Value Connect on a mission to revolutionize appraisals in Canada
When former mortgage broker Chris Bisson identified several pain points in how mortgage appraisals were being done in Canada, he decided to do something about it.
The result was Value Connect, an appraisal technology company he founded in 2015 with the goal of eliminating appraisal pain points so people can get on with work and life. The result? Improved service for all involved in the appraisal process: lenders, mortgage professionals and their clients.
“From 2008 to 2013, I really noticed a big shift where lenders were asking mortgage brokers to use appraisal management companies to execute appraisals, and my experience was that they generally resulted in poor customer experience,” Bisson, Value Connect’s founder and CEO, told CMT.
The biggest pain points he found were frequent fee changes, missed deadlines and inaccurate reports (often produced by out-of-town appraisers).
While completing his MBA at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, Bisson remembers receiving a call—the fifth such call in three days—that an appraiser was asking for more money to complete his client’s report. In that case, it worked out to an extra $100, or a 33% increase that the client wasn’t expecting. This small amount of money causes huge headaches for mortgage sales representatives and brokers.
“That’s the day I said to myself that this has to end,” Bisson said. Together with some colleagues in his program, Bisson said he decided to do his final project on the appraisal management company in North America. After further research, which was validated by a marketing firm, Bisson found that practically every salesperson, broker, bank rep, etc., had the same pain points that he had identified.
Despite regularly ranking as a top 100 and even top 10 broker in Canada, and funding about $90 million a year in mortgage deals, Bisson was so convinced by the market need for a new type of appraisal system that he handed his brokering business to a family member in order to devote 100% of his attention to Value Connect.
“We spent over a year carrying out more research and looking at what features people would want in the platform,” Bisson said. “What do appraisers know, what the brokers knew, what the lenders wanted.”
Today, Value Connect counts over 1,000 appraisers as part of its national network—all of which having been individually vetted—and has so far partnered with about 70 lenders.
Incorporating technology in the appraisal space
Technology has played an important role in Value Connect’s success to date in addressing industry issues such as the accuracy and timeliness of appraisals. Its “smart appraisal system” gives lenders control to easily manage the appraisal process while also meeting regulatory and investor requirements.
“When we started, we wanted to be the best appraisal management company in the space. I can say that we achieved that,” Bisson says, adding that the company has morphed from being an appraisal management company to being a technology company specializing in appraisal management and analytics solutions.
“We realized appraisers hadn’t seen any real benefit in the technology in the last 20, 30 years. And so we’ve developed software that allows them to provide better turnaround times, which helps the mortgage broker,” he added.
The company’s mobile inspection app, for example, allows appraisers to record all of the features of the property on their phone by dictating notes, taking photos and labelling them in real time. Within minutes of leaving the house, the appraiser can upload the report back to the office and move on to the next property.
Bisson said the platform allows appraisers to turn the appraisal report around by the next day, or even the same day. He added that Value Connect’s turnaround times during the pandemic were half that of its competitors.
“So, if they’re a one-person show, when they get to the office their notes are sitting there ready for them, they can copy-and-paste them into the appraisal report and drag-and-drop the pictures in,” he said.
“Appraisers love it. The brokers and lenders will tell you anytime you can reduce our turnaround time, it helps us look like rock stars and makes our customers happier, which allows us to get referrals.”
Not only that, but the built-in automation, which automatically checks submitted appraisals against a particular lender’s rules and deal specifications, cuts down on inaccuracies and reports being sent back.
Bisson notes that between 5% and 10% of submitted appraisals in Canada are returned due to errors, though in the U.S. a stunning 50% of appraisals are rejected.
With Value Connect’s system, the report is verified before being submitted, with any potential issues being flagged for the appraiser. Similarly, it takes away much of the legwork on the lender’s end.
“When risk rules are triggered, the lender can just click that link and it takes them right to the spot in the report that requires their attention so they don’t have to go searching,” Bisson says.
In expansion mode
Despite the many lender partnerships forged to date, Bisson said he still feels like the company is just “scratching the surface” in terms of what it can do.
“If we’reonly getting 2% or 3% of the lender’s annual business, then we’ve got quite a lot of opportunity,” he said.
And what’s the pathway to securing more of that business? “Spreading the good word,” Bisson explains. “Brokers want change. They tell us all the time. Which is why they need to tell their BDMs, their managers, and the leaders on the operations side of the house.”
He notes that it takes time for industries to shift from their old ways of doing things, but sees more pressure from some lenders to require brokers to use appraisal management companies such as Value Connect.
And while there are some Mortgage Investment Corporations and banks that currently require appraisals to come from Value Connect, Bisson said he hopes there will be more to come based on the company’s positive track record.
“We’re making inroads and that’s the good news,” he says. “And we’re doing it by providing mortgage professionals and lenders with Peace of Mind and our industry-leading customer experience.”