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Value IT announces technology partnership with a la mode

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Mountain Man

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Elite Member
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Certified General Appraiser
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Georgia
Is this going to assist in the data mining :?: :?:


Value IT announces technology partnership with a la mode

For Immediate Release

May 8, 2002

BLOOMINGTON, MN – Value IT, the largest provider of property appraisal and
valuation services to the mortgage industry, has begun work on a strategic
initiative to construct a new platform for streamlining the appraisal order
and delivery process.

Value IT selected a la mode, inc. as its technology partner, and will be
using a la mode's Mercury middleware product and associated back office XML
data applications as the core components of their current open standards
initiative. Value IT and a la mode will begin beta testing the Mercury
solution and will make further announcements as the process is completed.

Mercury eliminates the need for appraisers to own several different software
programs to send appraisal reports to the nation's lenders and appraisal
management companies. Mercury's Application Programming Interface (API) is
an open architecture based on Extensible Markup Language (XML) that allows
any third-party software developer to write "plug-ins." Each newly developed
plug-in enhances Mercury's functionality, making its capabilities virtually
limitless.

"Using a specially developed ‘Value IT plug-in’ for Mercury, appraisers
producing reports for Value IT will now be able to use any appraisal
software to deliver a compressed Mercury file containing both the PDF
appraisal report and the MISMO-compliant XML tracking data,'' said Bryan
Heger, Value IT Strategic Initiatives Manager.

"Mercury provides desktop workflow and review rules capabilities other
software vendors aren't offering, and the delivered report integrates
seamlessly into our status tracking systems due to the included MISMO XML
layer. We provide a higher-quality product with shorter turnaround times
for our clients, and our appraisers get to use industry-standard PDF files
at the same time. We also gain much easier access to a la mode’s own
WinTOTAL software users, which account for over 50% of the industry. It’s a
win-win for everyone involved.”

The Value IT Mercury plug-in automatically checks completed appraisal files
for completeness before transmission, thus reducing the amount of rework
necessary. This automated review helps minimize the time-consuming manual
quality control process most appraisers complete before sending out their
finished product. The Mercury plug-in will run in parallel with Value IT’s
existing proprietary ACI/Lighthouse delivery system. Therefore, current
ACI/Lighthouse appraisal users will not be required to change systems but
will have an optional migration path over time.

Eric Thompson, Vice President of Corporate Sales for a la mode commented,
“The work a la mode is in the process of completing with Value IT will be an
excellent example of implementing creative technology solutions to benefit
multiple participants in the mortgage transaction. We will benefit from an
excellent relationship with Value IT, the appraiser continues to use the
desktop software they prefer, and Value IT’s clients close more loans in a
shorter time-frame.”

Value IT is underwriting the cost of providing Mercury at no charge to its
appraisers nationwide, so the appraisers won’t bear the cost of the
transition.
 

andrea dennett

Freshman Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2002
I have received 3 emails from ValueIT and 1 from a la mode. I think they have informed me enough already. I sent an email to a la mode with my thoughts and questions about the partnership. I'll let you know if they reply.
 

dbiggers

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 1, 2002
Professional Status
IT Professional-Appraisal Related
State
Florida
I'll reply here so everyone gets a public answer...

I know that some will always immediately assume that we're now "sleeping with the enemy", but that's just not the case. Every week, we take complaint calls from appraisers asking us why we don't use our resources to convince lenders to stop doing things like AI Ready and Lighthouse. We're doing what you've been asking us to do, and it's a good thing.

The issue of data mining is something we take very seriously, and we've led the fight to protect all appraisers. That's why we provided encryption for Athena's files (so lenders can't mine native files they can with every other vendor), and that's why we built the Mercury system in the first place. It functions as a "gatekeeper" for you, so you always have to "grant permission" for a file to converted to or read by any other program. In the Athena plug-in to Mercury, you get to see exactly what data you are and are not providing, and you get to "turn off" portions of it if you so choose. That way, you can provide tracking data only if you want, and no comps.

That being said, we have indeed discussed this very issue with Value IT, and they store the data files they currently get via Lighthouse but are not operating an AVM using that data. They do use the data for internal review rules to check for inconsistencies and errors in the appraisal, but that's all. Our review of their management systems supports that assertion.

One of the reasons this is less risky than it seems is simply that the data available on the open market -- from assessors, MLS's, AIRD, etc. -- is good enough to build an AVM already and it's cheaper to just buy access to one of the off-the-shelf AVM's than it is to build your own using your own data. In other words, why would an AMC or lender invest hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in developing an AVM on their own data when for just a couple of bucks per transaction, they can get access to one from any of the current AVM vendors?

Believe me, I'm not an AVM supporter by any means and we do everything we can to point out their flaws. I'm always amazed at the shortsightedness of the other software vendors who tout AVM systems (United Systems and Day One/Appraisal.com) and at the organizations and companies which partner up and facilitate the data collection to operate them, such as the Appraisal Institute and FNC did with AppraisalPort and AIRD. Appraisers pay these companies and organizations, and yet they're engaging in activities which harm the appraisers themselves. I don't get it.

The bottom line here is that announcements such as this are key to "breaking open" the large lenders and AMC's, to get them to accept PDF's and stop requiring appraisers to use proprietary software like Lighthouse or AppraisalPort's AIReady uploader.

We have a couple of goals to that end:

1. Open up every lender and AMC's to PDF's by making it cost effective for them to do so (making the PDF's trackable and reviewable in their backoffice systems is key, which is where the XML comes in);

2. Enable any appraiser to use any appraisal software without ever having to jump through Lighthouse-like retyping hoops (using PDF's instead);

3. Improve the negotiating position of appraisers by eliminating the "do it this way or else" aspect of proprietary software discussions when deciding whether or not they want to work with a given lender or AMC.

No matter how you slice it, getting clients like Value IT to open up to PDF's and all software vendors is a good thing, and we're bearing the burden of doing so for our competitors. By eliminating the need to pay for Lighthouse, one more cost and daily hurdle is eliminated.

It also needs to be realized that we've never been big AMC fans. I think most AMC's have done a poor job of working with appraisers. It's not very smart in my opinion to anger the very people who are your vendors, especially in fee-split arrangements. The AMC's who add their fee onto an appraiser's normal fee, rather than those who ask the appraiser to reduce their fee, are on the right track for good long-term relationships with appraisers.

But regardless, there will always be AMC's, and some will manage the relationship better than others. Value IT is aware of the need to improve relations, and they genuinely want to do so -- this Mercury initiative is designed specifically as a "first step" to help appraisers realize that they want better relations by no longer forcing them to use one software package.

There's no way that this is anything but good. Value IT already gets data via Lighthouse if they want it, and can run an AVM without ever using that data if they chose to. But they've in the past forced appraisers to buy Lighthouse or ACI and waste time every day retyping data in Lighthouse which didn't convert properly. We're helping eliminate that Lighthouse hurdle and making it easier and less expensive for those appraisers who choose to do business with them. That's good for appraisers any way you slice it.

Hope this helps explain the "why" behind the "what".

Dave Biggers
CEO
a la mode, inc.

I have received 3 emails from ValueIT and 1 from a la mode. I think they have informed me enough already. I sent an email to a la mode with my thoughts and questions about the partnership. I'll let you know if they reply.
 

Tim Hicks (Texas)

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Texas
Good answer, Dave. it amazes me how appraisers will attempt to bash sofware vendors and mortgage lenders that they don't associate. I am sure that WE could load up on ACI bashing or Dayone bashing or Clickforms bashing if we wanted to waste our time. No software vendor can satisfy every appraiser and as we all know Alamode satifies the most. However, many shortsighted and narrow minded people think that the only way to support their software choice is to bash the others. I have used Alamode since 1994 and I don't worry about them going out of business. I also recognize that they stay on top of technology changes and are constantly improving and upgrading their product. These appraisers that bash Alamode for needing upgrades or fixes, just don't get it and never will. If a product is constantly evolving, there is no way to predict how it will react on every appraiser's system. But somehow, Alamode manages to make most appraisers happy. Appraisers who don't want all the bells and whistles don't have to buy it, but then again, they don't know what they are missing. I never have to worry about whether my reports can be delivered in any format because I know Alamode will deliver. Those who choose not to use the product are missing out. The mapping, digital imaging, EDI and flood resources are impeccable in may situation and Alamode saves me so much time that the cost is eaisly justified. (Please don't raise the prices,though, Dave!) Go ahead, gripe about the new flood map fee. Are your flood maps current? Pay his fee and they will always be current and your cost will be less than ordering new maps (at least in my area). I am not a Alamode spokesperson and I have had my share of gripes, just ask the technical support technicians. However, I have come to realize that usually the problem is on my end and is a result of my equipment or other software. Take it from me. Appraisers are too cheap, they expect too much for little fees (just like their lenders) and they expect too much from so little on their end. We are supposed to be professionals, yet, we whine about fees, appraisal software costs, ink re-fills, flood map costs, pretty much everything. More people need to upgrade their attitudes and their equipment. It is amazing how much more efficient I am with a pentium 4, 17 inch plat panel, current software (try it, it is amazing how all software vendors have improved their products) and on-line flood maps, census, MLS access, PDF reports and this forum. Yes, it cost me money to upgrade, but it saves me time and time is money. Since I have upgraded to a new computer with Windows XP, I have not seen any blue screens, my HP printers loaded fine, alamode works flawlessly and my DSL line never seems to have problems either. So, go ahead be a cheap skate, keep complaining, and get a life. After all, isn't our software and equipment a business expense and don't you deserve to have top notch equipment.

As for lender bashing, there are many lenders out their that I don't like (Axxxxquest for example), but they have the right to operate just like we do. Does anybody realize that it takes individual humans to do the atrocities and usually the lender is the only one that pays for their transgressions? I would bet Conseco would think again about purchasing Green Tree or Associates if they truly knew what they were buying, but now they are paying the fines for companies they purchased. I don't know about the WAMU fine, but I would bet it falls under the same category. You see, narrow minded individuals will make blanket statements about entire companies when they know so little about the company in general. I would bet, every company in America has individuals doing illegal things that the company would never allow if they knew the truth. Sometimes the individuals are at the top, like Enron.

If we wanted to take that attitude, then the whole Appraisal profession is a bunch of crooks and corrupt with fraud. Do you realize how many bad appraisers justify our demise? Do some field reviews. It will enlighten you.
 

Rick Neighbors

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 19, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Texas
Man I love this forum!!! Between Bob stirring the pot on "political correctness" ( and I agree with his definition!) and Dave having to "re-explain" Alamode's position all the time, I get my stress relief right here. Good to take a break, relax and read the posts!

I agree with you Tim from Crowley! I am a fairly short time user of Alamode but I am quiet happy. If Chevrolet was as quick about fixing my 1 Ton Dually as Alamode is about keeping my software working, I would really be a happy camper.

By the way, I do work some for ValueIt and I told them, in a very friendly manner, that I could email reports in PDF or I would be happy to print them out and snail mail them to them. I also told them that I use Alamode software, so I guess the Mercury upgrade may be in order soon. They have paid me regularly and they even paid me a trip fee when the property I was asked to appraiser didn't fit their guidelines for loans.
( Two mfg's on one piece of land, and they had not been told about the second home)
Good posts one and all!


Happy Mother's Day to all you good Mom's out there.

Rick
 

xmrdfghap

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
General Public
State
Florida
<span style='color:brown'>Tim, I try to avoid the "my software is better than your software" arguments, but this is close to beig silly. By and large, I agree with you concerning A La Mode. I use Toolbox, have used Homeputer and Athena. they are all good programs. Dave's input on this forum (and that of his staff) has been impressive. They really do seem to go out of their way to meet the needs of their customers and dissing them because they meet or exceed industry development seems silly.

I have been watching Rambo on TV today and one of the commercials dealt with how you can go on line and for free, in 30 seconds or less, know the true value of your home. That data has to be coming from somewhere. "Refined" data that can be mined from the appraisal reports can be done regardless of format used. PDF, Lighthouse, hardcopy, whatever......it can all be mined.

If nothing else a mindless secretary/typist can type into a database all pertinant data about a comp or subject in a matter of a few minutes. I know there are programs that can read a scanned document into a delimited file and thus can be read by data bases. So if people think reports can remaind untouched, unread, and unmined by the AVM's they are fooling themselves. We, as an industry, should realize that the day of doing nothing but cookie cutters is rapidly coming to a close and start moving into 21st century services.

Either that, or learn how to drive a truck or flip burgers........</span>
 

dbiggers

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 1, 2002
Professional Status
IT Professional-Appraisal Related
State
Florida
Greg, I assume you're referring to the HouseValues.com commercials (they're everywhere these days...). There is no home value system there -- it's just a lead generator for Realtors. You put in your info and they send you a CMA to try to list your home. No data mining there -- just pocket mining...

So it's not a competitor to appraisals -- but it got my interest too. After checking it out, I saw that it does prove the value of traditional media in getting the public's attention regarding the value of their home. An e-mail I received claimed that in February and March, they had over 1300 requests for CMA's in Oklahoma City alone (just under a million people).

Now, granted, not all of those people would pay an appraisal fee, even a "consumer targeted" report with a lower fee. But, I bet as many people drop out because they don't want a salesperson bugging them. So, traditional mass media may be an outlet for specialized appraisal services to be advertised if appraisers pool resources in some way. At the very least, more aggressive newspaper, radio, and online advertising couldn't hurt. We're looking at ways to help appraisers do just that.

Interestingly, guess where is the only place I've ever hear an appraisal radio advertisement? In the Bahamas. It was an excellent ad. I sat there in the taxicab wondering why more U.S. appraisers don't do the same. It didn't target lenders; it targeted buyers and sellers.

One last comment and then I'll shut up. Today I ran Yahoo's "home price" tool. Wow, was it wrong on my house -- it came up with a number that was 70% below the actual market value! Holy cow... that's bad.

Thanks for any appreciation of what we do and why. "Choice" is all we want appraisers to have. I think Tim's just vocally expressing why he chose us as "proactive defense" against those who -- unlike you -- go so far overboard with negativity that they fail to see the forest for the trees. He recognizes that the vocal, visible company, especially when they're the largest, gets the majority of the conspiratorial suspicion on every issue. I appreciate his help, even if it sounds like an ad... ;-)

Dave Biggers
CEO
a la mode, inc.
 

Stone

Elite Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Wisconsin
I had yahoo value my house, and it was within 3-5%. I was a little surprised, but my house is a 70 year old bungalow in a neighborhood full of 60-75 year old bungalows. I doubt this would work with most of the properties I see.
 

BigBlueGA

Junior Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Georgia
Dave, well said. I gotta say, I'm pretty impressed with that whole schpiel... If I could talk the bossman into cooperating maybe I would have to give Athena a second chance. :)

I am curious about what you said about United Systems running an AVM though.. could you explain a little? We run HighPerForm exclusively in our office, but I have never heard about this...
 

Mountain Man

Thread Starter
Elite Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Georgia
Dave,
Thanks, you answered my questions. I never did like Lighthouse and never did subscribe.
 
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