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Very new and struggling with A la Mode

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CatherineR

Thread Starter
Freshman Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2008
Professional Status
Appraiser Trainee
State
New Mexico
I'm brand new at this. I just finished all of my classes in October and have passed the big exam. (With the new law changes for Jan. 08, my state (New Mexico) basically said, "to get in under the old laws: take your classes and get your Apprentice license by Nov 15, 2007; take and pass the big Certified Residential Exam by December 31, 2007 and we'll give you exactly two years (no more and no less!) to get your 2500 hours.)
So I have done all that and am now starting to work on my hours. I found a Supervisor (very hard to do!) and he got me started by doing an appraisal of my own house. I earn my living as a Realtor and feel like I have a fairly decent handle on assessing the various qualities of a property, but I am having a miserable time with the a la mode software. So far it's taken me 43 hours just to appraise my own house! Is this common with beginners? Does anyone have any suggestions? I see that a la mode is having a regional conference in April and I am considering going to take as many classes as I can. Has anyone gone to these conferences before? Are they helpful? Are the classes good?
Thanks in advance for any help you can give,
Catherine
 

George Hatch

Elite Member
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
California
The learning curve of the software packages can be pretty long, especially if you're trying to work through it on your own and without any assistance.

In your place here's how I would do it:

Get 2 copies of your supervisor's reports. Go through them and highlight the areas on both reports that include the same verbiage. It is probable that your supervisor doesn't change those sections from one report to another.

Copy those sections into your appraisal report form and save it as a template.

Print a hardcopy of the template and handwrite the other assignment-specific information into all the other fields. Don't leave any of them blank. Do all the math by hand.

Then go back and enter the data into the appraisal report on the computer.

Your first couple assignments will take a long time. As you progress and find your rythym you'll get a lot faster. By the time you finish your 10th report you'll probably be able to do the data entry part of the report in 3 hours or less. When starting out, the more information you collect and put onto your report form while you're out in the field, the faster your data entry will go when transferring it into the computerized version of the report. Eventually you'll get to the point where it's faster for you to write your report on the computer and skip the handwritten part out in the field.

Perserverence is what counts in this business.
 

David Dietz

Member
Joined
Oct 30, 2006
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Florida
If you can go to the conference and you are new to alamode you should definatly go. I have worked with alamode for over five years and I still go when I can and I always pick up something new. They are constinaly updating and changing things so yes go.
 

Tom Woolford

Elite Member
Gold Supporting Member
Joined
Nov 20, 2005
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Florida
www.alamode.com

I strongly suggest you get on the web site and spend some time with the tutorials. There are wuite a few to choose from. Just stick with the basic form filling ones for now.
 

Webbed Feet

Elite Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2005
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Canada
Ms R.

I suggest that any appraisal software package that takes flying to another State to take classes in order to learn it...... is a really big hint to explore the products of competitive software companies.

Webbed.
 
Joined
Jun 3, 2005
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Colorado
Some appraisers swear by Alamode -- others swear at it.

As a one person shop, I've found ClickForms to be more user friendly -- but all of the software vendors have decent products, and they all have steep learning curves.
 

DonRico

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 26, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
South Carolina
Catherine-

May I ask.....where do you feel you're having the most difficulty with WinTOTAL?? Is it the sketch tool? Photos? Data Entry??

Let's talk this thru....
 

Marcia Langley

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 26, 2005
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Missouri
Catherine,

Your experience sounds just like my introduction to this career. Hang in there! The learning curve is big but not impossible. Yes, my very first assignment took me almost two weeks, LOL.

In my plodding methodical fashion I first printed out a hard copy of the WinTotal users' guide and used it like a text book making margin notes as the various 'light bulbs' came on. As others have said, the on line tutorials cover almost everything.

As you go through your learning curve, don't hesitate to continue to ask questions.

Also, notice the special AlaMode forum on this board. There is lots of help there.
 

KD247

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
California
Hi Catherine,

My guess is that you feel overwhelmed because you're looking at this as a single task.

Nothing in this business is very complicated, but there are million simple things to learn, including everything from figuring out how to set up complicated search queries in an online data service to learning how to carry a camera, clipboard, and measuring tape at the same time.

Many of us were fortunate enough to get into the business when reports were completed on a typewriter and photos were glued onto the pages. As technology progressed, we had plenty of time to do things like spend a week just learning how to use a sketch program.

Not sure how this jives with your requirement to log hours (or make a living), I'd have you spend a week doing nothing but measuring and sketching houses, then a few weeks doing nothing but researching comparable sales. There's so much to learn at once, and it's easy to waste a whole day doing trivial things like scanning your signature or programming your GPS.

I like George's idea of handwriting a couple of appraisals onto the form because it lets you concentrate on your judgments instead of giving all of your attention to the software. Also, if you may want to create a "script" (or checklist) which will help you break down the appraisal process into small discrete tasks. You can then prioritize your studies and learn the critical tasks first. Instead of exploring every software feature and automating every menial procedure, strive towards minimizing and simplifying your checklist until it becomes more like a critical path chart. Right now, it's most important to figure out how appraisal philosophy applies to real life situations. Very, very soon it will be critical for you to know how save and retrieve files, but it will be a long time before it becomes important for you to know how to put a swimming pool icon on a sketch.
 

CatherineR

Thread Starter
Freshman Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2008
Professional Status
Appraiser Trainee
State
New Mexico
Thank you

Thank you for the suggestions and encouragement. First, it's helpful to know that the learning curve is steep for a lot of new trainees. I have asked my Supervisor to send me a couple of reports to use as a reference guide (which he did). It was a very helpful suggestion to go through each report and look for the fields that were the same. I also really like the idea of filling in the reports by hand at first so that I focus on relevant information for the appraisal and do not get caught up in just trying to understand the software. And lastly, the training videos, tutorials and "webinars" are now something I am scheduling time for everyday. So again, thank you for the help.
Catherine
 
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