Appraisal firm focused on being ‘meaningful, credible, reliable’

by Lynne W. Jeter

Published: October 4,2004

Clients of Jackson-based IEG Realty & Financial Services have found the company to be such a reliable provider of real estate appraisals that the company changed its name to reflect that attribute. On September 21, IEG formerly became known as Reliable Appraisal Services Inc.

“We changed our name because we are committed to providing appraisals with integrity, with values that are meaningful, credible and reliable,” said Jarrett Aiken, a certified general appraiser who established the company in 1997. “We don’t want to just give someone a number. We want to give them an indication of what their home and property is worth so they can make appropriate decisions.

“For example, if someone wants to know the value of their real estate for planning their will, they want a reliable number. That’s their family they’re looking out for.”

Ironically, Aiken stumbled into the real estate appraisal business by simply providing good customer service in his role as a financial services advisor for Prudential. When he met appraiser Henry Dunklin, he wanted to learn more about his job to better service his financial clients.

“Henry became my mentor,” said Aiken. “The more I learned about his job, the more I felt drawn to the business. He talked to me about coming on part-time. That led to full-time. And eventually I wanted my own business.”

Today, Aiken handles residential appraisals for homes valued at $500,000 and up and commercial appraisals throughout Mississippi. Among his current projects: an eminent domain case for the Tunica Airport expansion. His staff of three licensed appraisers and two trainees primarily handles residential appraisals for homes valued under $500,000. The service area extends to Copiah, Hinds, Madison, Rankin, Warren and Yazoo counties for mortgage lenders such as AmSouth, BancorpSouth, BankPlus, Merchants & Farmers, Precision One, Realty Mortgage, Trustmark and Union Planters.

“We have a pretty big shop for Mississippi,” said Aiken. “Most appraisal offices are one- or two-man shops, and if someone goes on vacation, nobody’s available. We have an office manager, and there’s always someone to take calls and answer questions, let people know statuses, and talk with them about the appraisal process.”

In addition to providing real estate valuations for primary and secondary mortgages, mortgage refinancing, private mortgage insurance (PMI) removal, estate planning and divorce settlements, Aiken also provides employee relocation services.

“For a while, we were very busy with relocations, but I’ve noticed quite a slack-off,” he said. “We still get prison-related relocations because of the federal prison in Yazoo County, but with the closing of WorldCom, we don’t see too many corporate relocations anymore. Not many Nissan people are relocating to the area. It’s not as rich for relocation as it was five years ago.”

With interest rates rising this year, there’s not as much call for valuations for PMI removal.

“If homeowners have enough equity in their home, they should still consider refinancing even with slightly higher rates because the interest is tax deductible and they would want to get rid of the PMI insurance,” he suggested.

Residential appraisals range from $350 to $450, depending on the size of the house, and can usually be completed within 24 to 48 hours, or sooner for a “rush” fee. Commercial appraisals, depending on property types, can usually be completed within 10 days to three weeks, said Aiken.

“I’ve appraised quite a few churches and warehouses and can usually turn those around fairly quickly,” he explained. “Some commercial appraisals take longer, depending on the detail of work required. Overall, we have a little bit quicker turnaround time than the norm on residential and commercial work.”

Reaching out with technology

The company Web site, www.reliableappraisalservices.com, launched early last year, is chock full of information, including an online appraisal ordering service featuring automatic report status updates and electronic delivery of the final report. By the beginning of the year, Aiken hopes to have credit card payment capabilities online.

“Our online appraisal ordering service now accounts for about 35% of our business,” said Aiken. “The technology we use and our understanding of the community in which we serve and its unique market characteristics make us stand apart from our competition.”

Even though most homeowners are prepared for appraisals, many need to be educated on the process, said Aiken.

“All minor repairs ought to be dealt with before the appraisal, such as the broken window covered by a piece of plastic or the faucet that drips,” he said.
“Homeowners should also know that at the time of viewing, we have not established a value of their home. We’ve simply collected the data to work the process. Knowing that usually makes people feel better. We often hear that the appraisers before us came into the home, looked around for five minutes, took the money and left. They know we’ve taken the time to understand their home and can expect a good market value.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.

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