Category Archives: Blog

4 Tips to Get Your Home Fall & Winter Ready

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Get ready for vibrant colored leaves and trees, crisp weather, and lots of pumpkins. Fall is almost here! As the seasons change, so do our home needs. We don’t want you to be left in the cold when winter slowly sneaks up on us, so here are four quick tips to get your home Fall and Winter ready.

1. Safety First

The safety of your home is a top priority, especially when the chilly Fall winds starts to take over the Summer sun. Some items that should always be tested? Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure to replace the batteries in all detectors, lightly brush away dust from the detector wall, and test the detectors to verify they are working properly.

Cleaning and inspecting the fireplace is sometimes overlooked, so always make sure to check for creosote buildup, as it is highly flammable. Don’t stop there though, dryer vents can cause quite the headache if not attended to.  Be sure to check for lint build up in the vents; if left unattended it could be a major fire hazard. Speaking of which, having a fire extinguisher in your house is essential for emergencies, and it should be easily accessible.

2. Inspect Your Roof

As for the exterior of your home, one of the biggest things to look for when weather-proofing is to make sure your roof is in tip-top shape. Start by scanning the entire area for loose, missing, or damaged shingles. This is a simple, yet effective way to find minor issues that could turn into big problems if left untreated. A few loose shingles could mean a leak, and nobody wants a leaky roof when rain, snow, and ice start piling on.  You can also check your roof from inside your attic. How? Simple- check the underside for water damage and holes.

Checking your gutters is another way to make sure your roof is stable for the Fall and Winter weather. Make sure your gutters are free of granule accumulations, and water can flow freely. Follow these tips, and your roof will be weather ready.

3. Check Your Furnace

Before the cold air sets in, make sure your furnace is ready to handle it. The first thing to do is clean or replace the furnace filter. Over the Summer months, the filter accumulates dust, debris, allergens, etc., and if not cleaned or replaced it can cause issues when you need to start turning the heat back on. In most case, simply changing the furnace filter will create a big difference in air quality, and your furnace will run more efficiently. Also, if you have the following: unusual sounds, poor performance, and/or erratic behavior, these are all signs that you may need to have someone inspect your furnace sooner rather than later.

4. Patch It Up

What is a good way to save money on your heating bill? Caulking and weather-stripping your windows and doors of course! When cold drafts blow in your house, you are more likely to crank up the heat, resulting in higher heating bills. But with a little caulk around your windows and doors, and weather-stripping, it can be all you need to make sure your home is comfortable and cozy for the cold weather. You can also use caulk around vents, cables and all pipes that run outside of your home. Even if you have already pre-weather-stripped your home, it is always a good idea to re-inspect your work periodically, as weather-stripping can weaken over time.

We are all enjoying the last few weeks of Summer, but it is a great time to start thinking about weather-proofing your home for the Fall and Winter season. These tips, combined with general home upkeep will prevent you from having costly emergency repairs, and get your home ready for colder, crisper weather.

-Sintia KrancicEngagement Coordinator

Industry Unity

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I have heard appraisers say, “AMC’s don’t care about the appraisers, they only care about getting their money from the lenders”. I have heard lenders say, “just get a new appraiser, there tons of them out there”. In between all these talks, lie us, the AMC.

How do we handle being in the middle of this ever changing appraisal market? Should we chase the money and not pay any attention to our appraisers? Not at all. Should we make our appraisers our one and only focus and pay no attention to our clients? Probably not a good idea. So what do we do? How do we handle this?

I think the key to a successful AMC and its relationship in the market is simple. Just like our society as a whole, there is one big key that is often overlooked… Equality. Being an attorney, I know a little something about the history of equality (I won’t bore you with Constitution speak).

Appraisers, Lenders, AMC’s, we are all just pieces to a puzzle. When you are putting together a puzzle, one piece is not more important than the other, is it? No, you either have a completed puzzle or you don’t. You need all the pieces for it to be a finished product.

I am sure there are some AMC’s out there who may believe that the appraisers play an insignificant role in the process. They may believe their one and only focus should be on the clients who are sending them business and money. In my opinion, the AMC’s who treat their appraisers as if they are not important, not only give other AMC’s a bad name, it is bad for the industry as a whole.

Our clients are important, they keep our business alive. Our appraisers are important, they keep our business alive. If those last two sentences sound redundant, that is intentional. Both sides are equally important, they are not mutually exclusive. To quote one of the best shows of the 1980’s and 1990’s, “You can’t have one without the other” (Married with Children, for those of you who didn’t get it! I am disappointed with you, if so).

We could have lenders sending us thousands and thousands of orders, but if we don’t have the quality appraisers we need, those orders are obsolete. We could have a panel loaded with all the top appraisers in the country, but if we do not have any orders to assign to them, that outstanding panel is obsolete. Our focus and the focus of all AMC’s, should be to make sure that both sides of the transaction are treated fairly. We are all in this industry together and the best results will be seen when we are all able to work within the industry together.

We understand that there are appraisers out there who do not like AMC’s. We also understand there are appraisers out there who will adamantly refuse work from AMC’s. That is beyond our control. As an AMC, we do not write or create laws. We are not Chris Dodd or Barney Frank (Dodd-Frank). The rules are there, they are what they are, our next best option is to work within the confine of those rules and be the best at what we do.

Again, we might be the connection between lenders and appraisers, but we are still only one piece of the puzzle. For the industry to thrive and the puzzle to come together, all the pieces must adapt and coexist. Just like a puzzle, all the pieces must be cohesive and fit perfectly together to see the exceptional completed product.

-John Hamameh, Chief Compliance Attorney

We Value More Than You Think

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Many companies will say they appreciate their employees and occasionally they will show it by hosting a holiday party or buying lunch for their team.  However, how much do these occasional events affect employees and their engagement at work?  We would say, not that much. Which is why at Class Appraisal, we do things differently.

We know that without our team members, we wouldn’t be as successful as we are.  And that is why we strive to create and maintain a fun culture where people enjoy coming in to work every day.  To do this, we provide team building events, and fun office perks that showcase just how much we appreciate our team members. In fact, our Team Member Services department was put in place to do everything we can to ensure our team members are happy.

So how do we differ from our competitors?  We take fresh ideas and perspectives and put them into action! We provide fun and exciting benefits and team events that not only boost morale, but also helps build great relationships.  We create a fun and friendly work environment by implementing benefits around the office that other companies may not provide; our fresh fruit water being one of them.  Every morning we make a fresh fruit infused water for our team members to enjoy throughout the day, along with unlimited coffee and drinks from our pop machine of course.  We also have a snack cart filled with as many goodies as you can carry, and frequent team appreciation lunches.  Nonetheless, it’s not just the perks that engage people in the workplace. At Class Appraisal, every person is treated with respect and their voice matters.  We compile their ideas and opinions and implement them into our daily office life.  Whether some of the suggestions are to help manage a pipeline more efficiently, or providing concepts for fun events, we take every team member’s idea into consideration.

We know that making our team happy at work is important, so we not only provide in-house perks and benefits, we also create fun and exciting events for our team outside of the office.  Color Runs, Escape Room Events, Painting with a Twist, attending an annual Tigers baseball game; these are just some of the fun group activities that we sponsor for our team. It is a way for everyone to relax and unwind after a long day’s work, while enjoying an activity with their fellow team members.  It’s also a great way for people in different departments to get to know one another and for our new hires to get to know the whole team.

Ultimately, we want our team to know that they are valued and appreciated.  Value is created through people working together and motivating each other. It is sometimes overlooked in the business industry, but at Class Appraisal we make it a point to appreciate and value every team member, because without them we wouldn’t have the success we achieved today.

Does this sound like a team you want to be a part of? Join us today, we are hiring!

Learn more by visiting: http://www.classappraisal.com/about-us/careers/

-Sintia Krancic, Engagement Coordinator

Is Your Home Appraisal Ready?

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Spring and Summer are the prime home-selling seasons, and it is a seller’s market, but what are you doing to improve market value for your home? Improving your property value is important whether you are a potential seller or not. If you are a potential seller, then there are some things to consider in order to get your home “Appraisal Ready” It does not constitute home renovations necessarily. Sometimes it just takes a few special touches to go from ordinary to extraordinary.

homeClean as A Whistle First impressions are crucial, right? So why not make a good first impressions by keeping your home nice and orderly for an appraisal or showing? Although the cleanliness of your home does not impact the appraisal report, it definitely won’t hurt to de-clutter and straighten up. Another tip, a quick touch up of paint on the walls can really brighten a room. Make sure those patched walls and childhood drawings are painted over before an appraisal.

Where’s the House? Having the interior of the home looking great is only the first step. If your landscaping is so overgrown that the potential buyers are asking “where is the house” you know it is time to trim those trees. Pruning, trimming and weeding can do wonders for that first glance at your home. It is the little things that stand out during a showing. Even during an appraisal, if an appraiser has to step over weeds or tree limbs and roots it may cause them to pause when issuing their condition rating of the property.

Focus, Fix, Sell! What’s the one room that most entices homebuyers? The Kitchen! Fixing those minor blemishes (burn marks, rusty handles, a leaky faucet) can really help with the value of your home. The good news? This can be done quickly, easily, and for a lower price than re-doing an entire kitchen. It saves you both time and money to do a little home repair on the areas that need it most. Another tip, create space. Open rooms create a sense of fluidity and light, making the home appear larger.

This is just the beginning of potential ways to improve your home. There are many different aspects to home improvement. If you start with the basics you will be on your way to making your home “appraisal ready”.

-Class Appraisal

Beyond Customer Service

“Your Customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” ~Damon Richards

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We are constantly hearing about how great customer service is critical and perhaps the most important competitive advantage for any business to possess.  When we do hear about ‘phenomenal service’ it is usually linked to large organizations such as “Amazon or Apple”.  One might ask, do we have to be like those organizations to have exceptional customer service?  And most importantly, we hear so often how important customer satisfaction is but how often are we taught the strategies to achieve it?

Let’s be serious, in a production based atmosphere, where a person may forget to take a lunch or even get up to use the bathroom, how often is it that this same person has the time or even the gumption to pick up the newest article on “Exceptional Customer Service” and read it, let alone apply it to their day to day activities? The answer is, “not often enough”.  While training is a key aspect to empowering team members with the skills they need to do a great job; it is also true that retention of that training may be short-lived if it is not also built into the company’s culture.  So we can train our socks off with new hires and prepare them for the “Great Customer Experience” but once they hit the floor, chances are their head will be swimming with daily tasks, new responsibilities and the fear of keeping it all together.

So how then do we create an atmosphere that is customer centric with a goal of exceptional customer care?  The first step is by hiring the right people.  Finding people who already demonstrate the desire to provide a pleasurable experience for the customer and who possess the positive energy to transform a team with an upbeat attitude and an “I can change the world one customer at a time” mentality.  Steve Jobs once said “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who actually do”.   We do not have to achieve what Steve Jobs achieved to change the world.  We can make a difference one person – one customer at a time.  While working in Customer Service, I worked with a broker who called me almost daily to check on her appraisals.  One day she called in for an update and I noticed she was under the weather.  After providing her with her order update I made a point to wish her well before hanging up.  She called a few days later for another update and I simply asked if she was feeling better.  She was astounded by the fact that I not only remembered she had been ill but cared enough to ask how she was doing.  Folks, it does not take much to make a memorable impression.  The Golden Rule is so simple and so true; when we treat others the way we would like to be treated; we are more likely to be treated that way in return.

Yet, it is my opinion that great customer service is within us, and while training and development will provide us skills and strategies to improve upon, it comes down to the “heart” we bring to each day – to each customer – to each experience that truly matters.  The truth is “the customer’s perception is your reality”.  So ask yourself, what do you want your reality to be?  Then go out and create it!

-Susan Stirling – Training Specialist, Team Member Services

Training Matters – Essential Skills for Today’s Passion Driven Workforce

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Have you heard the quote “hire passion, train skills”?  In every interview I have participated in whether as the interviewer or the interviewee, the word passion has been used.  “I have to have passion for what I do”, “This is my passion”, “I would be very passionate working for this company”. But what exactly is passion?  How do we relate it to the workplace?  This and many other questions swirl through my mind when I ponder this quote and try to substantiate a person’s passion.  I think I found an answer.  I read an article today that claims “great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them; they hire motivated people and inspire them”.  Ah ha, so passion could be motivation and inspiration.  And if I continue with this train of thought, training could be thought of as part of that inspiration. So, training does matter!

Class Appraisal is built on a foundation that includes 5 pillars of success.  One of those pillars state “Continuous Growth and Learning is Essential for Long Term Success”.  Thankfully this is not only a foundational pillar but an action step in our daily work experience.  While we are continuously learning and honing our skills during the work day; nothing replaces the opportunity to gather with fellow team members and explore new topics, share ideas and expand our knowledge on our industry and social platforms.

Class Appraisal adheres to the quote I mentioned earlier.  People are either motivated or they are not.  We give motivated people the opportunity to learn and grow; to prosper not only in their daily job but in their daily life.  Today’s workforce is made up of a wide variety of age groups, backgrounds and ethnicities; we are not a one stop shop world.  This can be a challenge to some, or as we see it here at Class Appraisal, it can be a great opportunity to share our experiences and corral them into one team that represents everyone.  We love a challenge and become sponges; absorbing any and all information we are presented with to become the best AMC in the industry.  How is that accomplished; through training.  When the FHA Handbook was being updated and the date drew near for 4000.1 to take over, who was ready?  We were; with a full company roll out of all the changes that were to take effect.  That roll out took place before the effective date and our team was equipped and ready to answer our many appraiser and client questions on what needed to be included in the new FHA reports.  We were equally prepared when TRID was knocking on our door.  With another company-wide training Class Appraisal not only had our team members up to speed, we were versed enough in the new regulations to be able to provide a TRID hotline for others with questions and concerns.

When we say we want to be viewed as the best AMC in the industry; it is not all talk.  We work hard to make this happen and Training and Development is a strong part of that process.  Whether it is soft skills or industry knowledge, Class Appraisal is dedicated to inspiring each and every team member who is motivated to learn and grow.  There is no room for those who are not motivated.  With our training in place there is no excuse for “I can’t help you with that”.  We have an environment where learning and development are fostered; we ask and we research until we can provide you with what you need to know. You shouldn’t hear “I don’t know” for an answer when you call Class Appraisal.  Thanks to monthly training sessions our staff is equipped and eager to help you with anything you bring to the table.

-Susan Stirling – Training Specialist, Team Member Services

 

Revolutionizing the Company Culture

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Have you ever struggled with fostering a better, more inclusive company culture? This seems to be a common concern among companies, and Class Appraisal has created the Team Member Services Department to further promote our company culture. In fact, within the past 6 months there have been so many positive changes that our team has responded with overwhelming approval.

As with most businesses, there are several different departments within Class Appraisal; the team members of which do not regularly intermix in the day-to-day parts of their jobs. However, because we understand that each play a critical role to Class’ overall success we go out of our way to foster fun and friendship among the teams. Here at Class Appraisal, our culture is all about making each and every member feel like a valuable part of the team from the moment they chose to join our company.

How are we doing this?

Not only do we send each and every new hire a box of chocolates before they even start; on their first day we introduce them to the team via email detailing some of their hobbies, favorite movies/television shows, music preferences and past experiences. This helps create a common ground with those who already work here while building a foundation for personal conversations.

Team Member Services works tirelessly to bring everyone together in a fun and creative manner. We provide daily fresh fruit infused water to encourage healthy living. Every Wednesday the team looks forward to the treat cart where they can grab a candy bar, some mixed nuts or even chips to help break up the week with something tasty. Additionally, lunches are regularly brought in, ranging from pizza to taco bars, to congratulate the team on excellent performance and continuing business growth. These are just some of the ways that we show our appreciation for everything our team accomplishes on a daily basis. Also, we deliver monthly trainings which breaks the company into small groups of people from each department to learn and grow together and we organize a monthly Team Member Appreciation Day where we do team building exercises, such as the well-known Marshmallow Challenge.

Class Appraisal exists because of what our team accomplishes, and we are committed to creating an environment where appreciation, fun and friendship flow endlessly with a culture that is all inclusive.

Jen Kettle
Team Member Services Manager

Welcome to the Class Appraisal Website (version 2.0)!

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I wanted to take a moment to talk to you, our blog readers.  As a business that works on a national level, our website is the one tool that is working for Class Appraisal 100% at all times.  It is available to anyone, anywhere, at any time.  With a few precise clicks on your keyboard, you will find yourself on our digital doorstep.  We want to make sure that when you arrive, the content and topics are helpful, up-to-date, relevant, and fresh.  We visualize our website as an extension of our team.  It is a representation of who we are, what we do, and the ideals of what we represent.

So the question becomes, why are you blogging about this? Or how is this even important?

The short answer is that sometimes this is the first interaction someone has with us.  This may be because they googled “appraisal management companies,” someone referred them to us, or any other myriad of ways that landed them on our website.  With this technology comes opportunity – the opportunity to tell you our story.  Because of the scale we operate on, sometimes we don’t have the opportunity to meet everyone that we would like to face-2-face for the first introduction.  But, that is okay.  It is okay because like I said, our website is a representation of us.  It represents every team member we have at Class Appraisal.  It represents our ideals and the way we do business.  We operate as a team.  We win together, we lose together.  Our team members come together to drive this business on a daily basis.  That is the real Class Appraisal brand and story.  We want to share stories of the wonderful team members we have, their thoughts and all of their hard work.

I think sometimes we utilize so much technology (texting, emails, system messages) that communication becomes cold, the message gets lost and we disengage on a personal level.  This is the exact opposite of what we want to do.  We want to build relationships. Relationships that will last.  We want people to know us.  If you have an issue, call us.  We want to solve the issue.  It may be old fashioned, but we follow the old mentality of answering every call in as few rings as possible with a person, not a machine.  But there is more.  We want to know you. We want to know where there are issues.  We want to know what problems you are facing.  We want to know how we can help you grow your business.  At the end of the day, we just want to help. Feel free to reach out to our team and ask questions, after all that is what we are here for.

In conclusion, from a technical standpoint, this space is for blogging, pure and simple.  But if there is one thing that I have learned in all of my years on the web, it is that the best blog posts resonate on a personal level from real stories told by the people talking about their experiences.  Blogs don’t have to be sets of useless, lifeless words; we are not using this as a sales tool.  This will be a space where we can grow and learn together.  We ask you to come back frequently, give us feedback, help us help you, read our stories as we build a better tomorrow, together, today.

Brian Dietderich
Marketing Director

TRID Is Coming! TRID Is Coming!!

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Once again, the mortgage industry is scrambling. With a quickly approaching deadline, which was already extended once, many are still wondering how to properly prepare and adjust to meet the new requirements. As hectic and alarming as it sounds, changes like this are not new to our industry.  We regularly see new changes taking place and new legislation being implemented.

This time, the legislation of choice is the “Truth In Lending Real Estate Settlement Procedure Initial Disclosure Act”. Yes, that is a mouthful, so we will stick with the more common abbreviation of TRID.

The intent of TRID is to not only streamline the process, but make the lending process more transparent, consistent, and clear to the consumer. Current disclosures include the Good Faith Estimate (“GFE”) and the Initial TILA Disclosure on the front end. On the back end of the process you have the HUD Settlement Statement and the Final TILA Disclosure. TRID is essentially combining these four disclosures and creating one document, the Loan Estimate (“LE”), on the front end, and another document, the Closing Disclosure (“CD”), on the back end.

So what does this mean? You are probably thinking, the mortgage industry has tons of documents and disclosures that are required, what is the big deal about two more?

TRID impacts more than just disclosures required by lenders/brokers. The effects of TRID will be seen throughout the mortgage industry as well as affiliated industries. One example is fees associated with the loan process. Among others, credit reports, surveys, and appraisals are some of the fees which will fall within a certain category that either allows for a minimal 10% fluctuation, or even a zero tolerance category that does not allow for any fluctuation of fees. There are circumstances that decide what category the fees fall into, these circumstances and more are clarified in this TRID Overview.

As you can see, this long-named, shortly abbreviated new legislation is flexing its muscles over our industry. Lenders, brokers, banks, appraisers, and others affiliated with the industry are scrambling to decipher what responsibilities are going to fall to them and figure out what processes they are going to implement.

With all that being said, TRID is a good thing. Even with the anxiety, fear, and pressure of implementing new procedures, TRID will help in the long run. Ideally, TRID will clean up the closing table and help give the consumer a better idea of what they are getting themselves into thru the loan process. Transparency and clarity is much needed, and TRID is going to assist in that.

Come October 3rd, 2015, TRID is going to take effect, whether you are ready or not.

In an effort to make the TRID implementation as seamless as possible for our clients, Class Appraisal has come up with a proprietary process to streamline the appraisal portion of TRID. For more information and clarification on TRID, be sure to read over our TRID Overview.

Illinois Cancels Over 70 AMC Registrations

I am sure you are aware of the recent news, coming out of Illinois, regarding the cancellation of AMC Registration’s for over 70 AMC’s. Class Appraisal wanted to take this opportunity to reach out and reassure that these issues have not affected Class Appraisal. Class Appraisal is in good standing and is one of the remaining active licensees in the State of Illinois.

We put a great emphasis on compliance, as it is our #1 priority. Everything from retaining an in-house Attorney as our Chief Compliance Officer to proactively maintaining our registration process furthers this emphasis. Taking these compliance measures not only allows us to maintain uninterrupted business functions, such as the current situation in Illinois, but these measures are ultimately in place for the convenience and protection of you, our Client.

For further information, I have included a link to the letter that was sent out to AMC’s on March 30th of 2015. This letter outlines the requirements that AMC’s must adhere to by May 1st of 2015, or risk cancellation of their AMC registration.

http://www.idfpr.com/realestate/3302015ConcurrentBondEnforcementLetter.pdf

Again, Class Appraisal is not one of the penalized AMC’s, and remains licensed and in good standing in the State of Illinois and Nationwide. We have the ability to conduct business in all 50 states and look forward to assisting you in an efficient and compliant manner.

If you have any questions and/or concerns, please feel free to reach out to me using the contact information below.

Best regards,

John P. Hamameh, Esq.
GENERAL COUNSEL/CHIEF COMPLIANCE OFFICER
Office: (866) 333-8311 Ex.340
jhamameh@classappraisal.com