Building Your Appraisal Team: Advice from Top Appraisers

Smiling diverse appraisal team standing looking at camera making team picture in office together

Building a successful appraisal team means considering your business strategy and your corporate culture, and hiring accordingly. Some appraisers look for associates who specialize in certain areas of the appraisal business when adding someone to the team. Others prefer generalists, who can fill in wherever they’re needed. Some prefer to hire experienced appraisers, while others like to “grow their own.”

Team leaders often look for adaptability. They want to hire people who can perceive the corporate culture and adjust to it, who can anticipate and react properly to new situations and challenges. Leaders also have to stay aware of how the industry might evolve in the next few years—so that their team will stay current with the necessary skills and attitudes.

Building an appraisal team goes beyond hiring other appraisers and support personnel. It often includes contractors whom you call on an ad hoc basis: lawyers, accountants, advertising specialists, website designers. The bottom line: Team leaders in any field of business need a team that defines the company’s brand.

Team-building tips from top appraisers

McKissock recently interviewed several top appraisers who shared their team-building secrets. Mason R. Spurgeon, who heads Spurgeon Appraisals (covering southeastern Iowa, northeastern Missouri, and western Illinois), says his company specializes in agricultural, commercial, and residential appraisals. Thus, he usually hires for a specific area, as needed.

“But I prefer to train my own appraisers,” he adds. “That way we’re all on the same page; they don’t have preconceived processes; the learning curve is more uniform. I recently hired an appraiser with previous experience, and he’s doing a great job, but appraisers tend to be set in their ways; they’ll stick a flag in the ground and say ‘here I stand.’”

On the other hand, Spurgeon says, he advises looking for independent-minded people who are driven by a desire to improve.

“They need to want to learn, to soak up knowledge,” he says. “They need curiosity. If they’re on an assignment where something seems out of place, they need to ask questions. They need to be the annoying five-year-old who always asks ‘why?’”

For more insights into what personality traits to look for when hiring appraisers, check out our post, 8 Characteristics of a Successful Real Estate Appraiser.

Spurgeon notes that his team operates virtually, without a central office, but regular in-person lunch meetings build camaraderie. He says the team works well because each member plays a clearly defined role.

“We have assistants and appraisers,” he explains, “and I expect each to do a different job. They all know what they have to do.”

Doug Maupin, president of The Appraisal Team in St. Charles, Mo., says he hasn’t expanded his team in a while but is considering adding a trainee.

“I like to grow my own,” he says. “I’m looking for someone who has general business knowledge and a good grasp of the principles of customer service, and so on. They have to be willing to learn, dedicated, and self-motivated. Today my team consists of myself, an office manager, and three independent appraisers. We rely on good service, transparency, and communication with the client. It’s not rocket science.”

Advice for training new appraisers

Tampa, Fla.-based Jeff Hicks, president of The Dohring Group, just hired two new commercial appraisers: one young with very little valuation experience, the other very experienced in real estate but not appraisal. He admits that it’s challenging to create meaningful educational content for appraisers, but he adds that he’s confident in his new teammates.

“Our challenge is to realize that younger talent doesn’t want the same things that we did when we were their age,” he says. “They’re not lazy. They’re different. They want to accelerate their learning curve. They want to bring value and feel valued.”

Hicks advises that the pillars of meaningful education include reinforcement of four emotional needs: certainty, variety, significance, and connection. The more your appraisal business fills those needs, he insists, the better the outcome.

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“Having to take USPAP in two-year cycles doesn’t attract young talent,” he adds. “Be a better appraiser by being a better businessperson. Many of us are technicians stuck in the tactical. We rarely come outside and play in the strategic arena. This imbalance between tactical and strategic is our Achilles heel. Our education mirrors this weakness.”

Hicks asserts that the key to appraisal education must be personal transformation. Team leaders should promote a culture that results in a relevant and innovative education model, he adds.

“We need to raise awareness of the lucrative appraisal profession and improve the lack of professional branding of our industry,” Hicks says. “Help students identify their valuation path with appropriate classes. Encourage them to find their own personal niche in the appraisal world.

“We seem chronically worried whether there’s enough work to go around rather than scaling our appraisal firms with sales and marketing. We need to spark personal growth and inspire students with more of an entrepreneurial attitude.”

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Article written by Joseph Dobrian. Joseph Dobrian has been writing about commercial and residential real estate, and real estate-related finance, for more than 30 years. His byline has appeared in The Wall Street Journal,The New York Times, The New Yorker, Real Estate Forum, Journal of Property Management, and many other publications. He is also a noted novelist, essayist, and translator. His website is www.josephdobrian.com, and he can be contacted at jdobrian@aol.com.

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