Having founded Stonegate, an Indianapolis-based mortgage company, in 2005 and taken it public a few years later, Jim Cutillo got an insider’s look at how residential properties are appraised and valued. When he left Stonegate in 2015, Cutillo took some time to figure out his next move. He wound up in the St. Petersburg area, where he mulled his options.
“I literally sat in Pass-A-Grille for a year,” Cutillo said, “and was like, ‘OK, so what am I going to do now? Do I really want to do anything?’ It took me about a year and half, maybe two years. I did a whole bunch of market research on my own.”
The concept he came up with turned into AppraisalVision, a platform that aims to use technology to reinvent the home appraisal process, which, Cutillo said, has not changed in decades.
“The way I explain it to everybody is that the appraisal process today is much like calling a taxi used to be,” he said. “I go to a street corner and hail a taxi, but the taxis are all owned by a company that has these medallions that put them in a position where they’re the only ones that can do it. So what we’ve done is basically created an Uber-like model for home appraisers and home appraisals.”
Built by Cutillo’s tech company, Theoris Software, AppraisalVision uses data analytics and machine learning to streamline and optimize the home appraisal process for lenders, appraisal management companies (AMCs) and appraisers themselves. With Cutillo now operating in St. Pete full time — he bought a house in Old Northeast in 2019 — the concept has drawn the backing of Florida Funders, the Tampa-based angel investor and venture capital network, which invested $750,000 in Theoris Software. But despite that early win, Cutillo said there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“We’re creating a new business model, and that’s not easy to do in an industry the size of the mortgage industry, with processes and systems that haven’t really changed in 30 years,” he told the Catalyst. “It’s a hard concept to get across but we’re getting traction and we’re growing.”
Theoris Software has 22 employees but Cutillo expects that number to grow to at least 40 and possibly 45 by the end of the year, assuming he can find qualified applicants. To that end, he’s collaborating with Jody Thompson, a professor at the University of Tampa’s Sykes College of Business, who wrote a case study about AppraisalVision and has been encouraging UT business students to look into the industry as they weigh their career options.
“I’m like, ‘Hey, let’s create a class about real estate valuation, and I’ll teach it,’” Cutillo said. “It’s funny — it just doesn’t appear on any college curricula. That’s where we’re going with this.”
Home appraisers tend to skew older, Cutillo said, and so the industry needs young people, many of whom, he added, don’t realize that the starting annual salary is usually at least $50,000. “I need to hire kids,” he said, “business school graduates who are smart and know how to use Excel and do data analysis, understand accounting, finance … smart kids are what I need.”
Cutillo said he hopes AppraisalVision will appeal to young people who are not only smart, but also want to help address economic issues, such as Tampa Bay’s red-hot housing market that’s become problematic for not only aspiring homeowners but people who want to sell and trade up.
“It’s a science, it really is,” Cutillos said. “People think the appraiser just comes out, inspects the property and takes some pictures — that’s where it starts, but they have to do a regression analysis, and there’s a lot of data and comparative analytics involved. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, but you can’t be stupid. We’re building advanced valuation products that are going to help solve a lot of problems with overvaluation or undervaluation, and that’s really important.”