I am very pleased to out this Valuers Dozen up. The subject of this one is someone that I look up to in the profession. Stephen Roach, MAI, SRA, AI-GRS is a thought leader in the valuation space. His firm, Jones, Roach & Caringella, Inc is a well respected one. Stephen has served in some very important positions with the Appraisal Institute (AI) going back to 1991. Presently he is the chair of education and member of four other committees with the AI. He is considered by many to be one of the best instructors in the AI. On a personal note, Stephen is someone that I know that loves to find good food. Dear readers, I give you The Professor, Stephen Roach, MAI, SRA, AI-RRS.
Courtesy of Stephen Roach
VN: How long have you been in the profession?
SDR: This is my 40th year appraising. I got a job with a local MAI the day I graduated from college, and I’ve been at it even since.
VN: What is your favorite thing about the profession?
SDR: I love figuring out the question. For the kind of work that I do, it’s not always clear what the actual question is, and sometimes the clients need help figuring it out. I enjoy helping them do that. And then I enjoy solving the problem that I may have helped to define.
VN: Who are your mentors and idols within the profession?
SDR: In terms of mentors, the gentleman who hired me, Andy Smith, saw something in me that I may not have seen in my 23-year-old self at the time. I’m eternally grateful to him for that and for the opportunity and the encouragement. My first business partner, Robert Jones, was also a great partner, friend, and mentor; he shared his experience and helped me grow as an appraiser. My idols early in my career were the appraisers and teachers who I viewed as industry and intellectual giants – guys like Jim Mason, John O’Flaherty, Bill Kinnard, Frank Harrison, Bob Foreman, and Jim Graaskamp (truly sorry if I left anyone out!). More recently, my idols are the people who are moving the profession forward; they’re the thought leaders of the profession, in my opinion. I’d put folks like David Lennhoff, Richard Parli, Jeff Fisher, Jim Amorin, Leslie Sellers, Nelson Bowes (RIP, buddy), Ted Whitmer, and Jim Vernor in that list (even sorrier if I left anyone out). I also have a huge amount of respect for the people who step up to help lead the Appraisal Institute, which I consider to be the most important organization for appraisers in the world (AI publishes more books and develops more courses than anyone else, and I view AI as the keeper of the flame of the body of knowledge). I really look up to all of these people, and it’s a true honor to call them colleagues.
VN: What are some of your passions inside the profession?
SDR: I really enjoy teaching and testifying. Perhaps that’s because I think those two are opposite sides of the same coin, as both require listening carefully, figuring out the question, and watching the listener to make sure that the explanation is making sense to them. I particularly enjoy helping the next generation of appraisers get a good start and find their passions in the profession – some truly great folks did that for me, and I am happy and proud that I can help pass it on.
VN: What are some passions of yours outside of the profession?
SDR: The most important thing in the world to me is my family. I’ve been married over 39 years, and I am so grateful for every one of those days. I’m super proud of my children, both successful in life and their chosen fields. I also love to ride my motorcycle (and my Vespa) – the quiet time is very relaxing, and I love to travel.
VN: Where do you see the profession in 3 years? 5 years? 10 years?
SDR: I’m not sure that I can break down the timeline like that, but my suspicion is that the profession will continue to evolve and fragment. I see three major trends on the horizon. First is the continued emergence of AVMs, so-called hybrid appraisals, and other alternatives to the traditional model of residential appraisals. I don’t mean to sound alarmist, but I see this as an existential threat to a large number of appraisers in the country, and I can’t imagine that demand for these traditional appraisals won’t continue to erode in the future. I suspect that this trend will spread to the commercial world in due course, although likely to a lesser extent due to lower homogeneity of the product. The second trend I suspect will continue is the fragmentation of the work. When I stated in the profession, our four-person appraisal firm did everything – loan work, counseling, litigation support, houses, commercial property – whatever came in the door. Over the past 40 years, I have seen more specialization by property type and even by issue, and I suspect that trend will continue. The third trend I see continuing is the change in company size and structure. When I started in that small firm, we were able to get relationship-based work from just about every major financial institution in the area (from local and regional banks and S&Ls up to the national powerhouse banks). My impression is that much of this work is now going to larger firms, and that the smaller independent firms are having a harder time competing, especially in the more urbanized parts of the country. I see this trend as largely responsible for the “franchise” models (like IRR and Valbridge) and the continued growth of the appraisal offices of larger national and international brokerage firms.
VN: What is one thing about your personal business that you are most proud?
SDR: I am proud that we have found a niche that we find interesting, keeps us busy, keeps us challenged, and compensates us well. I’m proud of our great team of appraisers who excel in solving difficult problems. I’m proud of the fact that we see a wide variety of different problems, and that we figure out the question and then solve it. I’m probably most proud of the fact that our clients call us back for future work, reinforcing to me that we helped them solve their problem the last time they called.
VN: If you could change one thing about your business model what would it be?
SDR: Big picture – nothing. I very much enjoy the kinds of assignments we work on, and I love the fact that we have relatively little competition in our space. I could certainly use a cleanup of my desk, but if that’s my biggest complaint, I suspect that life is pretty good.
VN: What are some present goals for you and what you do are doing in the valuation space?
SDR: I still enjoy what I do. In the past few years, I have transitioned a bit into more complex litigation, and I’m doing a lot of review and methodology testimony. I’d like to continue down that path. It sounds funny, but my professional goal is to sign my name as few times as possible in any given year; this isn’t because I want to work less or bill less, but I’d rather work on complex assignments that take some time.
VN: If you could change one thing in valuation, what would it be?
SDR: I would make the profession more academic. I see what we do as a true profession, but I fear that we are often not seen that way from the outside. That’s largely our fault, in my opinion, as I see and hear a number of appraisers who really don’t seem to be interested in life-long learning and growth. I’d like to see us all strive to educate ourselves on the body of knowledge and apply it correctly every time. This is an honorable profession, and I fear that some treat it like a mere job.
VN: What advice would you give someone just getting in the profession?
SDR: Head to the top, not the bottom. There’s a lot of competition, mission creep, external threats, and low competitive fees in certain parts of the profession. That’s not true in other areas of the profession. Also, get a professional designation. No one will treat you like a professional if you don’t act like one. Lastly, get involved with your profession. Your volunteer work will pay off more than you suspect in ways that you cannot now know or even suspect.
VN: This last one is for you to discuss or talk about whatever you would like.
SDR: Life is beautiful and wonderful, but unfortunately, it’s relatively short. So, let the small stuff go and uplift each other. And hug your parents and tell them how much you appreciate everything they have done for you. Trust me – I had that opportunity with only one of mine, and it will mean the world to you when they are gone. Spend time with people and things that make you smile and be that person who makes others smile. Finally, stop putting ice cream on pie – it ruins both.
There you have it folks. Stephen is a great advocate for the profession and an example of someone that has made a career out of not staying inside the proverbial box. There is life outside of the lending world. Happy Fourth of July.
Please suggest anyone that you may feel would make a great subject for this series. I want to see some of our colleagues get some exposure. firstname.lastname@example.org