booth while you are at the conference. We will be conducting live demonstrations and providing a hands-on experience of our industry-leading Software as a Service (SaaS) platform that offers efficiencies and production volumes previously only achievable at national firms. Learn how you can use Valcre to expand the production capacity of appraisers and increase billings.

FREE Regional Analysis Tool!

For those visiting our booth, we will be giving away a new free Regional Unemployment & Employment Data Analysis Tool to help you with your appraisal report writing even if you arent a Valcre customer yet. We will also have Valcre swag including hats, guitar picks, pens, and other fare, that you won’t want to miss. The new tool will graph the unemployment rate over the trailing 18 months and over the last 10 years for National, Regional, State, MSA, and County levels for all US states, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Also included is a table to show employment rates for the last 10 years at the State, MSA, and County levels. The data is always as up to date as possible, pulling directly from the website.

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It's an efficient way to include unemployment or employment graphs and tables in any report that uses the data to help demonstrate the purpose of the report and its findings. Efficiency and productivity are critical to the success of today's commercial real estate appraiser. Learn how the efficiencies of using Valcre add up, allowing appraisers to avoid wasting valuable time and administrative resources, and focus on appraising. Valcre leverages a super-efficient system to create higher quality reports and increase the production capacity of every appraiser.

Stop by our booth (Number 111) in the Exhibit Hall at the 2018 Annual Conference in Nashville to learn more, and schedule a one-one-one demo to see how we can help your business grow.

5 Critical Components of an Appraisal Platform that Appraisers Can Not Live Without!

Efficiency and productivity are critical to the successful survival of today’s commercial real estate appraiser. At the same time, technology innovation in the commercial real estate (CRE) space has lagged relative to other industries. CRE appraisers simply can’t afford lost time experimenting with cobbled-together upgrades wedged into an outdated infrastructure. As Software as a Service (SaaS) providers enter the commercial real estate industry, an all-in-one CRE appraisal platform can offer firms of all sizes increased efficiencies and production volumes previously only achievable at national firms.

What are the key components essential to evaluating an all-in-one CRE appraisal platform?


1. One Place, Accessible Anywhere

First, it is fundamental to have a cloud-based solution available from anywhere for all stages of the appraisal workflow, from intake to invoice. The platform must provide a scalable, easily-searchable, database of all your key data, including sales, leases, surveys, and income/expense comparables. Intuitive dashboards should be included for quick access to the job status of every appraisal, with all the important information at your fingertips. Additionally, one-click professional service agreements and invoicing with hassle-free tracking of accounts receivables are must-haves to fully leverage efficiencies and production gains. 


2. Seamless Integration

Fully-integrated, customizable, branded, and USPAP-compliant Excel and Word templates should be provided. One-click importing of property information, comparables, and market data into the valuation template should be standard. Synchronizing charts and text into the appraisal template must be efficient and effortless. Mapping subject and comparable properties should be built in and automatic. Efficiencies add up, allowing appraisers to avoid wasting valuable time and administrative resources, and focus on appraising.


3. Privacy and Security

Privacy and security of data in the cloud are critical today, especially for CRE appraisers who are in possession of sensitive client data. Any SaaS provider should be transparent about how your data is being secured and protected. They should be providing strong encryption, following globally accepted certifications and standards for data protection policies and controls, and have geo-redundant backups stored in multiple locations. Your data should always be protected, secure, and available – and visible only to the people you choose.


4. Training and Support

The availability of training and support are crucial to the success of any software implementation, and are a measure of a provider’s commitment to you and your success. Time-strapped CRE appraisers are continually extracting efficiencies from their tools to increase productivity and require unlimited ongoing support to be included with their software investment, free of charge.


5. Outsourcing Tech Trend

Following the playbook from other industries, commercial real estate firms are outsourcing technology to experts, rather than trying to accel in both tech and CRE. Besides the headache being offloaded, there are efficiencies and productivity gains offered by all-in-one solutions, especially for CRE appraisers, if the right provider is chosen. A cloud-based SaaS platform offers a largely turnkey solution that saves the commitment of your own resources and significantly shortens the implementation time, by offloading the complexity of setup, customization, and maintenance to the provider.

Make Valcre Your Appraisal Platform

The right CRE appraisal platform is a complete software solution that frees appraisers from the burden of tech management. At Valcre, we built the best appraisal technology platform supporting all stages of the appraisal workflow. Our cloud-based database stores your data centrally and securely, and gives you complete access, anywhere and anytime. Easily keep track of jobs, clients, properties, sales, leases and expenses. Our robust search and mapping functionality let you find the data you need, when you need it.

Whether you are a solo appraiser or a large firm with many appraisers, assistants, and administrators in multiple offices, keeping your data up to date takes just minutes. With everything organized in one place: your appraisals, files, job due date calendar, comparables, clients, and much more – everyone has a lot more time to focus on what’s important – appraising.

What used to only be available to large firms with huge technology budgets, is now available to everyone – with ease in the cloud. Our industry-leading Software as a Service (SaaS) platform provides end-to-end job tracking and invoicing, one-page data entry, fully-integrated Word and Excel templates, automated mapping, one-click datasheets and summary reports. Valcre leverages a super-efficient system to create higher quality reports and increase the production capacity of every appraiser.

How to get your MAI

By: Joe Creech, MAI

What is MAI?

The MAI (Member of the Appraisal Institute) is recognized throughout the commercial real estate (CRE) industry as the top designation that can be achieved for a commercial real estate appraiser in the US. The MAI is the launching point for business careers in the commercial appraisal industry and is a base requirement to join most appraisal panels for lenders, corporations and law firms. Regardless of your career goals as a commercial appraiser, obtaining your MAI designation is a worthwhile venture. The education, resources, and prestige outweigh the costs (financial & time) spent to earn your “letters”.

One of the largest hurdles of obtaining the MAI designation is the substantial overall time commitment to get through the process. As appraisers, we spend our days looking for efficiency. Anything that takes away from producing reports is viewed as time misused. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize the benefit of investing in your long-term career goals, which should include the MAI designation. Plan on spending at minimum five years from start to finish to complete the process. Here are the main points to consider and the steps you’ll need to take.

How to get started? If you are completely new to the industry or still considering appraisal as a career path, it is important to choose a firm that will nurture your development. Larger firms tend to have training programs in place and will pay for your appraisal courses, license fees, etc. However, working at a smaller firm with a senior MAI at the helm can provide better depth of knowledge in your training through more one-on-one mentoring.

As you progress through the trainee process, you will accumulate education requirements towards your general certification license as you also complete 300 classroom hours, as outlined by the Appraisal Institute (AI). Some of your undergraduate course-work may count towards these requirements. Economics, real estate and business courses are all generally helpful but check with the AI to verify which courses (and how many hours) count towards the education requirements.

Earning a general state certified license is an important milestone in your appraisal career. At this juncture your compensation typically shoots up, you can typically perform inspections independently (for many clients) and you will be applying your signature of excellence to each appraisal report. As your name is added to more and more reports in your market, clients will begin to get a comfort level with your work, which will eventually help with creating your own book of business. In my experience, it takes about five years to establish yourself within the commercial appraisal industry.

What’s next?

After earning your state license, this is the point where pursing an MAI designation starts to make sense. This is when you contact the Appraisal Institute to request a mentor to assist in navigating the process. A mentor is a MAI in your market that is volunteering their time to help motivate you to keep moving forward towards your goal. They will also be able to answer questions, provide advice, and insights along the way. 

What are the steps? Here is a logical order to follow when completing the four basic steps to earn your MAI; (1) upper level courses, (2) comp exam, (3) demo report, and (4) experience log.

1. Upper Level Courses

Along with the classes required for your certified general state license, you will also need to complete five upper level classes to obtain your MAI. While the state-level courses are typically available through various education providers on a regular basis, with minimal travel, the upper level courses are all week-long classes and are offered only through the AI with a more sporadic schedule. It can take five years to take all the classes if you prefer not to travel.

I recommend setting up a list of the courses you need to complete and check the AI website for when they are offered near you to avoid additional delays or travel costs. Keep in mind that as these courses are all one week long and the travel costs (airfare, hotel, meals) can be as much or more than the class itself. Also, classes can fill up early so make sure you sign up as soon as the classes are announced. Note that the AI requires candidates to pass a basic Excel mastery test to qualify to take the upper level courses. This is a newer requirement but considering you have likely been appraising for at least three years to this point, you should be well-versed in Excel and this step is more of a formality.

2. Comp Exam

The comprehensive examination (comp exam) includes four separate modules. The four modules include a 1) General Concepts, 2) Cost/Highest and Best Use (HBU), 3) Sales, and 4) Income. The most taxing for most candidates tends to be the Income module. The best advice for passing this exam is to take it as closely on the heels of the Advanced Income Capitalization course as possible. Since the comp exam includes four separate modules that take information from all five of the upper level courses, it is recommended that students attend the Advanced Income class last. Although students sit for all four modules, it is possible to sit for only one module at a time. Most of the information covered in the exams will come from the upper level courses and reviewing your handbooks from each class is a great place to start studying. The Appraisal of Real Estate is an important resource as well, especially the first 150 pages (+/-). Topics covered include a broad overview of the profession and is great for the General Concepts exam. Ted Whitmer offers a popular comp exam review program, with details here: Ted Whitmer Comp Workshop.

3. Demo Report

The demonstration report (demo) has long been regarded as the most daunting portion of the process of obtaining the MAI designation. The institute completed a survey and found that a large portion of candidates wound up giving up at this point in the process. The numbers were so staggering that alternative solutions were researched. The AI website lists the seven various options available here: Appraisal Institute Demo

The most traditional method is to write a demonstration report on a property that you select. The report must include all three approaches to value (Cost, Sales, and Income) and needs to include quantifiably supported adjustments in each approach. The various requirements for the report are considerable are listed here: Appraisal Institute Demo Guidebook. Once the report is complete, a reviewer approved by the AI is engaged to grade your report. It can take a few months to get the report back and it is rare for a report to come back without comments, with candidates often required to revise certain sections. Because of the requirements of the assignment, it is highly recommended to pick a fairly homogeneous property type where adjustments can be more easily supported. Industrial or multifamily are historically the most popular choices for a demo report. A candidate can use a property they have already appraised, but only if they satisfy the USPAP requirements for confidentiality and receive permission from the client involved in the prior report. The value date cannot be more than five years from the date of submission to the Institute and cannot involve a property in litigation.

One of the most compelling alternatives is the Demo Writing Class, which has a very high success rate. Candidates are provided information on a sample property, with all the details needed to complete a demo report. Students are given a couple of months to review the materials and begin writing the report. At the end of the two months, students attend a week-long course to complete the demo under the supervision of trained instructors for the institute. At then end of the course, the reports are handed in and graded, with results available much more quickly than under previous requirements. The advantage of the new project is that appraisers spend less time researching their project and more time analyzing the data and completing the report.

4. Experience Log

Getting your hours and completing the experience log is considered the easiest and most beneficial step as it is completed within the natural course of your work. The institute currently requires proof of 4,500 hours, with a maximum of 2,000 hours in any given year. This process can therefore take anywhere from 3 to 5 years to accomplish, depending on your workload. The number of hours per job or assignment is subjective and the Institute provides tips on the process here: Appraisal Institute Exp Log Guide.

Its worth the time

The path to achieving the MAI designation is certainly not easy, but it is because the process is difficult, that the designation carries weight in the industry. MAI appraisers are recognized throughout the commercial real estate industry as highly qualified experts in valuation. The mere fact that a candidate has endured such a process speaks volumes to their dedication to their profession and the appraisal industry.

Additional Resources:

Valcre Team Offsite, Looking Forward to Lots of New Features in 2018


Team Valcre just wrapped up a four-day jam session in Los Angeles hashing out the next round of features that will lead to even greater success for our commercial appraiser partners. Going into "lock-down" with an offsite allowed us to analyze and consolidate months of customer feedback that we will turn into upgrades and new features for our customers.

From day one we've listened to the needs of the market, making adjustments along the way. Our team's measure of success is continuously expanding the value proposition to our customers and their clients.

We are committed to acting as a partner in their success and will continue to strive to offer the most advanced and intuitive commercial appraisal platform on the market. That is our commitment to the CRE industry.

Thanks for your continued support!