Cloud Augmented Mass AppraisalThe NEW Definition of CAMA
(Dallas) Thursday, February 3, 2022
It is time to move away from the outdated definition of CAMA (Computer Assisted Mass Appraisal) and usher in a new era in cloud software services. For more than 40 years, local government property appraisal offices have been utilizing onsite, legacy computer systems for their mass appraisal needs. However, over the last few years, a new, forward-thinking, software company in Texas has been forging a path to cloud-computing for the mass appraisal industry. This shift will improve how these local government offices work and ultimately redefine the meaning of CAMA industry wide.
Over the past four years, True Prodigy, based in North Texas, has created a completely cloud-based mass appraisal system, Prodigy Appraisal®, using full-stack software design. The enterprise system includes all the following modules necessary for complete operation of an appraisal district or assessor’s office: mobile data collection, improvement sketching, model-based valuation, sales analysis, appeal management and a comprehensive reporting system. All capabilities are accessible via a web browser.
Legacy Systems vs Cloud-Based Services
Traditionally, most CAMA systems have run on an onsite computer system at the appraisal office. This approach creates many issues for the office IT staff including requiring a high maintenance cost for backup systems, having to perform time-consuming software and hardware upgrades, complex system management and having to create disaster-recovery plans. In addition, during the valuation and appeal season when extra computing power is needed, an onsite system is often difficult to scale.
In contrast, with a cloud-based CAMA system, the software and hardware maintenance is handled by the software provider and a cloud service provider. One common cloud service provider, Amazon Web Services (AWS) approaches the ever-desired “five nines” (99.999%) availability so offices do not have to worry about service availability and AWS has no limit on its ability to scale.
Scalability of Cloud Services
For a case study on the benefits of a cloud-based system, take Travis Central Appraisal District. Each year, the office prepares over 320,000 residential market and equity comparison grids for the appraisal notice and appeal season. Even with a large in-house, state-of-the-art system, it would take weeks to get the grids produced in time for notice mailout. Sometimes the office staff would have to work evenings and weekends, or even around the clock, to meet the timeline. Running the same process in a scalable cloud environment with Prodigy Appraisal will allow Travis CAD to generate the same 320,000 grids in a mere 12 hours of processing. To perform the processing, the Prodigy system was able to scale to several cloud-based Relational Database Service (RDS) instances and Application Programming Interface (API) servers. When the job was complete, the system reverted to its normal operating footprint. And since cloud services are billable by the minute for usage, aside from the time-savings, there is also sizable cost savings. The cost for the extra capacity during the 12 hours is negligible compared to the more significant labor cost running their previous onsite system.
Let’s face it, IT departments are often in the unenviable position of having to provide computer services to their users with high expectations of little to no down-time. That promise is easier to achieve with the ubiquity of virtual desktops but could be difficult on the server side of the implementation. When computer hardware is onsite, restoration options are limited during a hardware or software failure. Offices are limited to the hardware they have on site and the failover systems they prepared. Redundancy is not available on the fly. Offices can be paralyzed as they wait on a repair part to arrive. In a cloud-based system, those limitations no longer exist. If a cloud-based system is well-architected as in the case of the True Prodigy solution, the system will be highly available at all levels of the technology stack. This would include cloud front services for code serving repositories, API services encapsulated in containers for fast failover deployment and RDS services with replication configured and striped on high-availability multi-zones. All this ensures that the Cloud Augmented Mass Appraisal system, the new CAMA, is available to an office and its users at the most critical times – which is always for an appraisal office that serves the public.
Cloud Augmented Mass Appraisal
The points covered in this article are only a few of the capabilities of a cloud-based system. There are many other cloud services that provide an even richer, more responsive experience for the user. These services include document scanning with artificial intelligence (AI) character recognition, barcode recognition for mass scanning of forms such as business property renditions and homestead exemption applications, GIS integration services hosted in the cloud, and robust data-visualization reporting services. Automated Valuation Modeling (AVM) is also available using sophisticated multiple-regression analysis (MRA) tools to develop models that can be applied across market areas providing appraisal offices options for mass valuation. For all this to be leveraged, a cloud-based CAMA system must be designed correctly from the beginning. The True Prodigy development team had to learn an all-new approach to software development methodology including new software development languages, new system architecture design and new software delivery methodology. All these approaches are necessary for the creation of a product that is revolutionary for our industry using a Software-As-A-Service (SAAS) delivery model.
With four years of proven success with multiple clients, True Prodigy is now ready to lead the mass appraisal industry into the cloud-services era of the new CAMA– Cloud Augmented Mass Appraisal.
President, True Prodigy, LLC