Automation haunts many discussions about the future of work, employment, and the economy. But technological advances may soon hit homes in an unexpected way: could real estate appraisers be replaced by robots?
That's the conclusion of a recent article in Bloomberg, which discusses how advances in big data and computing are helping automate this knowledge-based job, perhaps a harbinger of how advances in machine learning mean an ever-widening circle of professions are at risk.
The future of the profession has become a topic due to a recent decision by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two institutions that facilitate the flow of funding for home loans nationwide. In the past, both of these entities have occasionally allowed appraisal waivers when evaluating low-cost loans. But recently, they've changed their stance, starting up a program earlier this year that would waive the new appraisal requirement for homes where the loan-to-value ratio is low. Instead, they'll accept any appraisals on file from the last five years. In June, Freddie Mac said it would start accepting automated valuations for some refinancing loans.
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This decision will reduce the number of appraisals being requested, says Appraisal Institute President Jim Amorin, and implicitly suggests that a model with less human participation is just as good.
"There's no replacement for an appraisal in most cases," Amorin tells Curbed. "Many of the computer models use public information that hasn't been verified. Even Zillow will tell you it's an estimate, not an appraisal."