Is it Time to Take on an Appraisal Trainee?

Jo Traut McKissock Instructor Appraisal TraineeAppraisers are often reluctant to take on appraisal trainees. They fear that doing so will turn out to be a lot of time and energy spent, for little reward. They tend to assume that the trainee, once she earns the Certified Appraiser designation, will set up shop as a competitor.

On the other hand, the appraisal business needs fresh blood. The existing population of certified appraisers is aging—and in some markets, shrinking. Many appraisers have more work than they can handle, and the quality of their work suffers as a result.

We recently sat with Jo Traut, appraisal curriculum and content specialist at McKissock, to get her views on the pros and cons of hiring appraisal trainees.

Q: What are some advantages to taking on appraisal trainees?

A: By adding trainees to your firm, you bring new knowledge to your operation, because every new person will know something you don’t. A new trainee may have valuable experience in social media, accounting, or other fields, that can improve your current operation so that you’ll get more work, and do it more efficiently. Or she might have knowledge of a market with which you’re less familiar. One of biggest mistakes that some appraisers make is giving in to the fear that by hiring a trainee, they’re grooming a future competitor. It’s more to your advantage to look at it as training a productive employee. If you have a strong business, with enough work for everyone, and if you keep your employees happy, that trainee will see no reason to leave. By adding trainees, you add elasticity to your operation once they’re past the initial learning curve. Then you can bring on new clients; you’ll have sufficient staff for higher-volume periods—and, while you’re training the new people, you’re revisiting the basics and refreshing your own skills.

One of the downsides is that you’re limited in what kind of work you’re allowed to give to your trainee. Many lenders, in their engagement letters, make it clear that only a Certified Appraiser is to do the actual appraisal: not the trainee. Of course, the trainee can still assist in various ways.

Q: Can you think of circumstances where you should not hire an appraisal trainee?

A: If you don’t believe your business will grow, or if you’re not willing to make it grow, it’s probably not a good idea. Also, don’t hire a trainee hoping to dump your less interesting work on her. That’s a good way to lose her in the long run. Or you might just not like the process of training other people.

Looking to upgrade your appraisal license? Learn more with our free upgrade guide.

Q: Is there a standard model for training a newcomer, or do you see a lot of variation in how it’s done?

A: The standard model for taking on a trainee is on-the-job training, developing individuals by letting them learn by doing. But if you want to train someone successfully, you have to do more than that. Supervisory appraisers should enhance the trainee’s experience with off-the-job training, through conferences, courses, and so on—and this is where education providers get involved.

Q: Can you estimate the time and financial expense of teaching a trainee? Or is there too much variation across the market?

A: How long it will take to complete a trainee’s apprenticeship will depend largely on the level of competency you want them to have. I would suggest the training process could last from 12 to 24 months, which I’ll grant is quite a range, and the requirement of four years as a trainee before you become a certified appraiser is still in place. Appraisal trainees need 75 hours of education, sometimes more, depending on their state’s requirements. But there are no prior requirements before you can start your training, and in most states, you can take your courses online so you can learn at your own pace. Then a trainee needs 2,000 hours of training under a supervisor over a period of at least one year.

What it might cost the certified appraiser, in all, to take on a trainee is also difficult to estimate. The trainee has to be paid, of course, and you might incur other expenses by offering other benefits, plus paying for their continuing education, car mileage, and so on. You have to pay them well. Trainee appraisers often aren’t paid well—sometimes they only get a percentage of the transaction—and they’re often young people with a lot of student debt. You’re going to be competing with lots of other industries that are looking for talented employees. Give them a salary that’s competitive and will meet their expenses. How much you pay will depend on local conditions.

Q: Is it fairly easy to find potential appraisal trainees, in most markets?

A: It’s hard to attract new people to the profession, and it’s especially hard to attract young people just out of college. But the Appraiser Qualifications Board (AQB) has just changed its Real Property Appraiser Qualifications Criteria, effective May 1, 2018. The AQB removed the college coursework requirement for the Licensed Residential Appraiser credential level and has created alternatives to the college degree requirement for the Certified Residential Appraiser credential. These include obtaining an associate’s degree in a focused area of study (e.g., business, finance, accounting, economics, etc.), completing 30 college semester credit hours in specified topics, or successful completion of College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams in specified topics.

The required experience hours and the minimum time periods for the three credential levels have also been considerably reduced. Bear in mind, though, that individual states might or might not adopt those changes.

Meanwhile, McKissock is looking at how we can connect trainees to supervisory appraisers; we’re looking at training modules, specialized training, and various other seminars and webinars.

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