WASHINGTON — Appraisals, a critical part of real estate transactions, have customarily been done in-person by an experienced appraiser. However, with advancements in technology and the rise of big data, alternatives to the traditional appraisal field are beginning to become more prevalent in the U.S.

Traditional appraisal alternatives, like hybrid appraisals, broker price opinions and data-driven automated or desktop valuation models, can be incredibly useful and cost-effective tools. However, many in the industry, including the National Association of Realtors, urge caution when waiving traditional, onsite appraisals for home purchase transactions in order to ensure purchases are based on sound financial principles and do not put undue risk on consumers or the market.

Peter Phelan, deputy assistant secretary for Capital Markets for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, discussed how data and technology are bringing rapid change to the financial services industry and driving innovation. Because of this, it is vital that responsible experimentation with these new technologies — from hybrid appraisals to digitized mortgages — is facilitated for new and exciting market participants.

“The adoption of these new financial technologies is not a matter of if, but when,” said Phelan. “And with a new generation of tech-savvy homebuyers, this digital revolution will be necessary.”

Michelle Czekalski Bradley, a certified appraiser and broker with Czekalski Real Estate, Inc., agrees that appraisers need to be ready to embrace such new technology because it is already affecting the industry.

Timothy O’Brien, general manager of Clear Capital’s Appraisal Management Company, believes that hybrid appraisals create more choice, rather than lead to the end of appraisers. Consumers can decide on a scope of work that does not include an appraisal if the information provided by data collectors is adequate, saving homebuyers time and money. However, the quality and amount of data is key to making these products viable.

John Torvi, vice president of Marketing and Sales for Landy Insurance Agency, discussed the liability and legal issues that arise when appraisers and agents adopt these new appraisal products.

Insurance companies are slow to adapt to these advancements, so before appraisers begin taking on hybrid appraisals, they should check their insurance plan to make sure they are covered in order to avoid a lawsuit. Additional information and resources for real estate professionals about appraisals can be found at www.nar.realtor/appraisal-valuation.

This article was contributed by National Association of Realtors.