As technology advances, artificial intelligence and automation are playing an increasingly larger role in a variety of industries. One such sector is appraisal management, an industry that facilitates real estate valuation by providing services such as selecting an appraiser for mortgage lenders and delivering the appraisal report to them. Doing so helps facilitate an efficient appraisal process and provides a legally required separation between the lender and the appraiser.
One important service appraisal management companies, or AMCs, provide is the review of reports submitted by appraisers. AMCs have review departments that play a quality control role in the management process. These departments:
- Check for errors
- Ensure the report meets all the requirements of the lender
- Verify it is compliant with regulatory requirements
- Make sure it meets all necessary standards such as the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice and those put forth by government and government-sponsored entities - quasi-governmental organizations commonly referred to as GSEs
Traditionally, AMCs performed these reviews manually, but today, some use automated review processes. Others employ a mix of both human and automated review. Whether a computer, a human being or both perform this step in the management process impacts the final result in several ways, including the turnaround time, accuracy and depth of the review.
All three methods — human, automated and semi-automated — have advantages and disadvantages. In the rest of this piece, we’ll be looking at each strategy and discussing their benefits and drawbacks.
Human AMC Review Processes
Manual review is still an integral part of the process at many AMCs. The people responsible for the analysis should have proper training on best practices, procedures, policies and knowledge related to appraisal review. Often, these reviewers are licensed as appraisers, especially if they deal with higher-risk appraisals. Knowledge of the geographic area of the property being appraised is another useful trait.
Before the AMC begins the review, it will typically decide on how to go about the review based on the characteristics of the property and the appraisal. Based on the complexity of the case and the risk involved with a credit decision related to it, they will determine how in-depth the review should be. They might also choose different reviewers based on the property’s characteristics. A review of a rural property appraisal, for example, would most likely go to someone with extensive experience with rural appraisals, especially since rural properties tend to be more challenging than other types.
Once the review process begins, the reviewer will look for any technical errors and check to make sure the appraiser included all necessary information. They’ll also assess whether the report complies with all relevant regulations and standards, including those set by government agencies, standards organizations, GSEs, the lender and the AMC itself.
The reviewer also needs to ensure the appraiser backed up any claims made in the report with credible and accurate information, as well as whether the valuation is reasonable, considering the features and location of the property.
If the reviewer doesn’t find any deficiencies in the report, the AMC can begin the process of providing it to the lender. If they do come across any issues, though, they’ll need to take steps to fix them.
First, the AMC will bring up their concerns to the appraiser. In response, the appraiser might adjust the report by providing additional information or updating the information in it. AMCs need to have policies and procedures that guide this communication. It’s important they have controls that prevent any coercion or undue influence on the appraiser caused by the communication.
If the AMC cannot resolve the issue with the original appraiser, they will get a second opinion from another appraiser. Once they get the new report, they will conduct the review process again.
AMCs also need to document the review process. The type of property, the risk involved, the complexity of the report and other factors might impact how thorough the documentation is and what kinds of documentation the AMC keeps. AMCs document any deficiencies the reviewer found in the report, the resolution of those issues and reasons for obtaining a second appraisal, if applicable.
The type of property, the risk involved, the complexity of the report and other factors might impact how thorough the documentation is and what kinds of documentation the AMC keeps.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Human Review Processes
In a manual review, the reviewer relies on their expertise, as well as resources such as standards and guidelines. For this reason, they should have relevant training, and are often certified appraisers themselves.
One of the main advantages manual review provides is the reviewer’s expertise. A human assessor can evaluate complex and subtle aspects of a property, and is particularly effective relative to computers when it comes to qualitative, rather than quantitative, information. Computers have immense potential for crunching numbers, but have more trouble interpreting less concrete information.
People can also draw from a wide variety of resources, including their personal experience and knowledge, as well as books, guides, websites and other assets. Computers can only use the data they receive and the algorithm they’ve been programmed with. Artificial intelligence does allow machines to learn in a way, but they need access to data to learn from it.
Humans are also, however, more susceptible to making errors. People get tired and distracted, whereas computers do not. Humans can also develop biases, unlike computer programs. These factors lead to an error margin of more than 10 percent when estimating the value of properties.
Manual reviews might also take longer than automated ones, because computers can typically work faster than people can and don’t need to take breaks the way people do.
Automated AMC Review Processes
As automation technologies become more commonplace and AMCs face increased pressure to turn reports around quickly, more AMCs are implementing automated review processes. Automation can play a role in many of the steps of the review process.
Appraisers often submit their reports through an AMC’s web portal, which enables them to get the report to the management company more quickly. They can submit the file from anywhere with Internet access, and the system will deliver it almost instantly. The information is also already in digital form, allowing the AMC to jump right into a computer-based process.
Appraisers often submit their reports through an AMC's web portal, which enables them to get the report to the management company more quickly.
Automation might play a role from the very beginning of the review process. Some AMCs use an automation system to evaluate the report for property type, risk and complexity and determine the depth of the review. The system can also compare the characteristics of the report against the qualifications of the AMC’s employees and help determine who would be best to conduct each review. The system would use the company’s database, which would have information on each employee’s certifications and experience to make this decision.
At the start of the review, the employee might run the report through an automated checklist created by the AMC. This checklist might be customized based on the specific requirements of the report. The automation can quickly review the report and ensure that all necessary fields are filled out and detect errors.
The system also typically has access to valuation data for comparable properties, which it can use to judge whether the appraiser’s valuation is within the typical range. The system might also be able to check the information in the report against standards and regulatory requirements.
During the resolution phase, automation typically plays a smaller, but still important, role. Although the AMC might typically manually reach out to the appraiser, the computer system can provide them with recommendations on what needs to be fixed. They will at least probably use the analysis provided by the automated checklist.
The appraiser and the AMC will transfer the report file through the web portal, which enables people to receive the information and make corrections more quickly. In many cases, the file just needs to be adjusted and can be sent right back through to continue the review. Automation technology might also automatically provide updates on the status of the appraisal to parties who need them.
Automation can take a lot of the work out of the documentation aspect of the review. Many types of reporting software will automatically keep track of any issues that arise, changes the appraiser made and communication between the AMC and the appraiser. This information sometimes can’t be deleted, which makes the review more transparent and the documentation more reliable. Not having to record everything manually can save a lot of time and result in more detailed documentation.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Automated Review Processes
Using automation in the review process can increase efficiency and accuracy, especially when it comes to quantitative information.
Automation can make almost all phases of the process go faster. Sifting through large amounts of data takes people a long time, and they might still have trouble drawing the right conclusions from it without the help of technology. Automated computer systems, though, can process and analyze numbers, as well as reveal useful insights quickly. Automated programs might be less effective if they don’t have access to enough data, which could be due to a flaw in the design of the system. When they do have adequate quantitative data, though, they do an excellent job.
Automated computer systems can process and analyze numbers, as well as reveal useful insights quickly.
When it comes to more subjective evaluations, technology often falls behind its human counterparts. It can have trouble interpreting qualitative information, and often can’t detect subtleties the way people can. This precision can be helpful in some situations, but a hindrance in others. Because of this, people don’t trust technology to have the final word on approving an appraisal.
Automation, though, can make many parts of the review move more quickly. Automated reporting, record keeping and status updates — as well as sending the files through a secure web portal — can save everyone involved time, effort and resources.
Semi-Automated AMC Review Processes
When choosing between manual and automated AMC evaluation processes, there is also a middle road.
To take advantage of the benefits of both human- and technology-driven processes, many AMCs employ a semi-automated review strategy that combines elements of both manual and automated AMC appraisal review processes. The amount of hands-on involvement versus automation will differ from company to company. Often, semi-automated review procedures involve using automation initially and then having a human verify the results and add their own input.
In the beginning stages of choosing how to conduct the review and deciding who should be responsible, a manager would use a data-crunching system to evaluate the report and compare its features to their employees’ qualifications. They then might consider some of the candidates and consult with them on whether they’d like to take on the project before making a final decision.
When the reviewer receives the report, they typically first run it through an automated checklist customized for the document. This step will take care of the most concrete information and provide them a foundation to work from. They will then review the appraisal themselves, adding input as they go. The automation assesses the quantitative data, while the employee focuses on the parts that are less clear-cut.
An AMC using a semi-automated approach may use the tech to provide initial recommendations, but then reach out to the appraiser or the lender in person. The computer might inform the reviewer about what they need to do, but probably isn’t as adept at communicating with people as another person is. One-on-one communication can result in clearer explanations. The AMC just needs to be careful to avoid any potential coercion or excessive influence.
In a semi-autonomous model, the automated parts of the review will most likely be recorded automatically, while the manual parts are recorded by hand. The reviewer will then combine all the documentation at the end of the review. Putting them together in a cohesive way can be challenging, so AMCs should have a procedure in place that helps them do this consistently.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Semi-Automated Review Processes
The semi-automated review method is beneficial because it combines the best parts of both human and automated review processes. You can use automation to speed up processes, but still verify their accuracy by hand. It can help make the more tedious and data-driven parts of the process more efficient. Employees can focus more on the things they do best, like analyzing qualitative information and communicating with clients.
The semi-automated review method is beneficial because it combines the best parts of both human and automated review processes.
This strategy can also present challenges, though, in deciding which elements to automate and which to do manually. Figuring this out will require you to assess the technological and human resources your AMC has. Companies often start with small amounts of automation and slowly add more over time.
Integrating information produced by automation and by hand can also prove a challenge, especially if they’re in different formats. AMCs should establish protocols for doing this in a way that keeps their documents organized.
Choosing Appraisal Management Services
How do you decide between manual vs. automated appraisal management? Human, automated and semi-automated appraisal review processes all have advantages and disadvantages in relation to each other. Automation can speed up the review and increase accuracy in some areas. Manual review strategies, though, can be more useful for interpreting less concrete, qualitative information and communicating with lenders and appraisers. Semi-automated processes provide some of the benefits of both of the other methods, but come with challenges, as well.
Each approach has a place in the appraisal management services world. Deciding whether to use manual or automated appraisal management, or a combined approach, depends on the capabilities and requirements of the AMC, lender and appraiser and even on the individual appraisal.
SAMCO offers professional appraisal management services to banks and credit unions across the United States. We understand the importance of accuracy, efficiency and excellent customer service when it comes to appraisal management. To learn more about our appraisal management services, contact us by phone or email, or by filling out our short online form.