Tag Archives: AMC

4 Tips to Get Your Home Fall & Winter Ready

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

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

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

Beyond Customer Service

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

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

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


TRID Is Coming! TRID Is Coming!!

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.

Panel Management: In-House vs. AMC

Use an Appraisal Management Company (“AMC”) or manage the appraisal process in-house? That is the simple questions that lenders across the country are asking themselves. A large shift in the industry is towards utilizing the AMC model. So for the lenders who have yet to take part in that shift, the question remains… What are the risks and benefits of managing your own panel? Some will say it is the control of having the process in-house, however, coupled with that control are the inherent compliance risks.

We all know that we work in a highly regulated industry. We all know that compliance is essential and at the forefront of our industry. It is a full-time job just to stay abreast of all the new regulations. Even when we see the regulations, it is a whole separate process to interpret them. When it comes to interpretation, unfortunately we all know too well that the law is filled with “grey area”.

I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at some of the pertinent rules that would play a role in a lender managing their own panel. This article is not meant to be legal counsel, nor is it intended to be an exhaustive list of regulations that need to be adhered to when managing your own panel. I am merely outlining certain information that you should be aware of. Ultimately the responsibility lies on you to either utilize an AMC who you have properly vetted out, or to retain counsel to assist and advise you in implementing a compliant process for you in-house.

First and foremost, we must be aware of the Appraiser Independence Requirements (“AIR”). Among other things, AIR prohibits certain parties from having any influence in the selection of an appraiser.

The legislation draws a clear distinction in the rules between production/origination staff and panel management staff. There must be an absolute divide between the production staff and the staff managing the panel. An employee’s title alone, does not take them out of any involvement in the production/origination. Is your panel management team secluded from your origination team? Are they on a different floor? Different office? Different building all together? People have interpreted this ruling in different ways; however, it is completely possible that you may need to establish an entirely distinct and separate office location solely dedicated to panel management. This can be extremely tricky, as even simple communication may be enough to be construed as a compliance issue. What type of proof can you provide an Auditor to evidence that there is a complete and clear separation?

Another important issue is Mandatory Reporting. I have spoken to lenders who seem to be under the impression that the Dodd-Frank Mandatory Reporting requirements only apply to AMC’s. That is not the case at all. Mandatory Reporting does in fact apply to lenders as well as AMC’s. If an Auditor approached you and asked for your system of reporting as well as the number of reports in the previous 12 months, what would be your response? Who did you report to? Do you have a compliant response? You must have a process in place to comply with the Dodd-Frank Mandatory Reporting Requirements, when it comes to the appraisers on your panel.

What about vetting? Another process that must be implemented when managing your own panel is a compliant process on vetting, adding, and even removing appraisers from your panel. What exclusionary lists are you scrubbing the appraisers against? Are you checking for disciplinary action? State or Federal level? What documents are you asking for and reviewing when adding appraisers to your panel? Resume? Past reports? License/Certification? E&O? Driver’s License? Are you conducting interviews with each appraiser? Conducting background checks? Are you checking if they are FHA/HUD approved? These are just a few of the factors that go into researching and adding appraiser to your panel. Of course, the most important question to ask yourself is, where do you store all this information/documentation and do you have easy access to it upon request from an Auditor?

Lastly, consider post-delivery of the report, are you going to allow for a reconsideration procedure? If you determine that you want to offer a process such as this, who on your staff is going to handle it? How are you going to insure there is no pressure in this process? The reconsideration process is one of the most difficult areas of our industry. You are attempting to walk that line of giving the appraiser additional information to consider, without crossing over into the realm of pressuring or forcing the appraiser to utilize the additional information. How do you handle that? What precautions and training have you put in place?

I am sure that some of you reading this already have processes in place and have no concerns. To you, I say congratulations and good job. However, I know for a fact that there are a number of you currently reading this that are way behind. Generally speaking, people, even more specifically our industry is very reactive. Looking at past trends and history, we wait till the waves hit, and then we react by creating a plan or process. It is no longer safe to operate in this manner (it never really was). If you want to sustain longevity in this industry you need to shift with the times and become more proactive than ever.

In all, deciding to manage your own panel is a big decision that can result in all kinds of implications. In this article, I have posed a number of hypothetical questions. These questions are not intended to be the groundwork for your processes; they are simply intended to get the ball rolling in terms of assisting you in being proactive and insulating your company from the serious liability that you may currently be vulnerable to on a daily basis. The bottom line is, if you are going to carry the burden of panel management in-house, you absolutely cannot afford to do it in a noncompliant manner.

John P. Hamameh, Esq.
Chief Compliance Attorney


johnJohn P. Hamameh, Esq is the Chief Compliance Attorney at Class Appraisal. His priority is to help guide our clients through the ever changing industry regulations and ensure that every report is compliant with federal guidelines. John’s attention to detail, ability to interpret legislation and experience in the real estate industry, makes him a valuable asset to Class Appraisal and our clients.