Is major deal pointing the way to appraisal future?

“We’re not replacing the appraiser, we’re empowering them”

Is major deal pointing the way to appraisal future?

Top Appraisal Management Company (AMC) Class Valuation has announced the acquisition of real estate software service provider, DataMaster.

Michigan-based Class Valuation, with a roster of almost 20,000 independent appraisers across the whole of the US, is one of the country’s top AMCs, while real estate software service provider DataMaster has built one of the largest Multiple Listing Service (MLS) integration networks in the county, selling access to its software to appraisers throughout the nation.

The deal, announced on Monday (September 20), will see the two companies work towards fully digitizing the entire appraisal process, Class Valuation said in a statement.

Class Valuation’s CEO, John Fraas, said DataMaster was well-aligned with his company’s strategy to lead innovation and drive efficiencies across the broader appraisal market. “We are looking forward to driving greater adoption of DataMaster’s proprietary solutions across our industry leading network of third party and staff appraisers,” he said.

For his part, Rick Lifferth, retiring president/CEO of Market Data Services and president of Utah-based DataMaster, said of his company’s new platform that it was “the most sophisticated and powerful data management tool ever created for appraisers”.

Read more: Gridiron Capital acquires Class Valuation

Speaking exclusively to MPA, Class Valuation’s chief innovation officer, Scot Rose (pictured), said the acquisition was a “perfect cultural fit” as there was a clear synergy between the two organizations.

He said: “We share a common belief in the true path to the future, which is not to replace the appraiser but to empower them. Our collective platforms were developed by appraisers for appraisers.”

Explaining the synergy between the two, Rose said Class Valuation was “the first organization to collect true authenticated source data of real property”, adding that the company owned the “only premium solution” utilizing computer vision to capture comprehensive and standardized property data in a repeatable fashion.

The software in question incorporates a 3D scanner which scans the property, stitching together thousands of images to create a virtual rendition of the property.

Rose said DataMaster had meanwhile built an “unparalleled” MLS integration and data management software for appraisers, allowing for “seamless” and standardized data consumption.

He said: “They have completely digitized the neighborhood analysis, market analysis, comparable selection and more, while keeping the appraiser in complete control. Together we have now shaped the future of real estate appraisal with the complete end-to-end digital appraisal process.” 

The deal has been struck at a critical time in the appraisal industry, with severe appraisal order backlogs, rising costs and a shortage of professional appraisers. The acquisition is also seen as a move to modernize the appraisal process, which has been lagging behind the rest of the house-buying process.

Rose said the industry had to “completely transform” the system, because trying to fix it “was not the right approach”.

He added: “We cannot depend on a system that uses word processing and postproduction review. We must standardize the process and create uniform repeatable processes with real-time intelligence.

Rose, who has more than 20 years’ experience in the industry, was also critical of what he viewed as the use of sub-standard software, saying a reliance on basic mobile apps instead of employing more powerful technologies “introduced more risk to the system”.

He said: “This caused concern from the appraisal industry and other collateral risk stakeholders, because it significantly impacted the credibility and trust in the process and degraded the outcome.

“It is critical that any new solution provide all stakeholders, including appraisers, with transparency and confidence in the technology and the process. The results should significantly improve quality, reduce systematic risk and provide a level of service deserved to all parties involved in the real estate transaction.”

Read more: Appraisers flag up crisis in mortgage industry

By contrast, he said Class Valuation’s software not only reduced cycle-times and improved the loan process but it bolstered appraiser independence and transformed collateral risk by introducing “source of truth in property data”.

He said: “There is no way to manipulate the presentation of the property itself and we have complete transparency into the development of the opinion of value. Everything is based on a completely evident process.

“With Property Fingerprint for instance, we have reduced appraiser revision rates by 70% and client revision rates by 50%. We know by leveraging technology and digitizing the process, we will eliminate human error. Now by merging DataMaster into our solution, we will alleviate error rates and eliminate unnecessary correction requests which only serve to needlessly slow the process and aggravates all parties involved.”