The Most Important Tools for Appraisers

Which appraiser tools take home the trophy?
Which appraiser tools take home the trophy?

I have often wondered what the most important tech tool is that appraisers use in their everyday practice. We use so many tools, and determining which one is the most important is difficult. I thought it’d be neat to take a look back at the appraiser tools I’ve used and at the tools that I use now with the idea that maybe one will stand out. Please join me!


The most common appraiser tool is your computer.
Is the humble computer the most important appraiser tool?

The obvious appraiser tool to consider first is the computer.  I have always used a computer to type my reports.  I remember hearing war stories from older appraisers the included typing reports on a typewriter or even writing them by hand! Imagine how time-consuming that was! To make it more difficult, the reports had to be error free because you could not erase mistakes or use white out on the forms! We’ve come a long way since then; thank goodness for the backspace key!


Next appraisal tool: the digital camera
This appraiser tool moved us forward by leaps and bounds.

Along with the computer, the camera is another obvious appraiser tool. I remember when one-hour photo was the appraiser’s best friend. Then along came the digital camera. I entered the digital camera world with a Kodak DC40. This little wonder was reliable and saved me a lot of time.  If I’m being honest about appraiser tools, there were some problems with the camera. I could not see the photo immediately when it was taken like I can on modern digital devices, so I had no idea if the picture was good quality or not. Also, there was a button on the back that if I accidentally bumped, all of the photos were erased, just like that. One other issue, the camera did not have an SD card, so I had to download all of the photos directly from the camera to my computer to print them up. So instead of the convenience of one-hour photo, I had to buy lots of batteries, and after all of that effort, sometimes the photos did not turn out!


Don't overlook Excel as an appraiser tool
Don’t sleep on Excel.

The obvious universal tools aside, there are some other indispensable appraiser tools to consider. Looking back to the early 2000s, I used a lot of Excel spreadsheets. This appraiser tool helped me manage data, sift for answers to adjustments, and gather information that supported my conclusions.

Laser Measure

Laser measurers are an upgrade from tape measure
Appraiser tool upgrade. Is the digital measuring device > tape measure?

Next to come along were digital measuring devices. I remember when these appraiser tools first came out. I challenged a friend of mine to see which was quicker, the good old tape measure, or the fancy new laser measure. Well, the tape won that initial round, but as we got more adept at using the laser, we got faster at it and it clearly became the better appraiser tool.


Computer technology for appraisers, DataMaster!
What list of appraiser tools would be complete without DataMaster? (It’s our blog.)

Some of the appraiser tools that I use now and that I can’t work without were hard for me to accept at first. This was the case for me when DataMaster first came out. I resisted trying the new tool because I thought the cost outweighed the benefit.

Well, things have changed!

Once I gave DataMaster a try, I never looked back! This appraiser tool enters all of the data from the comparables that I choose from the MLS and enters that data into the report software. DataMaster has evolved over time so not only does the software load the comparables, it cross-checks data points, imports photos, helps with market analysis, and creates a work file of everything used to put the information in the report.

Excel, again

Once I tried DataMaster and fell in love with it, I realized that I needed to add a good analysis tool too. I tried several before just going back to Excel. Learning how regression works and what methods were employed so that I could be comfortable with what the results were saying was important to me. After all, the competency rule of USPAP states in part: “Competency may apply to factors such as, but not limited to, an appraiser’s familiarity with a specific type of property or asset, a market, a geographic area, an intended use, specific laws and regulations, or an analytical method.” In other words, I need to understand how the tool is working in order to determine if the results are reasonable and accurate. I understand DataMaster, and I understand Excel, two tools that are irreplaceable (along with my computer and camera) in my appraisal business.

What is the Most Important Appraiser Tool?

thinking about appraiser tools
What appraiser tools do you use?

Now that I’ve take a trip through memory lane and examined the tools I use, I ask the question, What is the most important appraiser tool? Let me give you my conclusion.

Time Saver

Appraiser tools save time.

I like to look for appraiser tools that save me time and help me produce more credible results. That is where DataMaster comes in for me.  It helps me save time by importing the MLS and public records information for my subject and comparables into my report. It provides me with a market analysis tool that helps in my decision making on changing markets. It looks up the deed history from county records and allows me to quickly associate the recorded deeds with the transaction of the subject and comparables.

Increase productivity

green traffic light
You’ve got the green light to get more done.

The DataMaster team has recently added a neighborhood analysis feature that allows me to look at two market segments at the same time. My assistant helps me import the information from DataMaster into my report. I give my assistant the comparables and data and they enter it into DataMaster. I verify the information and import it into the appraisal. I am left with decisions on the quality and condition of the subject and comps, comment writing, adjustments, and reconciliation. This appraiser tool saves me a significant amount of time! With DataMaster I have been able to increase my productivity by nearly 30%! Because of DataMaster, I am able to take more time to do other things that I also enjoy.

Work Smart, Not Harder

Woman working at the window
Who do you call for advice on appraiser tools?

I was always taught that I should work smarter not harder. Available technology allows me to do that. I value my most important appraiser tools!

I am always looking for better ways to complete my assignments, looking at what my peers are doing, as well as trying some things on my own.  In the end the results are a quality appraisal report that is supported and reasonable for the market the property is in.

What’s YOUR Favorite Appraiser Tool?

What’s your favorite appraiser tool? Drop me a note in the comments!

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