There is no better way to determine whether a product or service is right for you than talking to someone with firsthand experience.
We sat down with one of our users, Chris Ponsar, MAI, SRA of Ponsar Valuation (Honolulu, Hawaii) to discuss his experience using Valcre’s appraisal software. Read on to learn why Valcre is a must-have for his valuation business and how Valcre made the transition from a major national firm to Ponsar Valuation seamless.
How long have you been a Valcre user and how did you first learn about it?
We’ve been using Valcre for 2 years and 2 months. I first learned about it through a mainland bank reviewer who recommended the product. They said it was really streamlined and state of the art so I gave Lucas a call and got a demo.
Tell us about your workflow as a commercial real estate appraiser before you started using Valcre?
We started using Valcre immediately after I left a major national appraisal firm. We’ve been a Valcre user since day one of Ponsar Valuation. I was brought up in the appraisal business by a boutique firm that wrote reports the old fashioned way. After my colleagues and I joined a national firm, we were exposed to their report writing and database platform and began to see its potential. In terms of workflow, some appraisers think of the appraisal business in terms of dollar volume per month. I like to think of the appraisal business in terms of the number of opinions (appraisals) per month. When I was with the national firm, my primary associate and I were doing probably six or seven opinions a month. Now we probably generate between 12 and 14 opinions per month.
What was your first impression when you tried Valcre?
It was super modern and bug-free. The platform that I came from was originally built in the late ‘90s so it had bugs and would crash from time to time. I was also impressed by how fast the online database was - it was lightning quick and intuitive.
At what point did you realize Valcre was a must-have for you?
When I worked for the boutique firm prior to working for the national firm, the boutique firm never had real integrated appraisal writing software or technology. When we moved to the national firm it was apparent that there were efficiencies, so I knew when I started my company I would need something similar. While I briefly looked at the competition, it was pretty obvious to me that Valcre was the most complete product and totally modern at the same time. When I did the demo with Lucas, I was convinced instantly that we wanted to give it a try. It’s definitely a must-have now that it’s so integrated into our fabric and our team is now totally trained on how to use it. Within 90 days we knew that Valcre was a long-term partner.
In general what has your user experience been like with Valcre? Easy-to-use? Does what it says it will do? Technical support?
The tech support we receive from Valcre is great. It’s been especially helpful because Hawaii has idiosyncrasies about how real estate is appraised, especially when it comes to leasehold properties or how our addresses and tax map key systems work. We requested some tweaks in the very beginning that we recognized were different than what people on the mainland use and the Valcre team was very accommodating and made those changes right away for use. This was a nice departure from the national firm I worked for where there was a committee making decisions on proposed changes. Valcre has been super flexible and responsive in customizing the database and templates for our needs. They definitely have the small business feel in terms of response time.
What do you like most about Valcre? What is the one Valcre feature you could not live without?
I like that it’s a complete package and it will do everything from job logs to database to contacts to workflow calendars. It tracks our billings, does our invoicing and even puts together proposals. It’s really an integrated package and it’s turnkey when you’re starting a new appraisal firm and don’t have any formats to work with or a database platform. With Valcre, you run your PayPal and you flip the switch and you’re in business the next day. If I had to choose just one feature, I couldn’t live without the database.
In what ways does Valcre’s online software create value for commercial real estate appraisers?
The interface is sexy. It’s slick. When clients come to the office and we’re talking about data or comps, I can quickly pull it up in the Valcre interface that is as good as or better than CoStar or anything else competing on the market. Valcre is a super professional product and I know for a fact that it’s a better looking product to clients than those used at the national firms. Valcre is the sizzle on the steak that helps sell the idea that even though we are a small shop, we’ve got big technology behind us.
How does Valcre help you stay competitive in the industry?
Valcre definitely makes us more efficient, which keeps us competitive. We are a six person team - three people here locally in Hawaii, one user in Uganda and two support staff close to Denver, Colorado. We’re all able to use the database no matter where we are.
Would you recommend Valcre to other appraisers? Why or why not?
Yes, definitely. I have recommended Valcre to several appraisers and several have signed up. Anytime anyone asks me, I give it a full-endorsement.
In just a handful of words, how would you describe Valcre to fellow commercial real estate appraisers who are not familiar with the software?
It’s the secret weapon for medium and smaller appraisal shops to compete with the big boys.
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Ponsar Valuation is a Real Estate Appraisal and Consulting Company based in Honolulu, Hawaii. Chris Ponsar was the 2017 President of the Hawaii Chapter of the Appraisal Institute and a Commercial Real Estate Appraiser with expertise in Hawaii’s Resort and Industrial sectors. He has been engaged as an expert witness and arbitrator in numerous ground rent reset and litigation matters.