Brian Murray runs an independent appraisal company, splitting his time between appraisals and review work for a national firm. When he’s not working on appraisals, he is also investing in real estate. Brian recently spoke with LightBox about how Narrative1—part of Valuation, LightBox’s all-in-one appraisal and valuation suite—has changed the way he writes appraisal reports.
Can you tell us about some of the pain points you faced in your work, before adopting LightBox Valuation?
Writing reports using older software has always been difficult. I would type over a previous report and would often forget to change certain words or paragraphs. For example, if I were appraising a retail building, I might mistakenly leave in a comment about an apartment complex. With Valuation, I have an online space to store data about my sales, leases, and subject properties. I spend less time entering information—clients are paying me for analysis, not typing—and I’m not worried about losing data.
The turning point for me was when I lost all of my data after experiencing a computer failure, while I was using an older system. Coming out of that disaster, I knew I needed a cloud-based system to store my information. It’s a major bonus that Valuation also helps me with my work in real estate investing and managing properties.
What features of Valuation do you appreciate most?
Over the years, the appraisal templates on Valuation have gotten better, and modifying them to suit my needs has gotten easier. The Valuation support team has been wonderful, and I’m grateful for the regular updates you provide. And as more professionals in the field use appraisal and valuation tool, I’ve benefited from seeing how they create personalized templates. LightBox templates make the appraisal process faster while maintaining a professional look and feel that impresses customers. Plus, I don’t have to worry about losing or retyping data.
Using Valuation requires minimal data entry, and the research and mapping features are top-notch—all the information is there and can be dropped right into a report with the click of a button. The research helps me generate interesting insights, and I can see fees and timeframes that help me decide if I’m bidding too low or too high. I can also get an indication of how many jobs are open in a particular area and whether fees and turn times are going up or down. The analytics in other systems aren’t as good as those in Valuation—most other products don’t offer the same ability to create great charts and graphs, and their summary pages aren’t comprehensive. It’s very helpful and efficient to be able to download data from other services and upload it into my database.
Valuation’s aesthetics are another strong feature. Customers want a final product that catches the eye. I’ve reviewed appraisal reports that look like they were written on word-processing software from the 1980s. They may contain the right information, but they’re hard to read and they don’t look professional. The ability to manipulate fonts and other design features in Valuation is very useful and improves the look of the report.
If you were recommending Valuation to a colleague, what would you tell them?
I would definitely recommend Valuation to any appraiser. There’s no way I’d go into this field today without it. It makes a huge difference. No other products on the market can do what it does—they’re simply not as robust. With Valuation, I’m empowered to take on appraisal projects of any size or complexity and deliver great reports to my clients. There’s really no other way to go.
About the LightBox Valuation technology platform
LightBox Valuation streamlines the entire valuation process, from bidding to report delivery. It includes:
- An easy-to-use RFP and job management portal that’s already connected to a growing list of 1,200 commercial real estate lenders that procure more than 250,000 jobs a year
- An all-in-one property research portal that provides access to more than 300 datasets and map layers, including zoning, tax assessment, property sales, demographics, flood, wetlands, seismic, hazards, crime, schools and much more
- An integrated and highly customizable report-writing solution that automatically imports the research data and maps
- A powerful business insights app that provides real-time industry benchmarks for appraisal fees, turn-times, win rates, and job volume, as well as query tools to monitor business performance