New appraisers, and those who are thinking of getting into the business, can find encouragement in the stories and advice shared by older, more experienced real estate appraisers. Are you just starting out in the appraisal profession? Here are some encouraging words of advice from seasoned industry professionals.
“Be patient,” “stay focused,” and “always keep learning,” are typical comments. “Work hard. Too many people expect to work part-time while making full-time salaries. It’s a good career if you’re hard-working and self-motivated. Don’t let the older appraisers scare you out of the industry.”
Appraisers earned $102,620 a year in 2022, on average, according to recent survey data from McKissock. The highest earners in the profession, certified general appraisers, earned an average annual income of $145,094 in 2022.
Several appraisers admit that in some markets, it’s hard to enter the profession directly. Appraisers don’t always have the time and desire to train newcomers, and some markets appear to offer too little work for too many appraisers. However, market observers generally agree that hard work and intelligent networking—plus professional integrity—will lead to a good living in just about any MSA in the country. Persistence and professional excellence—both of which any appraiser can develop—are the decisive factors.
“The best advice that I can give trainees is, don’t give up, no matter how many roadblocks you encounter along the way,” says Jo A. Traut, appraisal curriculum program director at McKissock Learning. “An appraisal career can be very rewarding. However, to get started in this profession will require a strong commitment to planning and networking—and willingness to handle mundane tasks.”
Traut says many appraisers complain that changing circumstances in the real estate industry generally, and in appraisals particularly, have made the profession less rewarding—both financially and emotionally. She cautions new appraisers against seeing themselves as victims of circumstance.
“You have the power in any situation to take responsibility for your experience,” she asserts. “When I started as a trainee, I had no family members or friends who were appraisers or realtors to jump-start my career. I am a first-generation appraiser.
“I reached out to numerous appraisers who had no interest in mentoring a trainee. One day, I contacted a small appraisal firm where the firm’s office receptionist had just quit, and the owner said he could not possibly take on a trainee as he was swamped with work. I said I could start as his receptionist and start learning the appraisal business by doing the office tasks.”
Traut also made a point of tagging along on inspections, to help with the measuring and entering the data into appraisal reports from the field notes and research records. She made herself valuable by organizing the office, automating the bookkeeping, monitoring the active appraisal orders, and even cleaning the coffee maker. In between office tasks, she read appraisal reports, researched MLS, and even created a Word template for narrative appraisal reports. Before long, her boss was training her on appraising.
“Depending on your state’s requirements, I highly recommend completing the mandatory education and passing the required credential test, if applicable, to be taken seriously by potential mentors,” she adds. “This will demonstrate a strong commitment to starting an appraisal career.
“Remember that you must take responsibility for your experience, so read relevant blogs, download job aids, listen to recorded webinars, and take extra courses—many of which are available through McKissock Learning’s Unlimited Learning Membership.”
Daniel A. Bradley, SRA, CDEI, McKissock’s content and course manager, also advises newcomers to look for day-to-day learning opportunities that come from simply making oneself active in the profession. By keeping your ear to the ground, he says, you can learn a lot about your market and how it relates to the industry as a whole.
“Read newspapers and online articles,” he urges. “Cultivate relationships with real estate agents and brokers. They are on the front lines of the market, and they often discover trends before others do. Become knowledgeable of sub-markets—like luxury homes and vacation properties—in your geographic area.
“I also advise new appraisers to be patient. It takes time to build a good professional reputation—but it doesn’t take very long to destroy a professional reputation.”
Bradley warns new appraisers that they won’t make big money right off the bat; it takes years to build up a clientele. In a best-case scenario, an appraiser will develop a reputation that will lead to lucrative assignments from high-end clients.
“Perform competently, make good ethical choices every day, and that will pay off, over time,” he says. “Your ethical reputation is worth more than any appraisal fee.
“Finally, develop a thick skin. By definition, an appraiser is independent, impartial, and objective. Appraisers don’t advocate for anyone, not even our clients. There will be times when clients and others (e.g., property owners) will be unhappy with your opinions and conclusions, and they will certainly let you know about it. In handling such situations, an appraiser needs to be polite and professional, but should not waver. You might lose a client because they don’t like your value opinion, but that’s part of our profession.”
Ashley Hortman of Hortman Appraisals (Warner Robins, Georgia) recommends entering the appraisal business sideways, so to speak, through some other function. “Look into starting out in a local tax assessor’s office,” he advises.
“This is a tough profession to break into, but if you can find a way in, it’s worth it,” says Catherine Quayle of Appraisal Associates of Marquette (Marquette, Michigan). “I’ve been at this 24 years, and I’ve always made a very comfortable living. Despite all the doomsday speeches, I am going strong. The only trick is being adaptable and diverse.”
Ready to launch your appraisal career? Find out if this career path is right for you in our free guide.
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 [email protected].
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on August 20, 2019 and updated in August 2023.