Tell me about Porter Valuation
We’re small. It’s myself and I have one trainee who will be licensed hopefully after the first of the year. Probably within the first quarter of 2021. I’ve been in the business since 1997. I didn’t form what is called Porter Appraisals until 2000. I’ve been incorporated for about 20 years. During that time I did spend a year at Colliers which is how I know Lucas. He actually did my onboard training when I went to work for Colliers.
Porter Valuation doesn’t specialize. We do all types of property—industrial, subdivision, multi-family, office and retail. This market is too small for us to really specialize in anything. We cover the whole state. We work from corner to corner. We don’t have any overnight and we can pretty much reach everywhere within a half a day drive.
I do have a research assistant that helps me out. She researches sales and uses the database for that. She also gets our jobs set up in Valcre as they come in. The dashboard is incredible. We can all look to see who’s working on what and what’s coming up.
The only thing I don’t like is reminders of the past due and the number of reports past due. It’s a constant reminder that I’m behind. I was able to trim some of that down today, which is a good thing!
We’re small and I’m hoping to expand some more in the future. I will probably wait until my trainee is licensed before I do that. I’m thinking about moving forward with another trainee or maybe someone who is already certified. I would like to think about doing that maybe in the next year to 18 months.
How has your shop evolved in the last 20 years of operation?
From 2000 to 2005 all we did was residential stuff. We did do some commercial, but we didn’t do much. The majority of what we did was residential. At that time I had a bigger shop too. We had a total of six appraisers at one point. In 2005, I shifted to doing more commercial work. By 2009, I was only doing commercial work. It’s evolved over time. Back in the early 2000s, we were making a whole lot of money doing residential appraisals, so we were going where the money was.
Nowadays, you can’t make any money doing residential appraisals. The only way you can make any money doing commercial appraisals is when you have the technology to help you be more efficient, like Valcre. We started in 2000. And we’re coming up on 20 years. It was the Tuesday after Labor Day that we opened our doors.
How long have you been using Valcre?
I started using Valcre full time in January 2017. I purchased my license in October or November of 2016, but I didn’t do any work in the Valcre system until January 2017. During that time, I was just learning the ropes and trying to figure things out. But once I started using Valcre, it took me no time to adopt the platform.
Within three reports I was very very familiar, and within 10 reports I had it down pat. It did not decrease my workflow at all. As matter of fact, once I got to be very efficient with it, I probably added two to three jobs a month by using the platform.
I’ve probably increased revenue by maybe 30-35 percent just by using the platform, becoming familiar with and using the database, getting my templates set up the way that I wanted and using the Word and Excel integrations. Things go so much faster than any other software I’ve been associated with.
It sure beats cutting and pasting, which is what we did in the very beginning. When I first started, we would pull up the last report we did and start cutting and pasting things into it, which is a very ugly and inefficient way to do it. We didn’t have a database either.
I would probably use the database feature even if I didn’t like the Word and Excel software. The data goes in clean, I like the way it’s presented when it comes out, the comps are extremely important.
Now we’re extracting all these expenses out of properties that we’re working on and so we’re building this huge database of expense comps. There aren’t many in my market who have that technology or that ability, unless you’re on a national platform, but their data isn’t even that good. The national firms always talk about their data being good, but there are too many hands touching that data and it becomes corrupt.
In our situation, since we’re small we only have three handling the data.
We leave each other notes inside each comp. If I pull up a comp that someone else has entered I can see at what stage of the ballgame we’re in on the verification of a comp. It’s very, very easy to maintain the credibility of the data.
What made you decide to open up your own appraisal shop?
The main reason I opened my own shop was because the business I was working for at the time, was shifting to county assessment work. I had offered to buy the fee appraisal business from him for over a year. He just kind of kept putting me off and putting me off and putting me. That’s what ultimately led me to leave and open up my own shop.
What was the pain point that led you to consider becoming a Valcre user?
Now fast forward to 2014 when I went to work for Colliers—I was looking for something different at the time. I was looking to maybe learn a little bit more than what I thought I was getting and maybe have a little better work product, not necessarily the actual report, but increase the types of properties I was working on. At the time I was doing small stuff and I wanted to learn a little bit more about technology and why it’s making the national firms so much better, or so I thought.
I left Colliers because in our market, the volume of work that you have to do to earn what I was earning before I went to Colliers wasn’t feasible at the time. That didn’t work out for me. Before I went to Colliers I was using Narrative1. When I left Colliers I went back to using Narrative1. Because I had experienced the software platform that they had at Colliers, which is very similar to Valcre, I was just not happy going back to Narrative1.
When I had first gotten Narrative1, it was the best product on the market at the time. It had some quirks to it, but you learn to get past that and work through them..
What led me to Valcre is that Lucas actually called me. He approached me and said, “I know you’re back on your own and I don’t know what software you’re using,” and I think he had remembered that I was using Narrative1 prior to Colliers. From there we did the demo together and I signed up right there on the spot. The software is phenomenal and they’ve continued to make it better and better.
The main reason I jumped was because I trusted Lucas. The Narrative1 software was clunky, difficult to use, and the database was bad. I knew that Valcre was committed to bringing a product to the market that could really improve efficiency. Those are the main reasons that I jumped on board—the product and Lucas coming to me to say the product was going to be great. He was not lying. It has exceeded my expectations.
It sounds like you have some goals to expand your team in the near future—what role will Valcre play in your ability to do so?
There are several factors that you could put into play here. It’s been my experience that when I have trainees, I start them out slow. One of the first things I have them do is get flood maps and zoning maps and other grunt work type of stuff. With Valcre, you still have to get your own flood maps, but all the other maps auto populate. Tasks like filling out the Excel are extremely easy to do, so it’s easier for a new person to catch on. The learning curve is significantly decreased.
The database is so user-friendly that it takes half the time to get a new person up and running. The most questions a new person will have is what type of property something is. It’s not the factual data they’ll question, it’s more of the technical questions that have nothing to do with the software.
The person that is currently entering in our raw comparable data has zero appraisal experience. Zero. None. And yet she puts it in perfectly. It took us probably 10 comps before she was comfortable with it, but the learning curve has improved efficiency drastically for us
My templates are a little bit modified compared to the off the-shelf product. With that being said, most people are familiar with Word and Excel. Even if they’re not proficient, they still know how to use it, so you don’t have to teach someone a whole new system.
The way that you use the Excel and the Word doc with data input is so easy that repetition just gets a new person up and running much faster. You do the same thing every time. You’re not having to tell someone to go back and change an entire scope of work.
Valcre makes it so easy to sit down and train someone on how to put a report together. You just have to teach them how to write the narrative part of the report.
I haven’t used another software in more than three years now, but I had used several before Valcre. The way that everything merges together is so perfect. With Valcre can take a new person and show them how to enter in all the data and do this analysis in Excel, then you push a button and it writes the report for you—it’s phenomenal. It definitely beats the old way of how to train a new person. It’s so much easier.
Not to mention all the little tools we have available to us through Valcre—like the market analysis and the regional data, the demographic data. When I sit down to my reports now, I can open up my folder in my Dropbox and my assistant has put all of those reports in there for me. All I have to do is insert them in my reports. It takes 10 seconds. Having that also helps teach new people how to do the analysis part which is the hardest part.
With the market analysis tab, new people can quickly identify trends without having to do a whole bunch of research. It makes the teaching part of the appraisal process a whole lot easier when you have everything right in front of you.
When I used Narrative1, I had all of my analysis in one place and then I had a whole separate worksheet that I would use for my market analysis. It was clunky because I had to create it. And it looked okay in the report, but it didn’t work well if you didn’t know how to do it. You wouldn’t get the margins right when you brought the data over or it didn’t look right as a PDF. We don’t have that problem with Valcre. Once you hit that button, boom, you’re done. You’re just cleaning up your report and writing your analysis after that.
Valcre makes it easier to train people on how to write reports. I think when you bring new people on, they can catch onto the analysis part pretty easy. Putting all the report parts together is more difficult, but Valcre makes that easy.
You can do as much or as little as you want. I did a little report today. I didn’t do any market analysis, I just did a local, one-approach and I started it this morning at 7 am and finished it by about 2 pm. And that’s with adding my comps into the database. I had to do research on four different sales, but my analysis was really short and condensed. There’s so much flexibility with what you can create within the Valcre platform and everything just looks so much better when you do it that way.
You mentioned that Valcre allows for flexibility within the software, how does Valcre affect your schedule as a dad and business owner?
Because it’s a web-based platform you can be anywhere and access your jobs or write a report. Sometimes I’m in a situation where I just need to log on and look at the dashboard so I can see what we have coming up and make my plans. The dashboard is the best tool you can have for managing your time.
I’m lazy. Whenever I get an engagement I don’t open my Microsoft Outlook to track deadlines, I would just try to stay on top of things. And on occasion, I’d forget about a job. I’d have things due that I hadn’t even started. But with Valcre, I can access that dashboard anywhere.
That’s one of the features that I think really is essential in your time management. Maybe I’m not at the office and I need to check to see how many jobs the kid who works for me has done. I can pull up his name and see what he’s working on and send him an email or text if I want to assign something to him. Then boom. It pops right up in his inbox. Those are the things that I think are most important.
Being able to work on your laptop and write actual reports is important, but the fact you can time manage through Valcre’s cloud is so important. There’s no better way to do it.
As someone who takes on appraisal trainees How important is technology for the appraisal industry?
To attract this next generation of appraisers, technology is going to be vital. There is nobody who wants to go through an old Word document and have to cut and paste.
It also comes down to money. The next generation is going to be motivated by money. There’s only one way to do our job faster and that’s with technology.
The quicker we can do our research, do our analysis and publish our report, the quicker we will get paid and the more we can do in a shorter period of time. When I first started doing commercial work, it would take me one week to do a single report.
Now in most cases I can do two full reports, sometimes three a week depending on the property. You’re talking about doubling productivity.
I used to have to go to a filing cabinet to look up comps because they were mailed to us on a sheet of paper. Now I can dump that data into my Valcre database and it takes all of a ten minute search and a two second dump.
It’s going to be important to attract new talent because the old way of doing things are no longer. They want to make more money and be more efficient. And they want to use their time wisely. They don’t want to be stuck at the office for 80 hours when they can work 40 and make more money. That’s really what it comes down to in attracting that new talent.
It appears to me that the Valcre team is staying on top of the technology to help us more. As new technology comes out, they are willing to incorporate it into their platform, which is extremely important.
I can’t speak for all the other software platforms, but I can speak for a lot of them when I say they’ll sell you a model ad that’s the same model you’re going to have until you stop using it. Valcre is constantly putting out updated templates, new features, etc. It shows your client that you’re upgrading your game every time you do something.
Five or six years ago, I wouldn’t have encouraged anyone to get into this business because it was so inefficient. You could make a good living, but you had to work really, really hard. Let’s face it, no one wants to do that. But with the technology I think you can do that now. You can have a good work life balance. I would encourage younger people to get into this business because it is fun. And I think the technology is going to get even better to where it’s even more fun.
I recently shared the free unemployment tool with one of my clients and he loves it. Absolutely loves it.
If Lucas and the team continue to do their thing, it’s going to make it easier on us. I embrace technology, I love it. I want to use more of it. Sometimes I have a hard time diving in because I’m just too busy at the time, but I am excited. I think we are finally on the right track. After decades of doing things the archaic way, and now we have the ability to do things so much quicker and more efficient. It just makes things so much better. And you can make more money.
The tools that Valcre has given us, help. It makes it so that I am more excited about my job than I was six or seven years ago. That’s important.
I’m 50 so I’m still a pretty young guy in this business. Most of the appraisers across the country are in their 60s. I’m not sure if there are a lot of them that would embrace updating their technology. They’ve been doing things the same way for 30 or more years and don’t think they need to worry about it.
I know some really good appraisers that are that way, but those are the people we’re going to leave behind because we have better tools.
My clients notice. My clients like the way my reports look. The appeal. They like the way the data flows, the charts—they like them.
I had a client just recently call me because he wanted to know what software I was using. I told him Valcre. And he told me he liked the way my reports lay out better than the national firm.
That goes back to Lucas and everyone developing this great platform. Clients recognize it. I do business with big banks and I do business with little bitty banks. The ones that are in the big banks reading these reports and they like everything about them.
I’ve had several clients over the last couple of years tell me they like the way things are presented in my reports. Recently one of my really good clients called me to ask if I was using software that I had developed. It was somewhat of a complex property and I had to do a lot of customization and create some charts where data was hand entered.
I told him that I was using Valcre and he told me that he didn’t think the national platforms are as good as what I was using. I think that’s one of the reasons a lot of appraisers who have left some of the national firms have turned to Valcre and said,“sign me up.”
On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you rate Valcre and your experience.
If I could go higher than a 10 I would, but since I can only go a 1o, I’ll go with a 10.
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Jay Porter has been appraising since 1997. The Porter Valuation Group is a small sized firm that does all types of Commercial properties- industrial, subdivision, multi-family, office and retail. They are located in Little Rock, Arkansas.