Standalone Commercial Appraisal Software
for Real Estate Professionals

Commercial Complete - The Learning Curve
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General Comments
The goal of this article is to address the question "Is the Commercial Complete Learning Curve an easy one?" To put this question in context, we begin with a short discussion of Automation. If you have no reason to undertake a new learning experience, then the Learning Curve is irrelevant.

Automation - Why Do It?

You Have No Choice - You Must Automate, REALLY Automate
The way we see it, you have no choice but to automate. With static fees, firm deadlines, and reviewers looking over your shoulder, you MUST automate to compete.

The Components of Automation
By "automation", we do not mean buying a new computer or connecting a few computers in your office. That will not do it. Automation means automating the entire appraisal process and must include:
  • Automating your research
  • Storing your research and data in a database system
  • Automating your analysis methods
  • Automating the creation of the final narrative
If you are to REALLY automate, you must insure that all of the above separate automation components work together in a unified way. Anything less will significantly impact the benefits of your automation efforts.

The Benefits of Automation
The benefits of automation are self-evident.

  • Better Appraisals. When you apply the above automation components, the result will be better appraisals. The presentation will be more consistent, it will look more professional, the analyses will be more consistently reliable, and the appraisals will contain fewer errors.
  • Faster Turn Times. Automation will speed up each aspect of your appraisal process, resulting in faster turn times.
  • Fewer Reviewer Questions. If your appraisal product is better, the reviewer will have fewer questions. This will save you additional time by eliminating unnecessary responses and re-writes. It will also enhance your reputation with your clients and avoid a few embarassments.
  • Less Pressure, Less Tension. This is a benefit that cannot be quantified, but should not be overlooked because it may be the most important benefit. Properly designed automation reduces pressure on the appraiser in each step of the appraisal process.

    The list of benefits is almost endless. Each item is small in relation to the entire appraisal process, but the benefits are cummulative and result in less pressure and less tension on the appraiser.

Two Automation Choices
So the only question remaining is HOW to automate. You have two choices here:
  • Commercial Complete
  • the MS Office "system" way (either purchased from others or designed in-house)
When it comes down to which you choose, two factors ultimately should be considered. The first consideration should be whether your choice will provide all of the tools that you need to get the job done. The second consideration should be whether you can easily learn and use the automation method that you choose. We deal with the latter consideration in this article - The Learning Curve.

Whatever you decide, do something now. Don't wait. Time is money.

The Learning Curve

Is the Learning Curve Easy?
From time to time the question comes up. Frankly, this is a hard question to answer because it depends upon your general knowledge when you begin. We can say that our clients are real estate professionals who have undergone extensive training to prepare for their careers. They have already proven their ability to learn. Compared to USPAP, state licensing exams, obtaining designations, and learning the profession, Commercial Complete is a breeze.

To answer the question specifically, we touch upon the major areas of Commercial Complete in this article, function by function.

Easy Compared to What?
The question of an easy learning curve also raises the question - Easy when compared to what? We can answer this question straight out.

Commercial Complete is easier to learn and easier to use than whatever method you use now.

Commercial Complete is easier to learn and easier to use than ANY "system" that purports to "assist in the assembly" of narrative appraisal reports. These "systems", you probably know their names, are all based upon MS Office and they rely upon complicated spreadsheets, links, and macros to get the job done.

Commercial Complete is easier just because it is a tightly integrated standalone software program with a unified design and single user interface.

Your Job Is HARD
Completing a narrative appraisal, from the beginning of the research to the finished narrative report, is HARD and takes expertise in many areas. Today, it is not enough to just come up with a reasonable, supportable value.

You are expected to explain your reasoning and document your conclusions.

You are expected to cover all of the bases to comply with the various regulatory bodies and Scope of Work requirments.

You are expected to create a report that can be "understood" by the intended user.

Your report must pass the reviewer. In addition to your actual analysis, values, addresses and other information must be consistent throughout your report - you know the routine. If you use an old report to create your next one, you will inevitably miss a few things with the "find and replace" method and/or the "copy and paste" method. Of course this requires revising and resubmitting, a time consuming and avoidable exercise.

The First Step - Learning Your Way Around
Level of Difficulty - Easy
Time Required to Learn - A couple of hours

Commercial Complete is designed to work the way that you work. It is designed to meet the rigorous demands that commercial appraisers face today. The first thing that you will need to do is learn your way around. The user interface is unified and visual. Learning your way around is easy and most appraisers and other real estate professionals pick this up quickly.

Everything that you need is in front of you on one screen - the Property Data screen. Move your mouse over a button or a tab or a field name and a description is displayed. Press the F1 Key and an extensive Context Help system is displayed.

The best way to learn your way around is to just explore. Click here, click there, move your mouse over this and over that, read some of the Help information. Pretty much the way you would approach the exploration of a new vehicle that you just purchased.

Data Entry
Level of Difficulty - Easy
Time Required to Learn - Maybe an hour

Entering property data is self-explanatory and easy to learn. Because your business is real estate, you know what the field names mean and you know what should be entered in a field.

Whether you are entering data for a subject or a potential comparable, the method is the same. Each property is just a record in the database. Unlike form-filling software, you do not need to fill in all of the fields at once. As you gather data for a property you can return to the property record and add the additional information.

Some fields you may always leave blank. Commercial Complete is smart enough to handle blank fields properly.

We find that appraisers pick this aspect up so quickly that we spend very little time describing the process when we present Commercial Complete in a Demo. It really is intuitive.

How did you ever get by without a database?
How did you ever get by without a database?
Database System
Level of Difficulty - Easy to Moderate
Time Required to Learn - Progressive. Maybe an hour to understand and you learn what you need from there

A real estate professional's business is "property centric" and so is Commercial Complete. That is why we designed Commercial Complete to revolve around the Property Data screen. The database keeps track of the data for individual property records that you have entered. The Commercial Complete database is extremely powerful, but essentially transparent to the everyday user because he is nearly always working in the Property Data screen.

The learning curve here is described as Easy to Moderate because it really depends upon what you need to do. We have clients who have relatively small data needs to begin with and start with just a few property records. It is very easy for them to browse from record to record and select the properties of interest.

On the other hand some of our clients have 10,000 to 15,000 property records in their databases. One client has over 28,000 records. Commercial Complete can handle this too, allowing you to find a specific record or filter to just view a certain property type or sales occuring after a certain date.

Records can be sorted by various criteria, a group of records can be "selected" from a filtered set of records, etc. As your database grows you will want to learn more about searching and filtering for certain types of records, but you can learn this as the need arises. Thus, we describe the Time Required to Learn as Progressive.

Designating the Subject
Associating Comparables
Level of Difficulty - Easy
Time Required to Learn - Half hour to an hour

Unlike some databases, the subject and comparables are just properties in the database. Once you have learned how to enter the data for a property record, subject or comparable, the rest is easy.

A subject for one analysis can also be a comparable for the subject of another analysis.

A property can be used as a comparable for more than one subject.

We find that our clients pick this concept up very quickly and the Help system describes how to associate comparables with a given subject in some detail.

Really. It is easy.
Really. It is easy.
Adding Pictures
Level of Difficulty - Easy
Time Required to Learn - Progressive

Adding pictures to a property record is easy. Click the Manage Images button, browse to the image file, and click the Add Image button. There is no limit to the number of images that can be added to a property record.

We find that individuals who are less proficient in navigating in Windows folders sometimes take a little longer to learn how to take advantage of all of Commerical Complete's capabilities in this regard and that is why we describe the learning time as Progressive.

Those who know their way around computers pick it up instantly. Those that are less proficient with computers take longer. In either case, once you got, you got it.

Pictures are easy and you can edit them right in Commercial Complete too.
Pictures are easy and you can
edit them right in Commercial Complete too.

Sale Comparison Analysis
Level of Difficulty - Easy to Moderate
Time Required to Learn - Progressive

Once you have associated comparables with a subject, just click the Grid tab and you are ready to make adjustments. That part is Easy. But each property analysis is different. Some are inherently more complex than others. The more complexity involved, the more time you will need to spend learning.

Built into Commercial Complete are more than 1,000 analysis combinations that enable you to grid and analyze almost any property. But the actual time that you will need to spend really depends upon your analysis goals.

A Help button is provided on the Grid screen to assist you. We actually get few questions on this topic because appraisers understand the process and quickly pick up the techniques that best suit their analysis goals.

Income Analysis
Level of Difficulty - Easy to Moderate
Time Required to Learn - Progressive

Built into Commercial Complete are all of the analysis capabilities that we offer in our Investment Analyst product. Whether you are analyzing a small apartment complex or a multi-million dollar office building, it can be done in Commercial Complete. Development of a capitalization rate using the Mortgage Equity Technique and Discounted Cash Flow analysis are built in.

But if you want to utilize the powerful income analysis capabilities of Commercial Complete, you must learn the basic concepts of income analysis at a minimum. The more advanced your analysis, the more you will have to learn. Our built in Help system provides extensive information and we are always available to answer specific questions.

On the other hand, if you are comfortable with relying upon the Band of Investment or Direct Capitalization, there is almost no learning curve. You can continue to do it the way you do now.

Cost Analysis
Level of Difficulty - Easy
Time Required to Learn - Progressive

If you have a cost source like Marshall Swift, just complete the appropriate fields in Commercial Complete and the software will do the rest. We describe the time to learn as Progressive because Commercial Complete can aggregate the costs of separate improvements and components. Specialty properties will require a little more learning.

Word Processing
Level of Difficulty - Easy to Moderate
Time Required to Learn - Progressive

Once you have worked through the above areas, the data and analyses can be pulled directly into a Commercial Complete document. Just click the Narrative Builder tab, click the Assemble Document button, and select the appropriate template. Easy.

But the time that it takes for you to learn how to edit the document, insert pictures, maps, etc. depends upon your word processing skills.

It is easy for me, but my boss types with 2 fingers.
It is easy for me, but my
boss types with 2 fingers.

If you have a background in word processing, learning how to use the word processors that are built into Commercial Complete is easy.

We find that secretaries and administrative assistants have no trouble at all. They know how to format paragraphs, change text, insert pages, insert pictures, etc.

Unfortunately, many appraisers are a bit weak in the area of word processing. Many know only the basics. How to copy and paste, how to scroll to a place in the document, how to enter text, etc.

Those individuals will take longer to learn how to edit and customize Commercial Complete documents. If you are a 2 finger typist, it will take you longer. That is OK though, because the appraisal templates that we provide are ready to go and an appraisal can be easily generated once the data is entered.

Explore and learn as you go. We can connect to your computer and work with you to get you up to speed.
Level of Difficulty - Easy
Time Required to Learn - Progressive

Overall, we can say with confidence that Commercial Complete has an Easy Learning Curve. We can also say that the Time Required to Learn is Progressive. You will learn what you need to learn quickly and continue to learn and "discover" many new Commercial Complete gems as you continue to use it.

In the 5 years since Commercial Complete was released, we have learned that appraisers, on average, take about a week to get out their first report. Of course, much of that time is actually spent analyzing the property and that is as it should be.

Commercial Complete will enable you to spend more time analyzing the property and much less time producing your reports.

We repeat what we said at the top of this article. In today's world, you MUST automate if you are to continue to compete. You have two choices: the MS Office "system" way or Commercial Complete.

Whatever you decide, do something now. Don't wait. Time is money.

Call Us for a Personal Demonstration
We invite you to explore the many benefits of Commercial Complete. Call us at 800-884-1630 and we will lead you through a personal demonstration.

Take a look at the Demo. You will see the difference immediately.
Seeing is believing!
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The Efficient Way to Complete an Appraisal
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The Old Inefficient Way

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What Do You Need to Prepare
a Commercial Appraisal?

Residential Narratives Too
Your Clients will notice the difference too!

The Old-fashioned Way
C'mon! Still using manila folders and spreadsheet programs?
C'mon. Still using manila folders and spreadsheet programs? And what about all of these other programs that you will need?

Learn More about Commercial Complete
All of the above in one powerful standalone program!

Click here to Explore the Many Benefits of Commercial Complete

Commercial Complete History

Beginning its tenth year, Commercial Complete just gets more powerful and more comprehensive while remaining just as easy to use. When software is written from scratch, the difference shows.

While Commercial Complete is officially two years old, it has a long history.

Caprate Calculator was introduced in 1987 and is the "granddaddy" of Commercial Complete. Caprate was an income analysis program designed to develop the Mortgage Equity Technique and simultaneously prove the calculations using the Discounted Cash Flow method. It was easy to use and well accepted by the appraisal industry. From time to time we still are asked about it. Veteran appraisers still remember it.

You will see the distinct footprint of Caprate Calculator in Commercial Complete. The original Caprate algorithms are still incorporated into Commercial Complete. They have been tried and tested by thousands of users for over twenty five years.

Investment Analyst was introduced in the early 1990''s along with the slogan "The Expert is in the Software." Powerful "lease by lease" capabilities were added so that even complicated income analyses could be performed without the need to create spreadsheets that were prone to design error and user error.

Extensive mathematical proofs were added behind the scenes so that the user could always have confidence in the results.

Over the next decade, the user interface was refined and enhanced each year to make data entry simple and intuitive. This friendly user interface remains a part of Commercial Complete today. Investment Analyst also remains a solid income analysis tool in its own right and is still offered for those who do not need a real estate database or extensive narrative capabilities.

Commercial Complete Database

In 2002 we began using the name Commercial Complete to describe the optional real estate database that could be added to the Investment Analyst product. During the next several years this database functionality, user interface, and report capabilities were enhanced each year, based upon user input.

The Commercial Complete real estate database has evolved into a powerful, easy to use database that is comprehensive in its capabilities. It is now the basis of the Property Data screen in Commercial Complete.

Narrative Complete Word Processor

By 2006 Investment Analyst provided all of the analysis capabilities that an appraiser needed to analyze a commercial property. Income analysis, a real estate database, sales comparison analysis and the aggregation of building costs were already incorporated into Investment Analyst by 2006. All components had been tried and tested by users.

But it become apparent to us that a "Complete Solution" could not be provided until word processing was added so that all of the data from Investment Analyst could seamlessly be incorporated into a finished narrative document.

We looked at all of the options. The most obvious was to utilize the linking capabilities of MS Word to insert the Investment Analyst data into Word documents. This had the advantage of using a word processor that was already familiar to most real estate professionals.

However, we soon realized that it was an awkward solution at best. It would just be a variation of the MS Office "system" approach that we had rejected long ago. MS Word is a bulky product that was designed to accommodate everyone in general, but no one in particular. Links get broken, different versions of MS Word have different requirements. Users would have to switch back and forth between programs, making the solution inherently more difficult and unreliable. Users of our software could not call Bill Gates when there was a problem with MS Word and we could not support MS Word. Using MS Word was just not practical or good for our clients.

So we decided to create our own word processor to "merge" the Investment Analyst data into a narrative document. It was a big step and took more than two years to develop.
Narrative Complete was introduced in 2008 and refined over the next two years. This standalone product was designed to work in conjunction with Investment Analyst to merge the analyses that were generated by Analyst into a narrative appraisal document.

Though Narrative Complete was effective in automating the document creation process, it had the same major shortcoming that plagues MS Office "report generators". A user had to switch between programs and screens often in order to enter data, verify the information entered, and produce the document. For us, this was an unacceptable solution to offer our users. So in 2010, Narrative Complete was discontinued and the functionality of Investment Analyst and Narrative Complete were blended into Commercial Complete. Everything was integrated into a single standalone product where all functionality revolved around a single screen.

Commercial Complete Today

The component parts of Commercial Complete have been tested by users over many, many years.

Today, Commercial Complete is the
Complete Software Solution." Those who see this software in action for the first time immediately recognize the benefits that are available when a single standalone software product is integrated to handle all aspects of the appraisal process, from data entry to a finished narrative document.

As one of our users recently commented; "Those other products are just not in your league." One of the significant benefits of our "property centric" standalone software, when compared to MS Office solutions, is that each new feature that is introduced actually adds to the simplicity of the product. We do not just add new spreadsheets that further complicate the process. Instead, each new feature is carefully considered and seamlessly integrated into the Commercial Complete visual interface.

Always New

Since Commercial Complete was introduced in 2010, it has continued to evolve. It just gets more powerful and more comprehensive while remaining just as easy to use.

Click here to learn about the many enhancements added since 2010 that are designed to increase productivity, improve the quality of your analyses, and make your final work product stand out.

Commercial Real Estate Software, Narrative Appraisals, Income Analysis, Cost Analysis