Creating an Integrated Appraisal
SW System in Excel
Alan Gertner
Tejas Appraisal And Software
Alan Gertner Bio
• Graduated from Colorado St University,
BS and MS in Computer Science
• In the high tech industry for 20 years, last 5
years working on a public data standard and
data exchange between vendors
• Appraiser in Austin, Tx for 12 years
What is an Integrated SW System
• SW within the same tool or set of tools, work
well together
• Same HI and usage wherever possible
• Prefer using industry standard SW, primarily
• Some separate tools may be needed
• Tight integration is preferred over loose
Open System Philosophy
• Plug and Play user selected tools
• Allow user to select best in class tools
(sketching, mapping, cost estimate, data
source, etc.)
SW Development Issue
• SW Developer should attempt to limit the
creation of new SW code
• The SW maintenance cost is much higher than
the development cost
• Leverage off existing functionality and only
develop new SW when needed
Path to Becoming an Appraiser
• Typical Appraiser path involves Trainee and Mentor
• Another path is a Provisional License, no Trainee / Mentor
• Provisional License possible but is a challenge and not
recommended (TALCB discourages this option and is phasing
it out)
• Pursued Provisional License, started with nothing
• Treated as an Engineering Problem, i.e. identify and evaluate
the appraisal process and the required tools (software,
hardware, data sources, field inspection equipment, camera,
Appraisal Software Analysis
• Appraisal Report Creation process appeared
straight forward
• Found a small number of Appraisal Software
• Quick investigation into the companies to
determine viable options
• Requested demo copies from several
First Appraisal SW Demo
• Started with low end Appraisal SW
• Created a 15 page Appraisal Report
• Numerous Usability and HI issues (Subject
address change requires editing each page in
report, cut/paste/import photos were
mangled, HI inconsistent with my other SW
• After evaluation, not a viable option
Second Appraisal SW Demo
• Popular Appraisal SW, high end
• Appeared to be a heavyweight installation and
usage application (required lot of resources
and system mods / requirements)
• Overwhelmed by the HI and the duplication
with other generic SW packages on my pc
• Might work, but not a desirable option
Third Appraisal SW Demo
• Mid range Appraisal SW package
• During the evaluation, I discovered the
company was struggling and may cease to
• Stopped evaluation
• Not a viable option
Appraisal SW Evaluation Results
• Numerous issues with the available Appraisal
SW packages
• Human Interface
• Complexity
• Lack of needed functionality
• Heavyweight installation / usage requirements
• Did not fit my requirements, only reason to
consider writing an Appraisal SW System
Appraisal SW Requirements
• Support the Appraiser workflow
• Tightly integrated system which leverages off
my existing software
• Similar HI and usage as my other SW tools
• Simple functionality with extended
functionality available if needed
Appraisal SW Tasks
• Admin, business records, bookkeeping
• Manage related parties (Appraisers, Clients, etc.)
• Manage Assignments (everything related to an
• Create Appraisal Report (Std Forms, Forms Library,
Sketch, Maps, Photos, Import Data, customizable)
• Deliver Report
• Archival
Professional Appraisal Report Contents
Cover page
Table of Contents
Cover Letter
Std Form (1004, 1004C, 2000, etc)
Appraiser Comments
MLS Listing History
Photos (Subject, Comp, Field Inspection)
Misc (Plat, Survey, Flood Map, Aerial View, etc)
Appraisal Report Contents
• See Example
Appraisal SW Candidate
Combination of MS Office Tools
Access / Word / Excel
Already have on pc
May be a viable option
How tightly integrated are they?
May be too complicated and overkill for my
Appraisal SW Candidate
MS Word
Should work well for report creation
Not sure about other requirements
May be able to use with another product to
obtain required features
• Not sure if best option
Appraisal SW MS Word Issues
• While attempting to use MS Word for
Appraisal SW, I quickly realized MS Word is
text centric and an Appraisal Report is data
• Text centric, primarily text
• Data centric, primarily data points
• MS Word does not work well for an Appraisal
Report with many data points
Appraisal SW Candidate
MS Excel
Excel is data centric rather than text centric
Text processing is available but has limitations
Can be used as a simple db
Has drawing capabilities but no 2d sketch
May be a viable option
MS Excel vs Appraisal SW Requirements
Manage Parties
Manage Assignment
Create Report
Deliver Report
Yes (folder)
Yes (backup)
Excel Appraisal SW Design Overview
CAD, Map,
Aerial, etc.
Tejas Appraisal SW Folder Hierarchy
main folder
Excel VBA addins
data files use by appraisal sw
std and customized forms
customized report templates
misc. notes on possible assignments
active assignments
completed assignments
Tejas Appraisal SW Folder Hierarchy
• See Examples
Excel Appraisal Report Creation
• Significant challenge
• This is a “must have” requirement for an
Appraisal SW System
• This challenge had to be overcome for Excel to
be a viable option
Excel Appraisal Report Creation
Create Report templates
Create library of items to add to a report
Able to insert library items into a report
Library item formulas must be updated after
insertion into report
• Allow user customizations
• Create report to be delivered to the client
Tejas Appraisal Report Creation
• All the Tejas Appraisal Reports are considered
narrative reports.
• Reports are created from scratch.
• Reports may include GSE standard forms such
as 1004, 1004C, 2000, etc.
Forms Library
• Standard Forms
1004, 1004C, 2000, etc.
Need Fannie Mae approval, submit samples
Freddie Mac approval is not required
ERC (Employee Relocation Council) form
requires license and fee to use
• User must be able to created customized
forms and load into reports later
Excel Forms Library Implementation Notes
• VBA forms were considered for forms library
Increase complexity and costs
• VBA forms were not needed for many items
Easier and more efficient to use worksheet
Use cells, name references and formulas
• Leverage off existing functionality
Tejas Appraisal Sketch Package
• Initial implementation used an external
popular 2d Sketch package
• Several problems with the external 2d Sketch
HI was different
Lot of functionality, but difficult to use for
the infrequent user
Sketch was a large image file and fuzzy
Tejas Appraisal Native Sketch
• Second implementation was a native sketch package
built on top of Excel drawing functions
• Excel drawing objects may be customized
• Simple with advanced features available if needed
partition and label sketch
build sketch from smaller blocks, then combine
temp measuring stick available
cloak of invisibility
Tejas Appraisal SW Sketch
• See Examples
• Most complex sketch drawn was a circular
house in the shape of an Archimedean spiral
Tejas Appraisal Cost Approach
Cost data from any source may be used
Select cost options and perform table lookups
Uses Excel cells, names and lookup functions
Improved Cost Estimate Form 1007
Craftsman National Building Cost Manual
Approx $30 / yr for pdf version
2-3 hours / yr to update the Excel cost data
Tejas Appraisal Cost Approach
• See examples
Local MLS Issues
MLS data is Appraiser’s primary data source
Desire to import MLS data into Appraisal SW
Local MLS staff are not knowledgeable
MLS changes are not disclosed
Appraiser must work around MLS issues
Appraiser must understand MLS and Appraisal SW
Considered using RETS (R.E. Transaction Std)
MLS Staff hostile to this approach
Worried stealing MLS data
MLS Import Issues
• MLS Data must be normalized to Appraisal SW data
• MLS field names may change without notice
Current Days on Market -> CDOM
• MLS field values may change without notice
“T” becomes “True”
• MLS field default values and missing fields
blank vs space, required field is missing
MLS Import Issue
• See examples
Appraisal Report XML Creation
• GSE UCDP Requirement
• XML is a text file with Header info, Subject info
and Comp info
• Tejas SW uses two worksheets and VBA to
create XML
Header and Subject info
Comp info, use loop and indirect references
• Small VBA function to read the worksheets
and write to xml file
XML Creation
• See examples
Excel 2010 Notes
• Excel 2010 not as stable as Excel 2003
• Excel 2010 may be slower than Excel 2003
Many more rows x columns
65k x 256 to 1 mil x 16k
• Many Excel Names may cause slow
performance, primarily deleting or redefining
names, workaround it to turn off Excel
AutoCalc during large operations
Excel 2010 Notes
• File size may become huge if many unused
rows/columns are included in worksheet
1 mb -> 40 mb with 65k rows
Use <ctl> End to find the last used cell in WS
• Worksheet display scaled < 100% may impact other
WS items such as cell drop down menu button
(shrinks) and VBA AddPicture (picture loaded
incorrectly, workaround is Select WS in VBA first)
Excel 2010 Notes
• Formula window is 1 line and does not auto expand, have
to manually expand and shifts the worksheet down, Excel
2003 automatically adjusted the formula window based
on the info typed
• PropertyDB VBA update hangs (also in Excel 2003)
Either a bug in Excel VBA or in my code
Workaround is set VBA dbugger breakpoint and continue
Excel Useful Features
• Cell Data Validation
Define list of values
Specify the list as the valid values for a cell
Creates a drop down menu for the cell
• Conditional Formatting
Highlight cells that meet certain condition(s)
• Highlight items of interest in report
• INDIRECT, MATCH and INDEX functions table lookup,
useful with cost data and XML creation
Excel 2010 Excel Addins and Utilities
• Data Form Editor (better than Excel built in)
• JKP Name Manager for Excel cell names
• See Examples
Useful Misc Tools
• Custom UI Editor for MS Office
Create ribbon XML commands
• XML Notepad
View XML file
Use MISMO .xsd to validate field values
UCDP validation tool may identify other
• Diffpdf, compare pdf files
• See examples
MS Excel Resources
• Online forums, search web
• Search web for specfic Excel issues
• Many Appraisal Reports must be submitted to
UCDP and pass the GSE UCDP validation tool
• GSE and UCDP staff limit their support to their
selected vendors
• If you contact the UCDP staff, they do not
want to talk to you if you are not on their
selected vendor list
• GSE’s claim Lenders will assist Appraiseers and
Appraisal SW Companies to test with UCDP
and resolve issues.
• GSE’s cannot identify any Lender who will do
• GSE’s continue to make this claim even
thought they know it is not accurate.
• GSE’s and the GSE selected Appraisal SW Vendors
claim the UCDP / UAD / MISMO specification
documents are sufficient for Appraisal SW
Developers to comply with the GSE UCDP
• The GSE selected Appraisal SW vendors are
unable to comply with the GSE UCDP
requirements using the documents
• Require GSE UCDP testing and support
• GSE’s have not provided any publicly available
mechanism for the Appraisal User Community to
determine if an Appraisal Report XML file will pass
the UCDP validation test.
• At the same time, the GSE’s will begin blacklisting
Appraisers for non – compliance
• GSE’s have created a similar publicly available test
web site for the ULDD
GSE UCDP Test Web Site
• GSE’s MUST provide public access to the UCDP
XML validation tool so anyone (SW Developer,
Appraiser, Lender, etc.) can confirm if an XML
file will meet the UCDP XML validation tool
• Provide example XML files for each GSE Form
(1004, 1073, 1075, 2055)
• Provide Related Documents (links to MISMO,
UCDP and UAD specifications)
GSE UCDP Issue Examples
• XML comment delimiter caused UCDP to
reject file.
• Blank line in XML caused UCDP to reject file.
• UCDP was attempting to open the submitted
XML file, extract the embedded PDF file and
validate the PDF file. PDF file validation does
NOT work. UCDP was NOT supposed to
validate an embedded PDF file.
GSE UCDP Public Test Web Site Needed
• Needed by the entire Appraisal User Community
• Allow UCDP XML file validation and testing before
submitting XML files on “live” assignments
• Without this, the GSE’s are creating a monopoly
for the GSE selected vendors
• There was a back room deal between the GSE’s
and their selected vendors to limit UCDP access
and support
• See examples
Current Issues
• Need public UCDP Test Web site
• Appraisal Validation Tools that do not work on
all valid reports. Primarily pdf validation tools.
• GSE’s overloading Appraisal Form fields with
multiple values and special encoding (UAD
values, driveway, sold and contract dates,
etc.). Modify forms to create fields for
required values.
Current Issues (cont)
• GSE’s blacklisting Appraisers for UCDP violations.
GSE’s refuse to make UCDP validation tool publicly
GSE’s require Appraisers to maintain local property
db, primarily for Quality and Condition ratings.
Exposes underlying issue of using subjective property
attributes for blacklisting Appraisers.
Current Issues (cont)
• Multiple Report Formats (MISMO GSE, AI
Ready, ACI, pdf conversion, etc.). Must use
industry standard (MISMO GSE) and drop the
For example, AI Ready has 4 versions of report
(xml, pdf, mismo gse and embedded pdf)
which may be different
Current Issues (cont)
• Multiple MLS Systems covering same areas
Need a single MLS db and allow each local Board of
Realtors select which MLS system they use. User
decides which local BOR he wants to join, single
membership rather than many memberships.
National MLS db is best, state db is next best.
Very political, the MLS is a cash cow for the local
Board of Realtors.
Tejas Appraisal SW Summary
• Address the Appraiser work flow tasks
• Leverage off existing functionality
• Avoid writing many lines of code which need to be
maintained, approx 10k lines of VBA
• Originally implemented on Excel 2003
• Converted to Excel 2010
HI Ribbon
Few VBA functions changed
Worksheet spacing modified slightly
Excel 2010 not as stable as Excel 2003
Tejas Appraisal SW Best and Worst
• Best Feature
Wide Open
• Worst Feature
Wide Open
Tejas Appraisal SW Future ?
Shareware Release
Commercial Release of entire system
Commercial Release of subsystem(s)
Commercial Appraisal Support
Apply to other problem domains
Other (licensing, joint venture, etc.)
Tejas Appraisal SW Possibilities

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