Time to reflect

As I have stated previously, reflections never quite do complete justice to the object that is being reflected. The image is altered from the original, even in the slightest degree. In fact depending upon how far away the object is will depend upon the accuracy of the reflection. This is why when a person reflects upon his or her past, the reflection can and will alter with the passage of time.

For the reason if someone wishes to learn from the past, it is crucial to reflect upon our actions and the results of these actions as often as possible. Many make new years resolutions and try to reflect upon the activities or inactivities, as the case may be, from the previous year.

For me personally this time has come, as this is the eve of Rosh HaShanah, the new year. I hope that my actions, my thoughts and my words have been such that I can take solace in their remembrance.  For all of those things that I have done wrong, I am truly sorry, but the important thing is to reflect and determine how to improve.

For my friends, and you know who you are, thank you all for being there for me and for granting me forgiveness as we move forward into the new year. L’shana Tova!


Isn’t there more?

As a youngster I can remember wondering, never asking, but wondering why there was not more when my mom would make dinner or cupcakes or the like. I do not believe I was raised to be a selfish child, or adult, and my parents never intended to spoil me, but I was very spoiled indeed. You see I had parents, at home, who tried to teach me right from wrong and tried to instill within me a sense of dignity, decency and integrity.

I knew that things were tight at home, but my parents never let me know how tight. My questioning for more, started out as a selfish desire for cupcakes, or cheesecake, or cookies. Today, I look at my life, the lives of my adult children and my wife, and I realize that as parents we, she and I, did ok. Our children did not grow up to be rocket scientists (yet) and may not find the cure to cancer or aids, but they did grow up. They have each learned a sense of dignity, decency and integrity. They are each learning that sense, like courtesy, is no longer common but it is worth the effort to develop and to maintain in their lives.

My mother passes away in 2002, and is greatly missed, mostly when I am trying to be comforting to my children or when I am feeling overwhelmed in life. But her sense of humor and strong sense of self stay with me even today and more importantly I can hear her speaking as my children tell me about their lives or ambitions or struggles her sense of humor and sense of dignity remain strong.

My father is well and has remarried. He and his wife Melba are happy together and even though he and I have let life slip between us, he is still the guiding force through which I live much of my life. His sense of honor, sense of ethics, sense of duty, sense of commitment and sense of self have enabled me to develop into the man that writes this blog.

Still a man gets up in the morning, exercises, prays, eats and goes to work. His day filled with solving problems for people who have generally not taken the time to develop the senses have been meticulously mentioned above, he concludes his day with prayer, exercise and a brief conversation with his wife and or children and retires with a good book and hopefully a game of chess before resting for the night. Yet with all of this activity, if he is not careful, he can still be left feeling empty and alone wondering in his small childish inner voice, “isn’t there more?”.

Literally thousands of books have been written on this subject, and depending upon the belief system one has developed there are as many answers to the same question. But when you boil it all down, I have come to the basic understanding that life is not about activity, or routine (although without either or both of these we would live a mundane existence). Life is about learning, growing, and appreciating all of the small things that come our way. It is appreciation that adds value (no pun intended… ok a little pun was intended). When we develop a true sense of thankfulness and appreciation we can see ourselves in a more realistic fashion and gain an understanding that our very existence is no more or less important than anyone else. At this point when we have or lose something we should take time to truly appreciate both the gain and the loss, because it is very process that helps us to become better people.

As my father always quoted to me, “pain makes man think, thought makes man wise, wisdom makes life endurable”. Although this statement could be examined and further analyzed to understand that it is not actually the thoughts but the process that is important, I will leave this for another time.

For those of you who made it through this post, I thank you. Remember life is what you make it, so if yours sucks, go make it something else.

See you around the water cooler!


Stand for What is Right

The days of right and wrong seem to have been replaced with reasonable and customary.  In a world where we are afraid to stand for what is right, for fear that someone else may disagree or feel judged, we have lost our footing. If you don’t believe me, just open your eyes and watch the world losing its mind. Am I someone who believes a religious right should rule? No.

I am someone who believes that there are fundamentals in life that should not be abandoned for fear that we may upset another culture or way of life. The reality is simple: respect, courtesy, honesty, integrity, fairness these are all attributes that people appreciate from others, but it seems that they are sorely lacking in what is quickly becoming the social norm.

What does that have to do with the appraisal of real estate? Perhaps nothing, perhaps more than anyone of us realize. If the men and women of earlier generations would or could speak to us, they would remind us that the foundational ways of behaving should be the base of all activities in life. How we present ourselves and treat others is so much more important than I can possible hope to convey in this short rant.

But I will leave you with this thought: only a truly immoral society feels the need to try to legislate morality, for if we were all acting as we should, there would be no need to impose laws to encourage correct behavior.

See you around the water cooler!


By the way kudos to https://mamasweekly.wordpress.com which is written by my wife. Without her looking over my posts, you would have to suffer with my continued misspellings and grammatical anomalies. Thank you sweetheart (and you know you are (winking)).

Mortgage Fraud or Misunderstood?, part two

Today – the media is on full alert for instance of mortgage fraud and many real estate professionals are looking over their shoulders and peeking into shadows to try to avoid any allegations of wrong doing.

This of course is good to help the public wake up, but any of you who have been around long enough to remember why President Carter was bad for the economy can appreciate that none of these so-called fraud schemes are new. Due diligence by a real estate professional has always been required. Appraisers who investigate the market, without bias, who report their analysis without an agenda, and who draw conclusions based upon the preponderance of market evidence have always been backbone of sound financial decisions.

The real concern should be who has taught the last several decades of people who market themselves as real estate appraisers. I can no longer count the number of people I have come across during my career who sincerely did not know that we appraise real estate, not real property. That we are to act in manner that is independent, impartial and objective, not as an advocate to any party of a transaction.

The attempt to regulate appraisers is not a bad idea, but the people that are in charge are not the answer. A recent post on the mortgage fraud blog on Linkedin suggests that Frank-Dodd only served to further buffer the lender from the appraiser, not the other way around. The appraiser is now isolated from all contact and if they wish to work they align themselves with AMC’s who are placed in a position to decide their fate. Now if an appraiser upsets a client they are facing the loss of several streams of business from one AMC instead of one lender at a time.

America is supposed to be a country where a person is innocent until proven guilty and has the ability to face his or her accusers and yet, we as appraisers are now facing AMC reviewers who have the power to decide our fate and if we are removed from a panel there is no notice, no chance for rebuttal or appeal.

This is wrong and needs to be changed… ok I have said my piece for now.


See you around the water cooler!

Simplicity is Genius

As the title states, simplicity is genius. Every once in a while I read reports where the appraiser wishes to blazon their diction; demonstrating their professional expertise and industry knowledge to such a degree that absolutely no one can understand their findings or opinions of value.

It is at those times that I remember a very simple, humble man who taught me to appraise and to live and enjoy my life. He would say to me,  “Never look too sharp, or speak too wise.”  Also what he said was “Simplicity is Genius”. In other words, never speak in a way that cannot be understood, or write in a way that will leave the reader confused. What he was conveying to me was the following message. The typical end user of our appraisal reports are not Harvard Graduates or PhDs. They are educated mortgage and real estate professionals who look at hundreds of files in a month’s time.

They are not english teachers nor professors, and they are not looking to be impressed with our ability to spin a tale or write a report. What they do need is for us to take situations and appraisal problems that are often complex and “boil it down” so that the presentation is simple and easy to understand.

If you must use the word fenestration to impress the reader that you took an Appraisal Institute class, fine, but take the time to explain that “the fenestration, or placement and number of windows and doors, enhances the market appeal of this property”.

As this same man taught me, if we strive to be bigger (or smarter) than the people we serve, then we will soon find ourselves replaced by others who can make those same people feel bigger and smarter. No one appreciates a boor. Although it can be fun on occasion to put a hostile client in their place, the reality is that our clients are best served when we stay humble and keep our communications simple, concise, and to the point.

In previous posts I have stated that real estate appraisal is as much of an art as it is a science. I believe this is true, although many would have us remove the artist from the equation thinking that with pure science the client will not be mislead. But the truth of the matter is that so long as we are measuring people’s reactions to a piece of property, people will need to be conducting some part of the analysis. Computers are incredible tools that allow us to create, store, analyze and send vast quantities of information, but without the artist behind the keyboard, the results, findings or conclusions lack the very “reason” that is behind a reasonable estimate.

I do not personally miss the days of IBM Selectric typewriters or Polaroid Cameras or Fox Photo to develop the film, but there was a sense of satisfaction in those days that when an appraisal was completed it was considered a document that could stand on its own. Today, with an appraisal software package and a digital camera almost anyone can create the appearance of an appraisal; however, as a professional reviewer, who conducts forensic reviews, I can tell you that the artisans are a dying breed.

See you around the water cooler!


Universal Appraisal Dataset or UAD

I am confident that most of us by now are familiar with the commonly known acronyms that are used in the appraisal industry. There are ASC, BEA, CFR, DESA, EPA, FEMA,  FIRREAFHA, FNMA, FREDDIE, GNMA, HUD,  IMF, JEC, KSC (ok that is actually the Kennedy Space Center – but you try and come up with a relevant K acronym), LOCIS, MSA, NAR, OTS, PHA,  UAD, URAR, VA, and SRIP  to name a few.

But how many of you are familiar with the following list. I take no credit for the majority of these as they have been around longer than the Internet.

ARTOR = Appraiser Really Tired of Rebuttals

BAFV = Best and Final Value

BISS = Because I Said So

CREATURE = Certified Real Estate Appraiser Turmoil Under Rebuttal Episode

FFLOP = Forum for Licensed Objective Professionals

FNMA = Florida National Mortgage Association (inside joke)

FOLO = Freaked Out Loan Officer (some times misspelled, by switching the L with the last O)

FROG = Finished Room Over Garage

FU = Functional Utility

For New Appraisers  – – IMHO = In my humble opinion

For Used Appraisers – – IMNSHO = In my not so humble opinion

Language used by the client – – RUSH = Really Unusual Sh*tty House

Language used by the client – – SUPER RUSH = A particular value needs to be reached

MC Addendum = Market Confusion Addendum

TROUSE = (Trailer house with stick-built addition)

Enjoy – – I know there are several others.. but it is late.

See you around the water cooler!

Uncle Zev