Tell me about RSG Commercial
I started as an appraiser after college in 1996. I had no direction whatsoever after graduating college in 1996 with an economics degree. I was very fortunate that my father had been an appraiser since the early 1970’s and he allowed me to start working with him. In the beginning, it was just a job; however, after the first year, I saw the potential to take my appraisal professional to a higher level. That is no insult to my father, who was a great mentor, but he was comfortable at the level he was at and I had bigger aspirations.
We’ve gone up and down with the markets over the years. We’ve had as many as 14 employees at one time. Presently, we’re down to three, which is by choice. I’m sure there are other people that are like-minded and just really don’t want to have a large office. Having an office of that size was a headache to me. It was erasing my passion for appraising. Now as a smaller firm, I really enjoy appraising again. We do our best to produce consistent, high quality work, while also focusing on being more efficient every year. Efficiency is, and has been, a focal point in regard to our success.
.We’ve tried several different platforms and applications over the years, and we found that were beneficial as a database but left a lot to be desired in regard to report-writing.
It wasn’t until the Spring of 2017 when I went out to see the guys in Portland that I saw Valcre was really a great appraisal platform in a box. As a database and as a report-writer. You obviously need to have the skillset to do your job, but Valcre was what I was waiting many years for. As someone with that heavy focus on efficiency, it was like a holy grail. Simplicity, adaptability, and ease of use to create great appraisals with minimal errors. Those traits gave us the ability to fasten the time in which the Word doc template is populated, which then afforded us the ability to more thoroughly communicate analysis within the report.
I would estimate that our efficiency grew by 30-40% overall after just a few months of implementing Valcre, while at the same time producing a better report than we did prior to Valcre. The transition was a game changer for us and ranks highly as one of the best decisions I’ve made over the past 24 years in the appraisal business. We’ve received a large amount of positive feedback regarding the organization and readability of our reports. That goes a long way towards maintaining our current client base as well as prospective clients.
One of the great things about Valcre is it is easy to get the report together before you populate the Word doc. It helps you get most everything you need in there, which leaves you with a lot of time to do more analysis on the property. So you may end up creating a better report.
Your reports may have the same appearance every time—which I’ve heard from lenders that they really like because they like to know where things are in people’s reports—but it does leave time to specifically work on a certain property by adding narrative as far as the valuation goes.
I never wanted to run into a boiler plate type thing which is completely avoidable with Valcre. That’s a huge bonus. I don’t really have any negatives.
We specifically use Office 365 in conjunction with Valcre and that’s really, really important for me because it’s another redundancy as far as keeping all the files in folders that we need for our assignments. If anybody has a question for me that works for me, it’s so easy to notify me, upload your question and sometimes even share your screen with me. I guess that’s really me selling Office 365, but that’s worked out for us since 2012 and then once Valcre came into play, the synergy between the two was ideal.
It’s very fascinating to me that your dad was an appraiser as well. Growing up, how much did you understand about what your dad was doing and did you ever anticipate following in his footsteps?
I don’t think I really paid much attention to it besides my parents having their financial ups and downs over the years. As far as the business is concerned, it probably wasn’t until I was 17 or 18 that I looked over his shoulder to see what the heck he was doing.
I always kind of knew that he provided values to banks for lending and other purposes, but it really wasn’t until I was in high school that I saw what he was really doing. I worked a lot of jobs in college but during the summer before my junior and senior year I would work with him a little bit—and it wasn’t bad.
Personally, I don’t really like working at all. But you obviously want to find the least of all evils and his job seemed fine. So many people have these ambitions that they have set out for and they specifically get a degree for and they really want to pursue. They have a really linear path, a straight line—I had absolutely none of that. I had not a single clue what type of a job I would pursue. But at the same time, my dad told me I was welcome to work with him while I figured things out.
After working with him for probably three or so months, I was like, “I think I’m going to stick with this. I actually have a car and it’s pretty nice.”
Flexibility is definitely a solid benefit. From what I understand flexibility seems to be a perk of a career as an appraiser.
That’s very true. The dynamics sort of started to change when I got married and started to have children. I had to keep my work to daytime. There were more late-night sessions of typing and those sorts of things. I tried to keep it from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. so I could be available when my kids got home from school.
As far as dropping something in my schedule or wanting to do something, I have that ability to say, “Hey I can move this to Wednesday and move this Monday. And Tuesday? Yeah I’d love to go snowboarding or fishing,” have that ability to move things around in my schedule
When did Valcre come into the fold for you?
In August 2016. It was painful because there was a learning curve to it, but I made a decision.
I work on a large array of different properties to a certain value point. Around here, you can’t specialize. We’re a small company, but I wanted to be able to put anything through the system.
There’s only been one occasion since I started using Valcre that I went back to my old method of hand-writing an appraisal and using a database. It was for something really out there, like a crematory or something.
I’ve done a few since then and nowadays I would say, “It’s no problem, I have what I need in Valcre.”
I learned a lot. When Valcre was first introduced, it was obviously not at the level that it is now. The team has made such drastic improvements to it. I learned fairly quickly that I could manipulate and make some changes to handle more than just office, retail, industrial and multi-family.
That was nice for me because I do appraise a decent amount of specialty properties. It’s nice that I’m able to work on those through Valcre’s system. I would say by late October, early November, I was in a groove and I just kept getting better.
The database is really good. I think the one thing I have to be a real stickler about in the office is that everyone put everything in the database. There’s a limited number of commercial transactions and we can all gain efficiency by people putting their stuff into the database. If people put in lease information into Valcre’s system, we can use that lease later on if we all stay on top of it.
You’ve talked a little bit about being a father and needing flexibility in your schedule, how does Valcre play into that?
It’s just freedom. More time for me. It’s given me the capability to keep my production up where I want it to be all while only working a 40-hour work week. As opposed to, I used to have 60 or 70-80 hour work weeks. That was me as a bachelor putting away as much money as humanly possible.
It really comes down to time. I spend less time doing things and make the same amount of money with Valcre. I obviously have goals that I try to make every month and we don’t always make them, but sometimes we go over.
It’s just freed up an immense amount of time. I’m able to do the same amount of work in 40 hours that I was doing in 60 hours. I’ve managed to free myself up 20 hours by using Valcre, which is invaluable.
Your kids are only going to be young once and you want to be there. I’m able to go to school things like “Donuts with Dad,” which I know is not in the play right now but it will be back.
Honestly for me, it’s the efficiency, time reduction and to be able to get to my goal figures.
I’ve got three boys—8, 10 and 13. My wife went back to teaching last November. It was really really really tough this past year when everything went virtual. My wife was teaching full time. She’s since pulled back to a part-time position. Someone has to be there overlooking them going to virtual learning.
She’s able to keep an eye on them. We have a tutor coming in twice a week to help everyone.
As far as affording me the time for important stuff like family, you can’t ask for anything more than that and still make the money you want to make. Without sacrificing that.
I have some numbers that I don’t share because I think people will think I’m a short-cutter or something like that. I’m not, we’re just really efficient and able to get through a lot of things. And that goes back to people putting things into the database. That’s a tremendous help if you don’t have to go searching for all new things every time you do a new appraisal.
Tell me more about your trip to Portland to visit the Valcre team.
At the time there was a person that I was considering hiring to work with me who through a really strange series of events told me that he knew some guys who he had worked with at Colliers a couple years prior. He said that what he had seen really looked like a ready-to-go type of application and database. I told him, “Well maybe we just go to Portland if they’re okay with us looking over their back and having them tell us about it, I’ll take them up on that.” So we ended up going for a couple of days.
During that period of time, Joe Creech was really the one who drove me through what things were. At first I was like, “I have no idea what this is.” But it turned out that the Valcre team just had different nomenclature for things. I saw what a report looked like and it was really, really nice. I was game.
We came back from the trip and I decided I did not want to work with the person who made the introduction. It was a strange series of events but I developed a relationship with the Valcre team and the next thing you know, I’m using it.
I made myself use it for every assignment. Just because I knew it was going to be hard to learn, but I knew how worth using Valcre would be. I saw how efficient Joe was with it and well how the database worked. It was time for a change. I had been doing things the same way for eons.
Adopting the software sounded great to me. My kids were 5, 7 and 10 at the time. I was like, “I do want to spend some more time with my kids and have a little for personal stuff, working out, things like that.” I was sold. The product looked really nice and personalized.
I was really impressed so I kept in contact with the Valcre team, and when it was time for them to roll it out, I was right there ready and able. Of course, Valcre was very small at the time. It was basically Lucas Rotter and Kris Owens.
When I’m doing an appraisal again that I did back in October 2016, I look back and I see the limitations. What the documents could do for you back then compared to what they can do for you now, Valcre has tripled the look, the efficiency of it, the capabilities for all the things you can put in a report to make it look great. I look back and the appraisals look fine, but as far as what you can do and the things the Valcre team has added are super awesome.
On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you rate Valcre and your experience.
If I had to quantify it I would say a “9.” I don’t think anything is a 10. A 10 for me would mean that the second I email support, the respond in a second which isn’t really possible. If we were going to say that nothing can be perfect and a 10 isn’t perfect, then Valcre would be a 10. It’s the least problem causing, most efficient, best looking out of every software application I’ve used. And trust me, I bought like five of them.
That trip to Portland was really life-changing for me. I was able to see Valcre in action. The support in the beginning, when I had absolutely no clue what to do on certain things, played a massive role. I committed to it and that required a good amount of support. I’m sure I emailed and called Lucas about 8 million times in the beginning. Now I rarely ever need to reach out to them. So yeah, I’d give Valcre a 10 on an imperfect scale.
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Even prior to obtaining his bachelor’s degree in Economics in 1996, Andy had already spent significant time around his father’s appraisal office, learning from the ground up a business that he simply enjoyed and that seemed to come naturally to him. After successfully completing what seems to be a catalogue of appraisal courses, experience requirements, and a demonstration report, he earned the MAI designation from the Appraisal Institute. He would later complete the designation requirements for the SRA designation. Andy is currently working in his Master’s Degree in Real Estate at Georgetown University, as well as progressing with a CCIM designation.
He manages to balance work with his sporting activities, volunteer opportunities, an outreach program, and his three wonderful sons and wife, Kate.