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The Commercial Side of Appraisals: An Interview with Chris Rolly of Orlando Commercial Real Estate

By Kristen Bosse

Please describe a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

Our company is called Commercial Investment Appraisers, and was started in 2010 in Altamonte Springs, Florida, with three associates and myself on staff. I started Commercial Investment Appraisers because I realized a smaller firm could offer a higher level of care for customers, including a better-quality product than the larger firms (avoiding the mass-produced appraisal), with quicker completion times at reasonable fees.

We are appraisers of commercial real estate. We don't do residential real estate appraisal, real estate brokerage, or real estate development, similar to other local "appraisal" firms. We focus solely on the valuation of investment real estate. Most commercial real estate can be placed under the categories of office, retail, industrial, and multifamily. For example, retail real estate may include shopping malls, shopping centers, restaurants, car wash facilities, free-standing retail buildings, daycares, and auto repair garages, to name a few. Industrial real estate may include warehouse, flex space, distribution, cold storage, business parks, and manufacturing facilities, among others. We appraise real estate for several purposes, including mortgage financing, estate settlement and planning, acquisition and disposition, tax dispute, insurance, and internal decision making.

How did you get into this line of work?

When I was finishing high school, an appraiser friend of my dad's suggested that I might be interested in trying real estate appraisal as a career. It fascinated me and you know how people go through college changing their majors with no direction? Well, not me. I went to college knowing the whole four years exactly what I wanted to do when I graduated. After I received my bachelor's degree from Florida State University with a major in real estate in 1989, I put out resumes to every firm I could think of, and within a few weeks, a guy named Alan Charron (currently owner of Real Property Specialists in Orlando) gave me a job. I have now been appraising commercial real estate consistently for about 24 years.

What specific qualities should a consumer look for in a qualified appraiser?

Someone who hires a commercial real estate appraiser should definitely find out if they have an MAI designation from the Appraisal Institute. This is different from a state-certification designation (although they should have that, as well), which mostly requires a simple two week class, working for an appraiser for a few years as a trainee, and passing a test. The MAI designation is highly respected by lending institutions, courts, corporations, government agencies, and other individuals requiring the highest standard for appraisal services. The Appraisal Institute has been around for over 75 years, with more than 25,000 members and 91 chapters worldwide. The MAI designation requires standards and ethics coursework, 4,500 hours of specialized field experience, eight weeks of lower level appraisal coursework, four weeks of upper level appraisal coursework, credit for a demonstration appraisal report on an income-producing property, and a 16-hour comprehensive examination. I currently hold the MAI designation.

What are some common mistakes consumers make upon hiring an appraiser?

Not checking with the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board (FREAB) to see if the appraiser has ever had any disciplinary action against them. You would be surprised at how many appraisers are disciplined state-wide each month. In 24 years of writing real estate appraisals, I have not had any disciplinary infractions carried out against me.

You seem to offer an array of different services- would you pick any specific ones out as your specialties?

The reason I love what I do so much is the diversity. Every property always has a "curve ball", and that's what keeps it interesting. For example, I recently appraised a marina located in a lake off the St. Johns River that was run as a yacht club, which included boat slips, a swimming pool and a club house. I had never done anything exactly like that, although I've appraised plenty of marinas in my career. So the answer to your question is no, there is not any particular property type that I specialize in. I like it all.

What sets your business apart from other comparable companies? Is there anything you do better/different?

Absolutely. I've worked for firms who can't get the appraisals completed in the time frame that they promise the customers, usually since the in-house reviewer gets back-logged with work and can't get the job completed in a timely manner. I've built my company around changing that. I tell my customers that if I'm late on the appraisal for any reason, then the appraisal is free. My appraiser peers cringe when I tell them that. So far, I have a perfect track record for delivering every report I've done on time, although I've had to work long hours at times to do so.

What is the most difficult service to perform?

Appraising vacant land. When a property is developed, you know what's there, and the developer has already uncovered all of the mysteries of the property. When the property is vacant, there are so many variables, such as what is permitted, which portion of the land is useable, what is located within wetlands or conservation lands, what can become useable by adding fill, what can be mitigated, and the list goes on.

What is the best way to get in contact with you?

Although I have an office phone line, I place most importance on my mobile telephone number. I want my customers to know that they can get in touch with a person quickly if they have a problem. I am very good about responding to calls and taking care of the customers immediately. However, I have a contact submission form on my website (www.commercial-appraisers.com) which I also quickly respond to as well, for those who prefer to do business via the internet.

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Kristen has written impressive content including press releases and feature stories...

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