Having a research team is a bit of a rarity in the commercial appraising world. In a conversation with North by Northwest’s Research Team Manager Elisabeth “Lizzy” Northcott, she explained that North by Northwest is one of the only commercial appraisal companies, she’s aware of, that has a specified research team. I wanted to find out what the benefits of investing in a research team were. What I discovered is that a research team can be a game changer for the commercial appraisal industry.
Over the years, Lizzy has watched the research team evolve from being a single employee helping the appraiser take care of extra legwork, as needed, to providing a full-service preparatory job that sets the appraiser up for getting the valuation quickly and efficiently.
The Research Team Lessens the Work Load for the Appraiser
The process of the research team involves preparing a complete dossier of each property upfront. This includes all the essential documents like the deed, and the maps. All of these documents are saved in Dropbox and used to fill out a data sheet, which can then be synced with the Datappraise system. The uploaded documents can be viewed by the appraiser, as needed.
Lizzy explained how watching the research team’s development has been an eye opening experience. What began as a way to lessen the load for the appraiser has transformed into a completely streamlined process. The research team’s process allows the appraiser to handle a greater volume of appraisals.
It also means that the reports are ultimately more aesthetically pleasing and easier to read. Especially for those that might not be as technically minded. The reports are more than just a grid or list now. They are a full-scale narrative, or small essay on each property. The research team adds an in-depth description of the property as well as manages the quality control to ensure the report is a more complete narrative. Lizzy emphasizes that the research team sticks only to the facts of the report and does not offer any subjective opinions on the property, which is obviously left to the appraiser.
Researching with New Technologies
The team has evolved gradually as more technologies have been added. Various formulas, excel sheets, taxes, were all integrated with Datappraise. The research team gradually gained more responsibilities once Lizzy realized she could help significantly with the reports. “We have slowly found ways to help the appraisers with comp maps and market analysis. Occasionally, in the past we would help an appraiser in a pinch. Now we begin every new report with the fact sheet.”
The goal has been to make the report as easy as possible. Essentially, the research team handles all of the time-consuming elements of hunting down the essential documents and facts associated with a property before the appraising itself begins. After this is out of the way, all the appraiser has to worry about is to do the valuation.
If you consider both the technical reviewers and research teams that see the reports before and after the appraiser finishes with the appraisal, then each report has three sets of eyes before they go out. This means there are fewer mistakes and a greater quality control for every appraisal.
Ensuring Quality Control
When I asked Lizzy if she now considers the research team to be an essential element of the appraisal writing process, she said, “I would think it’s an essential part. Some of the appraisers find it a bit jarring when they’re used to doing everything. But we aim to do our job so well that they end up saying, ‘How did I ever get along without a research team.’ Then we know we’ve done our job well. We streamline the process.”
There are also components to the job that demand a certain skill set. These are better suited to specific roles within the research team. For instance, some people are really good at research, while others are more personable and better on the phone. Another benefit of having a tailored research team is that researchers often gets to know an area very well. They understand what will be required in future appraisals upfront, such as flood maps or other area-specific documentation. Lizzy expressed how much she has enjoyed making connections when she sees, for example, the same last name associated with the same area. “You start to get an idea of each area after that and a deeper understanding of the history and connections. I’ve learned more about North Carolina than I know about my home state of Georgia,” Lizzy told us.
As you can see, having a designated research team can help streamline the appraisal process, ultimately making the experience smoother for the appraisers, improving the efficiency of report development, their accuracy and readability.