How Tech Can Solve Appraisal Challenges

June 04, 2021 by Tony Henderson

How Tech Can Solve Appraisal Challenges

Government departments of all types dealt with upended processes during the coronavirus pandemic. Some disruptions resulted in new service models that were quite obvious to community members. Virtual meetings, no-excuse absentee voting, enhanced business and public health information on civic engagement apps, online permitting, and other remote engagement opportunities not only reached people at home but also facilitated efficiencies that will likely remain well into the future. Other interrupted processes were not as apparent.

Unique Appraisal Challenges

Appraisers, for example, faced significant challenges in valuing properties from a distance. With limited access to home or business interiors, reduced resources, fewer comparable properties, a turbulent market, and ever-changing guidelines, arriving at accurate valuations became significantly more difficult. Unavoidable delays and budget constraints coexist with volatile construction costs that continue to cause valuation fluctuations. Foreclosures and rising interest rates also threaten to bring about significant changes in economic obsolescence.

While these challenges affect county staff, property owners feel the impacts as well. Individuals can be locked out of information when buildings are closed. Purchases and sales can be uncomfortably delayed, and the appeals process can be challenging if virtual options don’t exist. What’s more, explaining or sharing interior home modifications is cumbersome even when possible.

How Tech Helps

According to this Cohen & Co. article, “Savvy valuators quickly turned to technologies, like Google Earth, Street View and drones, to help fill in the gaps created by the inability to physically access properties. They’re also taking advantage of the online databases of municipality property assessment records to obtain necessary information.” The Appraisal Institute concurred, stating, “Since many appraisers aren't conducting in-home inspections during state-ordered stay-at-home restrictions, they have taken advantage of the benefits that technology provides.”

Thanks to modern technology, alternative appraisal options — ones that will likely remain post-pandemic — exist. Drive-by imaging, aerial photos, data analysis, remote desktop appraisal, and other solutions keep property assessments moving when standard, in-person walkaround options fail. Specific tech innovations already at work in appraisal offices around the country include:

  • Modern Mass Appraisal Services
    These include high quality street-level imaging, thorough data review, validation of CAMA sketch accuracy, virtual in-the-office inspections, and more. Employing a team to handle appraisal services functions can mitigate challenges with access to physical properties, reduce costs and conserve resources, and ensure proper procedures are followed.

  • Virtual Appeals
    Online and remote tools can assist with the entire appeals process to keep taxpayers engaged with offices while unable to visit in-person. This helps to reduce paper cost, in-office staffing, and also improves the customer experience.

  • Data Aggregation and Analysis
    Data-aggregation and analysis solutions for assessors ensure accurate, fair, and equitable valuations. Solutions capable of delivering easy-to-understand insights and charts from robust data allow offices to streamline processes, take action, and ensure confident decisions.

  • Open Data
    Public-facing, online access to property data and assessment information serves residents at home, maintains positive relationships with constituents, and often reduces appeals.

No doubt the appraisal environment will continue to change. Even so, efficient, accurate property valuation remains essential for funded, functional counties. Leveraging technology to overcome challenges ensures fair, equitable valuations while also positioning counties to capitalize on efficiencies, enhance customer service, and be ready should any future disruptions occur.

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