I sat down for breakfast this week with a friend and really fine appraiser who recently started his own business. A lot of his work is in the commercial mortgage sector, which is pretty typical for a fledgling practice.

I don’t do a lot of mortgage work, so I was surprised to hear of the new system he described. Banks apparently keep “score” based on the number of review letters an appraiser receives. My friend’s justifiable compliant is that most banks don’t differentiate based on the content of the letter.

Was the problem simple typos or minor math errors? Was the letter just the reviewer’s opinion? Or was the situation more grievous? An issue of lack of competence or gross negligence?

Regardless, these letters are “strikes” against the appraiser. Making matters worse is that many appraisal reviewers feel an obligation to point out some problem, no matter how small, to prove that they are doing their job and to justify their role.

To be clear, I don’t like it. This system does not reward the most competent, diligent or creative professionals.

No, it rewards the most obedient, the ones who fill in the blanks perfectly. The ones who color inside the lines. The ones who keep their head down and do what they are told.

It is the way of all things since the dawn of the industrial revolution. Toward conformity, repeatability, mass production. Cheaper, faster, cheaper, faster. A race to the bottom.

I choose not to participate.