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[Commercial Grade] Reminiscents Of An Old Timer

Commercial Grade is a post by John Cicero, MAI who provides commentary on issues affecting real estate appraisers, with focus on commercial valuation. John is a partner of mine in our commercial real estate valuation concern Miller Cicero, LLC [1] and he is, depending on what day of the week it is, one of the smartest guys I know.

John is starting to sound a lot like an old man with a pocket calculator, but with wisdom far beyond his boyish charm facade.
…Jonathan Miller

I was recently reminiscing about how much this field has changed over the past 23 years, since I first began appraising in 1985. We had no computers then. Rather, every appraiser had a yellow legal pad where he/she would hand write the entire report. The “boilerplate” would be copied from another report and taped onto the pad. We’d then give the pad to a typist who would take a couple of days to type the report. If changes were required, the typist would use “correct-tape” to replace one line of text with another. If she was good (I don’t mean to be politically incorrect, but we had no men typists), you could barely notice the changes, but more often than not the lines were crooked and extended well into the margins.

Fax and email had not been invented yet; the internet was the stuff of science fiction movies. (I don’t recall if Fed Ex service had begun yet.) We didn’t have the instant gratification of doing market research that we have today. Market research was done the old-fashioned waymanually sifting through property transfer cards that were mailed daily and making lots of phone calls. No googling sale comps, or subscribing to web-based data services.

It was before state licensing, and appraisers were actually respected. Holding the MAI designation meant something and young kids out of college actually aspired to being a professional appraiser.

Banks didn’t ask you to “bid” your labor, through web-based bidding sites. There were no goofy checklists that need to go in the addenda of reports.

Two things have remained the same over the past two decades: I have the same lucky HP-12c that I bought in May 1985 (though I’ve had to change the battery a couple of times), and fees have not increased a dime.