Comment: Daniel McDonald estimates that there are 65,000 appraisers nationwide sharing in the billion-dollar valuation industry. As founder and CEO of AppraisalEngine.com, he hopes to be the online conduit between this sizable industry and the mortgage lenders who need their services.
AppraisalEngine.com, launched in mid-April, is designed to provide mortgage lenders and other appraisal-seekers with a registry of appraisers–searchable by name, location and area of specialty. If a lender has its own panel of approved appraisers, the site will provide all of the upkeep associated with that list.
McDonald and crew are well on their way to delivering all 65,000 of those names; he tells GlobeSt.com that they are currently inputting all 65,000 names based on government records. This could result in a directory of as many as 10 appraisers per county throughout the nation.
For those appraisers who go on to sign up for the site’s various services, the company will check daily that all appraisers’ resumes and licenses–as well as errors-and-omissions insurance-coverage data–are up to date and available online. Thirty days prior to expiration of license or insurance, the company will notify both the appraiser and the lenders for which that appraiser is approved.
There’s also a bidding module, which enables lenders and their correspondents to distribute bid proposals instantly via E-mail to many appraisers, instead of sending multiple faxes. “I am a big advocate of streamlining processes that are tedious,” states McDonald.
After the proposals are received, appraisers bid on price and turnaround time, and the system generates an engagement letter for the winner. The letter can be signed electronically, but McDonald says that he expects most users to print it, sign it and mail it back.
Other user features include a tracking page, which logs when an appraisal order was sent and when it was viewed by the appraiser, and a favorite-appraiser page, to be used by the lenders’ processing or origination staff, who deal with some appraisers on a daily basis.
Appraisers who sign up for AppraisalEngine.com’s services also get a customized web page with an order form linked directly to their E-mail account. In that way, the appraiser can respond to offers from wherever messages are received.
The site is easily navigable and simple to use; bid proposals and appraisal orders took less than a minute to generate.
It should be noted that when a lender signs on with AppraisalEngine.com, all of the appraisers the firm uses must also register or kiss their relationship with that lender goodbye.
Will this strategy work? According to McDonald, most full-time appraisers have a small client list of between one and five lenders and bill between $75,000 and $150,000 annually. “Developing one new relationship could bring tens of thousands of dollars in new appraisal orders to the member,” over the course of one year, he claims.
AppraisalEngine.com is currently in negotiations to serve six lenders, which would bring approximately 1,200 appraisers into the system.
If a majority of those decide it’s worth their while to shell out the $300 yearly membership fee to retain existing relationships and develop new ones, this site may become a valuable resource for lenders and appraisers alike.
The operation is currently personally funded, and McDonald intends to seek venture capital after the business model has been proven–all revenue will come from appraiser membership fees.
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