Saving time and money during the appraisal process using LightBox valuation: A customer success story
LightBox recently spoke to long-time appraiser Jim Hutchinson, the owner of Hutchinson Valuation, Inc., to find out how the LightBox Valuation commercial real estate valuation software has streamlined his workflow, eliminated the need for time-consuming manual tasks, and changed the way his business operates, helping him more easily meet the demands of clients in a changing industry
Tell us a little about yourself.
I started appraising in 1986. I began in Phoenix, Arizona, as a residential appraiser, then moved into commercial real estate appraisal. Later I worked for Bank of America and First Interstate Bank in Reno, Nevada, before starting my own company, Hutchinson Valuation, Inc. At one point, I had three other appraisers working with me, but now it is just an intern and me. My sole focus is on commercial appraisals in northern Nevada.
How have appraisal tools improved over the years?
They are more efficient and powerful. For years I relied only on Microsoft Word and Excel, which I manually connected. At various times I tried to create a database, but I mostly reverted to pulling information from old appraisals. The ability to access data online attracted me to Valuation. You don’t want to lose the information you collect when you’re capturing it. Trying to keep historical data in Excel was difficult—often, it would get lost because Excel is basically an analysis program and not a robust database. However, linking Excel to an online database really improved my business model, allowing me to keep all the information I was capturing online and easily transferring it back to Excel for analysis.
What features of Valuation do you like?
The platform has many strong features, such as allowing saved searches for comparables sales, rentals, expense comparables, and capitalization rate comparables, making processes that were formerly slow much quicker. Also, the Valuation team continues to enhance the database and provides a national real estate database with mapping to quickly create comparable sales.
I also appreciate Valuation’s ability to capture the subject property site, improvement, assessment, and zoning data. The Valuation collection of demographics, zoning information, and assessment information is also a time saver. In the past, I’d have to research these attributes by searching each city or county myself, but localities constantly change their online databases, impeding access and slowing down the research process. Valuation solves that problem by providing the information almost instantaneously, giving me a leg up. It saves me time—which means it’s saving me money.
What other features of Valuation help you with your daily work?
Calculating the subject site area—including those properties with excess land, surplus land, and or multiple parcels—is easier, and the initial research now automatically allows me to combine multiple parcels into a single subject property. Mapping is easier, and I don’t have to go back and build graphics to include within the reports, as this is automated.
One thing recently changed in the Excel template adjustment grids. After making my adjustments for differing attributes of the comparables, the adjustments are automatically transferred to the Word report. Not having to retype changes made in the adjustment grids prevents redundancy, saves time, and keeps potential errors out of the Word document.
Also, the demographic information spares me the expense of a separate subscription for this data, and the new research tools allow you to search for comparables sales across the United States.
How much time has Valuation saved you?
A significant amount compared to before. Valuation uses an Excel-to-Word based process that connects to the online database platform to other tools, saving me at least four or five hours per appraisal. This frees up time for other things, from producing more reports for clients to spending more time with my family.
Would you recommend Valuation to other people in the industry?
Yes. The industry continues to change and become more competitive. However, many appraisers don’t want to change what they’ve been doing. Using Valuation would really make their lives easier. If most appraisers could see how Valuation works, they would realize it can help them with research, comparables, reports, and efficiencies.
About the LightBox Valuation technology platform
LightBox Valuation—a new offering that streamlines the entire valuation process, from bidding to report delivery—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
Learn More: LightBox Valuation
LightBox is the world’s leading real estate information and technology platform. Through operational excellence and a passion for innovation, LightBox facilitates transparency, efficiency, insight, and prediction for real estate investment and location analytics. LightBox customers include commercial and government agencies requiring definitive real estate data and powerful workflow solutions, including brokers, developers, investors, lenders, insurers, technology providers, environmental consultants, and valuation professionals. LightBox is backed by Silver Lake and Battery Ventures.