Let me introduce: mass appraisal
The explosion in the availability of property data, coupled with advances in machine learning, means the quality and transparency of automated valuation models is getting better than ever.
Eric Allen is a busy man. In addition to joining to the RICS Americas Board, Allen is Commissioner of Land Valuations and Senior Executive Director at the National Land Agency in Jamaica. Hurricane Dorian, which wracked the Bahamas earlier this year, has put a sharp focus on the need to back up paper records with digital data and prepare for the next big storm.
The aftermath of the storm and the recovery effort in the Bahamas, has highlighted what a major issue land rights are throughout the Caribbean, both for people and the economy. In the Abaco Islands, paper records were destroyed, buildings were levelled and the ground was covered in debris. The first step in rebuilding is determining boundaries and ownership. Without this step, disputes will hamper rebuilding efforts.
The Caribbean nations have a similar post-colonial heritage and face the same challenges including increasingly severe storms, rising sea levels and the need to protect coastal regions and small islands from the impacts of climate change. Developing the local knowledge to address these concerns would benefit other regions facing similar challenges. Critical to this process of ‘land governance,’ is land registration, which is often the first step in protecting land rights.
RICS’ work in the region has helped to foster confidence in government and professional land practices. In Allen’s own National Land Agency, there are 19 RICS-qualified professionals, building confidence in public valuations.
“The public sector is strong when there are expert, trained professionals at the helm,” he said. “We are building that public trust and when people see MRICS or FRICS next to a name, they have less anxiety. They know that accepted international methods and standards are being employed. They know we’re adhering to a rigorous ethical standard.”
The public sector is strong when there are expert, trained professionals at the helm,” he said. “We are building that public trust and when people see MRICS or FRICS next to a name, they have less anxiety. They know that accepted international methods and standards are being employed. They know we’re adhering to a rigorous ethical standard.
“In times of disasters, it is of utmost importance to both the recovery and business as usual that we be able to assess and value properties in a fair and equitable manner,” said Allen. “There’s the social aspect, in which we obviously want to ensure people maintain their rights to their land.”
Through the NLA, Jamaica is now embarking on a process of implementing an electronic Land Registry, which will place it at the forefront of mitigation strategies for effective land governance in the event of disasters, and will bolster the ease of doing business in the Island’s burgeoning property market. He believes similar initiatives in the rest of the Caribbean would be of great value.
“We want now more than ever to bring economic investment to the Bahamas and the region as a whole,” he said. “Investors need to be confident in what they’re purchasing and how it is being appraised. Uncertainty about rights to land or property is a major impediment to economic development and to recovery efforts in the aftermath of major disasters”
Eric Allen is the current Chair of the RICS Caribbean Leaders, and he sees the success of the RICS brand in that region as a model for expanding RICS’ presence elsewhere. In the Caribbean, RICS has successfully developed an inclusive and diverse membership.
“Obviously every region has its own particularities,” he said, “but communications is going to be key everywhere, as is training. The more trained professionals we have in a region, the more industries see how important that MRICS or FRICS is.”
Still, there are areas he believes need more attention in the Caribbean.
“We are behind the curve on proptech,” he said. “It can have some great applications here. Automation, particularly in the valuation field, would be vastly impactful.”
“But if I had to zero in on one thing, I think Dorian exposed the need for RICS to help foster more robust emergency preparedness.
As RICS grows and the Governing Council includes members from the Caribbean, Africa and East Asia, we have an opportunity to collaborate more by sharing best practices. There is a lot of work to be done across the world, and one of the strengths of RICS is that it has the expertise on the ground to deal with that global scope.”