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!

UncleZev

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