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Disto and AppraiserDepot

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Vince Vaughn

Freshman Member
Joined
Dec 30, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Tennessee
After 25 years of using a tape measure, we broke down and bought a new Disto Classic laser measuring device from Matt Johnson at AppraiserDepot. For straight lines, I found that it was accurate but not much faster than a tape. What I really wanted was the pythagorean function, so we could stand back from a wall and make a measurement. One of us would measure the house with a tape while the other would use the disto. Using the pythagorean function on the disto, we consistently had significant errors using the disto freehand. After changing to using a monopod screwed in to the camera mount on the disto, we still had errors with the disto of 4" to 6". When the 2 of us tried making the same measurement from the same spot using the monopod, we could never get the same measurement and were consistently off by several inches. While the difference could have easily been operator error, I did not feel comfortable with the inability to consistently make the same measurement accurately, so I returned the disto to AppraiserDepot. If you use the disto, I would recommend that you check your measurements at first, until you are comfortable with the use and accuracy of the unit. While I did not keep the disto, I am sold on Matt Johnson and the AppraiserDepot. I called Matt before purchasing the Disto and he took the time to answer several questions. After deciding to return the unit, Matt was very helpful and had a refund back to me in a matter of days. If you decide to try the Disto, check your measurements at first and, by all means, deal with Matt Johnson at AppraiserDepot.
 

David S. Roberson

Senior Member
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Tennessee
Vince;

I have never tried the Disto, but have thought and read about it. I have concerns about its accuracy, and actual convenience. Maybe it's just hard to teach an old dog new tricks. I like to see the tape stretched across the house; I know for sure what I'm measuring & how long it is. There are only two condo developments in my market; now if I did more condos (interior measurments), I would probably get one. I bet more appraisers in urban areas with lots of condos use these more than us semi-rural appraisers. What about it Forumites??? Are most Disto users located in markets with more condos than non-Disto users?
 

Tim Hicks (Texas)

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Texas
Gee, I thought I was the only one who saw this problem. And, it really is not much faster either. Also, some appraisers will say "it works fine if you don't need surgical precision", but if you are rounding to the tenth it is important. I use the Disto, but I carry the tape too. It much quicker to use a tape when there is no target (lets see is that garage front 19.5 or 21.2?), distances less than 1.5. I have also found that sometimes the operator will accidentally bump the Disto off a small target and hit something else without noticing. You find that out when you "square the property". That does not happen with a tape. It still happens. Yesterday, I remeasured a wall that was 41 feet the first time and 43 feet the second time. 43 feet was right, but I have no idea how it was wrong when I aimed at the same target. My measuring time is still about the same as before, maybe 30 seconds faster, sometimes more when I have to check measurements. It still took me a full hour to measure a complicated 6,400 SF home last week. It does work great inside though.
 

matt_johnson

Junior Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2003
Professional Status
General Public
State
Oklahoma
Vince,

Thanks for the kind words. Sorry the DISTO didn't work out for you. Hope you will shop with us again in the future.


Tim,

Here is what I tell people who are using the DISTOs. Stretch your 100' tape out as far as you can from a wall. Put the DISTO next to it (at different distances) and aim the laser at the wall. Are your measurements with the DISTO matching the tape? They should be. If not, we need to get you a new DISTO. I have no patience a DISTO that doesn't measure accurately.

I consider myself to be somewhat of a DISTO expert (just because I've been using them for so long). In my opinion, the number one cause for inaccurate measurements is operator error. That isn't a slam against you or anyone else. Making an error is very easy to do. With help, those errors can be corrected and you can be measuring accurately--every time.

As always, I am here to help. As those who have talked to me on the phone will tell you, I will spend as much time as needed making sure you are comfortable with your DISTO.

For those of you that didn't know that we have an email group for the DISTOs, here is the link:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LaserAppraiser/

There are over 230 people in the group. Read some of their comments about how they use their DISTOs every day.


Best Regards,

Matt Johnson
AppraiserDepot.com
 

Tim Hicks (Texas)

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Texas
Matt,

I understand very well. As I stated, it is usually operator error. How many times is there operator error with a tape measure? Far less. I find I hold the Disto steadier if I place it against the wall. I have noticed that using other object's like my chest, stomach, tree branches, etc is still subject to operator error due to the eyeball judgment of where the wall starts. If you always place it on the corner of the wall there is no margin for error unless you have no target or you have to aim an odd direction to hit a good target. If you use the Disto and you have to estimate where a wall starts, then what good is it? If the pyth function relies so much on operator accuracy, then what good is it? That is why I still use the tape on walls without good targets.

One last thing, everytime I post about the drawbacks with the Disto, you answer with "check the Disto with a tape measure" to ensure its accuracy. I never doubt the accuracy of the Disto on a straight line measure. Where I doubt it is when the operator has to be "creative". Remember not every wall is level or straight to make an accurate aim, not every wall has a target, sometimes branches and bushes obstruct your aim just like a tape, sometimes bright daylight will obstruct the view of the red dot.

Oh, I forgot one other thing, most of the posts on your user group are repetitive drivel showing that many buy this product without knowing what I am stating or are asking about the delivery of the newer, better Disto.
 

TC

Elite Member
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 31, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Pennsylvania
I purchased the Disto after reading comments on a number of forums, including the one on Yahoo. I feel the money was well spent, especially yesterday when I would normally be walking behind bushes in 3 feet of snow. I don't have to clean the tape of mud or purchase at least one every 6 months when the tape splits from the metal hook. I showed it to 2 fellow appraisers and they both purchased one. (Matt, I want a commission). :lol:

TC
 

matt_johnson

Junior Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2003
Professional Status
General Public
State
Oklahoma
Tim,

You can measure with a tape and a DISTO if you like. It doesn't matter to me. But don't you think it is weird that a lot of the DISTO users don't use a tape anymore? Do you think all of them accept inaccurate measurements for their reports just because the DISTO is faster? No. They know how to use them. Sure, they made some "operator errors" in the beginning, but they don't make them anymore.

In all of the posts that you have made about the DISTOs, you have never asked how to correct the errors? That I just don't understand.

Sure, everyhthing has its drawbacks. Even a DISTO. But, if you compare the overall ease of use of a DISTO to a tape, the DISTO wins every time.

The Pythagorean function is simple. However, most people do it incorrectly in the beginning and their measurements are off by 6 inches to a foot. After they correct how they hold the DISTO during the function, they measure accurately. It isn't hard and you don't need a tripod. You just have to make sure that the DISTO calculates distances from the same position for each measurement. That is done by having the DISTO set to calculate from the tripod screw. Put your finger under the tripod screw and rotate the DISTO on top of it. Since you are forming a triangle with the wall, you want the DISTO to calculate from the same position for each measurement. Like I said, it is simple but it does take a few minutes of practice.

If the wall you are measuring doesn't have targets, use the Pythagorean function. If it has a target in the middle (a/c unit, electrical box etc), use it and have the DISTO add your measurements together.

As I have stated many times in the past, I will help you. The DISTO will do what you want it to. If you don't want my help, you should ask some of the people in the DISTO email group. It really isn't all drivel. :lol:

Matt
 

Tim Hicks (Texas)

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Texas
So, Matt, what does all the happy Disto owners that threw away their tape do when they have a wall under 1.5 feet?

Seriously, we can debate back and forth all you want. As long as my message get delivered. I know how to use the pyth function, it takes a lot of practice to keep from moving the Disto when you pivot, plus hitting an exact target which usually means two corners. I am very slow at it and sometimes I have to do it over. Somehow, it just seems easier and faster to run a tape down a wall and get the house measured than to keep doing target practice.

Last week, I measured a new home construction with a 70.4 foot wall. No fence to aim at, no gutters, no corners, no ledges, no dogs, hedges, no red dot visible at 70.4 feet. Now, you can take out the little scope and attached it, put on you red glasses and squint or you can pull out your tape measure and walk the 70 foot wall in about 15 seconds. I could have tried the pyth function, but good luck seeing that red dot 70 feet away.


I may be stubborn, but I want all forumites to understand that the Disto is only a tool that has its drawbacks too. Just like Alamode (who many people think there is a learning curve that I can't see), just like every aspect of this business. I probably will not post to this subject any more because you try to reduce it to my inabilities instead of the Disto's. I happens every time I discuss my disappointments with the Disto. I can't do anything about what others have to say about the Disto, but I can objectively tell my opinion whether you agree or not.
 

matt_johnson

Junior Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2003
Professional Status
General Public
State
Oklahoma
Tim,

Walls under 1.5 feet---set the DISTO to measure from the front of the unit. This gives you an extra 7 inches (the length of the DISTO) to play with. The 4th generation DISTOs will measure from 1 ft to 300 feet. The 5th generation DISTOs will measure from 8 inches to 300 feet. Since the DISTO is about 7 inches long and has a ruler on the back, you can measure anything.

Doing the Pythagorean function on 70' walls: When you are doing the Pythagorean function on long walls, why not do it in 3 measurements instead of 2? When you do it in 3 measurements, you can stand anywhere and face the wall. Let's say you stand in the middle. Your first measurement will be at one end of the wall (35 feet away). The next will be directly in front of you (right angle). The third will be at the other end (the other 35 feet shot). Doing it this way makes it a lot easier---you don't have to take that long 70' measurement.

The problems you stated in your post are common errors that some new users make. However, once they learn how to use the DISTO, they don't make them anymore. If you took the time to get a little help, you would love it and you would ditch the tape. :lol:

Matt
 

David S. Roberson

Senior Member
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Tennessee
Three measurements with the Pythagorean function. Or, measure it with a tape. I know your product is well liked, and probably useful for interior measurements, as I said earlier. But three measurements and the Pythagorean function is not helping to sell me the product.
 
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