When it comes to electronic commerce, who's actually slowing down whom?

Real Estate Agent with a la mode

Sometimes it's the obvious stuff that people skip over.  Like who really embraces technology and who doesn't.  Or, who talks a lot about technology and who actually quietly uses it on a daily basis.

Visit a typical real estate appraiser's office and check out the technology tools in use, then visit other mortgage and real estate professionals and notice the filing cabinets, paper folders, and fax machines.  It's a real eye-opener.  My educated hunch is that not much has changed in the past five years.

Featured news - posted March 16, 2004

Waiting for the banks to catch up

We're very grateful to the nearly 1,500 appraisers who filled out our online survey about lender-side adoption of electronic appraisal ordering, follow-up and report delivery.  The results show that appraisers are ready and able to do business as efficiently as your clients may demand.

We asked you about your capability to accept electronic orders, take and respond to follow-up or status requests electronically, and deliver electronic reports (through Mercury, through your XSite, with a plain old PDF e-mail attachment, or whatever) five years ago and today.  The numbers were fairly consistent in all three categories.

  • Are you capable of accepting electronic orders?
    More than 50 percent were capable in 1999. More than 97 percent are today.
  • Are you set up to handle follow-up/status requests electronically?
    Just about 50 percent were capable in 1999. Ninety five percent are today.
  • Can you produce and deliver PDFs or other electronic format reports?
    Forty five percent could in 1999. More than 97 percent can today.

As to whether your clients are on board, that was a different story. We didn't ask anyone to estimate their total volume of business, so we can't use the survey results to extrapolate and tell what percentage of overall appraisal business is conducted electronically today. But we did ask you to estimate the volume of your orders, follow-ups and reports that take advantage of today's technology.

  • Half of you said that 35 percent of your orders or fewer come in electronically - Mercury, WinTOTAL, e-mail or other electronic method - today.
  • Four of every ten of you who said you were capable of receiving orders electronically, said that 80 percent or more of your orders are still coming in via phone and fax.

"The local banks have not yet modernized to e-mail," Opie G. Boyer, of Opie G. Boyer, Jr. Appraisal Service in Huntington, Pa., said. "Maybe we should charge $50 more for paper appraisals," he suggested.  "The banks have got to catch up."  (We asked and received permission to quote Mr. Boyer.)

Half the appraisers who completed the survey reported that three quarters or more of their clients' follow-up "calls" are just that - phone calls or faxes, rather than electronic - Mercury's daily status summary, real-time status management, e-mail or other electronic communication.

Even in light of these results, unsurprisingly, electronic reports have caught on. 

  • Half of you said that 95 percent or more of your reports today are delivered electronically - through our Mercury servers, via e-mail attachment or otherwise. 
  • But 12 percent of those of you who said you were able to produce electronic reports said that half or more of your appraisals are still going out as hard copies!

It's obvious from the survey results that not every lender client - it may not even be a majority! - is on board with electronic ordering.  We'd like to do something about it, with the Mercury Network and our new Mortgage XSites, because it's good for our and your business. Something as simple as being able to import property and assignment information directly into the formfilling software of your choice rather than typing it from a fax saves considerable time and aggravation, and lets more appraisals get done in the same amount of time.  That's simply more productivity for not as much work.

What we hoped to make clear with the survey is that when lenders complain (and they do!) that appraisals don't happen fast enough, they're cursing the darkness when they could, at least to an extent, be lighting a candle.  We hope what the lender community takes away from the survey is that its complaints about turn times (and their appraisers) would have greater credibility if they were doing as much on their end as you are to do business efficiently.