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Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Real estate appraisal is a solid, middle class profession—one that requires a four-year degree and extensive on-the-job education, but also pays 40% more per hour than the median job. But appraisal licenser Brian Weaver wrote in an industry newsletter that "The future for appraisers specializing in residential mortgage work is coming to an end... No bang. Not even a whimper."

Algorithms deployed by firms like Zillow are getting better at analyzing characteristics of a home and its neighborhood to determine its value. The firm says that it on average predicts a home's value within 5% of its sale price, down from 14% a decade ago. Meanwhile, home-finance giant Freddie Mac recently began using automated appraisal for a small fraction of transactions.

Government to the rescue? Would-be automators will have to change government regulation if they want to cut human appraisers out of the picture. The industry says handing this important pillar in housing finance's architecture over to computers is dangerous, and important players like Freddie say that they plan to rely on human appraisers for the foreseeable future. But as computerized appraisal methods improve, potential savings could become irresistible.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: President Trump becomes increasingly rash, and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.

Biden Cabinet confirmation schedule: When to watch hearings

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Jan. 16 in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The first hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's Cabinet nominations begin on Tuesday, with testimony from his picks to lead the departments of State, Homeland and Defense.

Why it matters: It's been a slow start for a process that usually takes place days or weeks earlier for incoming presidents. The first slate of nominees will appear on Tuesday before a Republican-controlled Senate, but that will change once the new Democratic senators-elect from Georgia are sworn in.