Despite the robust list of professional titles in the real estate industry — from Realtor to analyst to mortgage broker to securities trader — it’s safe to say nearly all of them would be out of work if there weren’t regular Americans lining up every day to obtain a loan and purchase a home.
Those professionals deal with home appraisals every day, and they understand how streamlining and improving the appraisal process will make their jobs easier. But the future of home appraisals is just as likely to affect the regular Americans hoping to buy homes as it is the professionals who help them get to the closing table.
Much of the process (as well as the knowledge) that goes into buying or selling a home has traditionally been out of the hands of the consumers involved, but this is rapidly changing. By infusing technology into nearly every step of the home-buying process, both the speed and accessibility of loan issuance can increase exponentially.
Imagine selling a house. What if you could download an app that uses a massive real estate dataset, recent local sales, and hyper-local information about your neighborhood or block to generate a sales price that buyers will be happy to pay? And what if, for less than $200 and in as few as five days, you could get an appraiser-concluded value, ordered online as easily as a product from Amazon? It could essentially end the negotiation process before it even begins.
Arming homeowners with an objective estimate will give them agency in the real estate search and transaction, granting them a level of independence from the experts who govern the process without replacing them entirely.
Now imagine buying a house. What if, after perusing homes in a desired neighborhood from your phone or desktop instead of your car, you could instantly get connected with a lender on a pre-approved price for a home, closing a mortgage in days — instead of in weeks or even months?
This level of convenience is commonplace for most purchases these days, but it sounds like science fiction when discussing a home purchase. It won’t for much longer.
Online home valuations have rightfully been criticized in the past for misinforming consumers as much as educating them. But the technology gets more accurate by the day, and the convenience it provides consumers means that its takeover is inevitable.
This also means that consumers should be aware of online home valuations’ current limitations. Unnoticed interior damage or unlogged home renovations won’t make it into the valuation models, and the more unique a property is, the more likely it will need a human eye at some point in the valuation process.
In the near future, the speed with which negotiations can be conducted and loans can be written will make the current process seem nearly primitive. The future of appraisals will be inextricably linked to the future of homeownership — a future in which consumers are in charge, professionals are empowered, and technology is the foundation we use to turn a property into a person’s home.