Recently, we had the great opportunity to interview Nikki Rinkus – Field Staff Appraiser at Clario Appraisal Network. Nikki Rinkus has been appraising real estate in the Chicagoland market for 30 years and also holds her sales broker license. Over those 30 years, she has experienced unprecedented technological shifts in both arenas and has always been an early adopter. Some of her most interesting side jobs over the years include international courier and DJ.
Nikki’s appraisal Specialties: Appraisal: Cooperative Units; Retrospective Reports; Field Reviews; Desktop Reviews; Estate; 2-4 Unit; Land; Conventional Financing & Purchase; Short Forms (2055, 1075); Narrative. Sales Specialties: First Time Buyers; Distress Sale Purchases, Sales.
This Spring, Nikki joined Jeff Allen, President of CubiCasa and Louisa Dickins, Co-founder of LMRE for the podcast “How Are Appraisals and Floorplans Going Completely Digital”.
The 6th episode of season 9 of The Propcast starts with a description of CubiCasa’s product, what it provides, and how it speeds up floor plan and appraisal processes. Louisa, Jeff, and Nikki chat about the trend of tech adoption and digitization in the industry and how CubiCasa has a strong foothold in 160 different countries. Jeff explains how CubiCasa differentiates itself from competitors and describes the PropTech scene in Finland. One of the main takeaways in this episode is that technology isn’t eliminating any jobs, it’s creating more efficiencies. Our favorite quote from Nikki is: “You can go completely digital, I walk into an appraisal inspection with just my phone, no pad of paper, just the phone and it does everything.”
We asked Nikki more questions regarding her appraisal experience and how CubiCasa app became part of her appraiser’s practice.
Anastasia: What are your favorite parts of the appraiser’s job?
Nikki: My favorite part is the investigative/research aspect and then reconciling all of the data I’ve collected. I like to think of each appraisal as solving a puzzle.
Anastasia: What are the most difficult aspects when appraising a property?
Nikki: Difficult typically equals time consuming. For me measuring properties has always been one of the most difficult aspects of appraising a property. Also deriving adjustments for unique properties where there is limited data poses huge challenges.
Anastasia: How did you get the exterior and interior measurements previously?
Nikki: When I first started appraising in the early 90s I started by using a measuring wheel. I think about 10 years ago I upgraded to using a laser device.
Anastasia: Why did you decide to try CubiCasa?
Nikki: I was asked to participate in a pilot to try out the technology a couple years ago. Earlier this year when Fannie announced the adoption of ANSI standards I became very motivated to start using the technology to get a jump on becoming compliant in a way that might have been more of a pain point without it. Since then I have used it in almost 100 reports.
Anastasia: What do you like about using CubiCasa for an appraisal?
Nikki: It saves me time, it’s accurate, it’s ANSI compliant, it looks cool! But best of all it was the last step in digitizing my field inspection which means now all I need to do an inspection is my phone. No more clunky clipboard, pen and measuring device! Also I am in Chicago where the weather can be somewhat temperamental so no more exterior measurements in inclimate weather is a huge plus!
Anastasia: What do you think about the GLA (Gross Living Area) output from the CubiCasa scan?
Nikki: The output is great! Very aesthetically pleasing and with the quick edit/fix request features there is a lot of flexibility if changes are needed/wanted. I also love that it produces an ANSI compliant sketch which takes a lot of extra steps out of my hands.
Anastasia: Are you interested in 1004 desktop appraisals? Why or why not?
Nikki: Yes, I am as long as the compensation is fair and the 3rd party data is reliable. At least in my uban market, the inspection (including scheduling) typically comprises about a quarter of the total time it takes to complete a traditional appraisal so the compensation should be in line with that. I understand in a more rural or sprawling market where travel times are longer the ratio may vary. When hybrid appraisals were first introduced a main concern was the accuracy of the sketch but now that the sketch has been standardized by using CubiCasa I have a lot more trust in the data. Additionally, the new 1004 Desktop is only to be used for purchases so there will also be current data from the MLS to rely on. I would say it is similar to doing an Exterior/2055 report but without having to visit the site and with better, more current data. Now with Google Street you can virtually walk a neighborhood so the concern of not being able to drive the neighborhood is also less relevant. That said I feel most comfortable doing these types of reports if I already have competency in the subject market.
Anastasia: How does using CubiCasa impact your appraisal business?
Nikki: It’s definitely increased my efficiency and also helped economically because I’ve been able to go 100% digital. I’m no longer bringing pen and paper which means I no longer need to keep paper files and all the costs associated with that.
Anastasia: How long does it take for you on average to create a floor plan with interior walls when scanning with CubiCasa? How does this compare to your previous approach?
Nikki: On average it takes about 10 minutes (less if it’s a small house or condo unit and more if it’s a very large or complicated property). I would say the biggest impact is on the larger, more complicated properties. For instance a 2 1/2 to 3 story house with a basement and garage and several outdoor spaces would have taken me at least 30 minutes to measure versus using CubiCasa where it’s done in 15 minutes or less. For that same house I would spend up to an hour or so on producing the sketch (maybe more if I include interior walls) versus the 10-15 minutes it takes to get a CubiCasa sketch into your report including quick edits and/or any fix requests. If no changes are needed to the original output it can take less than 5 minutes to get the CubiCasa sketch into my report.
Anastasia: How much time do you typically spend on-site to complete an appraisal without CubiCasa? How much time on-site by enabling CubiCasa?
Nikki: This is so dependent on the size of the house and the complexity of the layout. But I would say without CubiCasa about 20-30 minutes vs CubiCasa about 5 to 15 minutes
Anastasia: How much time do you save per week by using CubiCasa?
Nikki: Since I do a varied mix of appraisal products that don’t all require me to do an inspection it’s hard to answer that question. Assuming I’m doing a full week of traditional appraisals it could save between 5 to 7 hours in a week.
Anastasia: Do you have concerns about using an app rather than measuring by hand? (Ex: liability, accuracy, comfort level based on traditional tactics, etc.)
Nikki: It is a fairly typical trait of appraisers to be skeptical which makes them hesitant to embrace data that they have not vetted so of course at first I had all of those concerns. With any method there is the possibility of error or mistakes, be it human or machine. Ultimately, as appraisers we are collecting data, vetting it for credibility and then reconciling it. We decide what we are putting in our reports to make sure that it is as accurate as possible. For myself, I took the time on the front end to vet the technology and it has paid off big time on the back end and now CubiCasa is just another tool in my toolbox.
Anastasia: What would you tell an appraiser who is hesitant to use CubiCasa and trust the results?
Nikki: If they’ve been appraising long enough I would start by asking them if they remember how they felt the first time they didn’t have to go to the photo lab to wait for the photos to be developed, or if they remember going from using a digital camera to just using their phone to take photos, or going from measuring with a tape measure to a wheel, to a laser, or any of the other big shifts we had in the tools we use. Technology has no doubt liberated us and allowed us to become more efficient. So I would challenge them to go out for two weeks on their inspections and simultaneously use CubiCasa and their traditional measuring approach and compare the results. I think they’ll find that it’s not only accurate but faster and more detailed. I’m confident that by the end of those two weeks, if not before, most appraisers will never want to go back to physically measuring. And what better time than when volume has slowed a little and being compliant with ANSI is now required. The new wave of appraisal practice is here and the only way to not get left behind is to grab your board and hop on!
Check out the floor plan and GLA report with calculations Nikki Rinkus received after scanning the property with CubiCasa:
Download example of GLA (Gross Living Area) report created by Nikki Rinkus
More insightful aspects about Nikki’s professional experience:
“With 30 years experience in Real Estate I have covered much of the Chicagoland area. My current focus is mainly the City’s North and Northwest Side and on residential appraisal. Over the years I have continually improved my skills and have embraced challenging assignments with enthusiasm, diligence and professionalism. I believe that experiencing the sales process through the eyes of typical buyers has improved my insight into their expectations and their effect on value which has strengthened my appraisal skills immensely.”