Ranked by the number of licensed real estate appraisers in L.A. County offices
The fundamental role of a real estate appraiser is to provide a professional opinion, usually an estimate of a property’s market value. Typically, appraisers are employed by lenders to estimate the value of real estate involved in a loan transaction. Appraisers also provide opinions in litigation cases, tax matters and investment decisions.
In spite of a robust economy in 1999, the top 10 appraisal firms in L.A. County employed a combined 14.7 percent fewer full-time appraisers than the top 10 firms did in 1998. In fact, they reported lower numbers in every category of appraisers. Higher interest rates get the blame; they resulted in fewer refinancings of residential mortgages last year than in 1998, and put a damper on commercial transactions.
Another contributing factor to the overall reduction of appraisers in L.A. County is the easy accessibility of automated valuation models. Individuals as well as banks and institutions can calculate, with little time and effort, a fairly accurate appraisal of a property through the Internet. However, the quality of data can differ from a hands-on valuation because an appraiser can provide a wealth of information that’s unavailable on an AVM.
Of the companies on this week’s list, only No. 1-ranked PCV/Murcor concentrates on both residential and commercial appraisals. Some appraisers believe that other firms will follow suit, because it’s important to diversify in order to survive.
Pomona-based PCV/Murcor has been No. 1 on the list of L.A. County’s largest appraisal firms for seven years running. The firm now employs 14 fewer licensed real estate appraisers than it did in 1999 because a large subcontract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development expired. It concentrates on both residential and commercial valuations. The firm was recently honored with the Fannie Mae Award as its No. 1 appraisal company in the Southwestern United States.
Although PCV/Murcor only has two offices outside Los Angeles (in Chicago and Las Vegas), owner and President Keith Murray says the company is doing an increasing amount of business in other states like New York and Texas. Technology has made the wider geographic reach possible. PCV/Murcor has a network of both independent and staff brokers around the country who forward information to the company including digital photos through the Internet and via e-mail. After receiving the raw digital data, PCV/Murcor compiles it into final form for the client. Many of its client relationships began in Southern California, but grew as these clients expanded to other cities around the country.
Murray focused on building PCV/Murcor’s Web site in 1999, and the site now accounts for 60 percent of the firm’s business. A client can place an order and track it from anywhere in the country.