Are you just starting your real estate appraisal career? Last month we asked our appraisal community, “If you could give ONE piece of advice to a new appraiser, what would it be?” Thank you to the large number of appraisers who shared their top tips for new appraisers! Keep reading for a summary of the most common answers we received, as well as quotes from many of the experienced appraisers who were willing to share their wisdom with newcomers to the profession.
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Top 12 most common tips
If we had to distill all of the advice we received into just one quick list of a dozen top tips for new appraisers, it would read as follows:
- Be honest and ethical.
- Be patient.
- Be thorough; don’t cut corners, and document everything.
- Embrace technology.
- Study, study, study!
- Always keep learning.
- Manage your time wisely.
- Find a good mentor.
- Network with other appraisers.
- Diversify your practice.
- Consider getting your Certified General license.
- Don’t give in to pressure.
“Work with honesty and confidence.”
“Be ethical! Your reputation is worth more than you think it is.”
“Your integrity is everything, don’t compromise it.”
“Have patience, and be able to adjust.”
“Be patient. There is so much to learn and the market is constantly changing, so it can be overwhelming at times. Know that even the most experienced appraisers are still learning.”
“Stay focused and objective in every task you are given.”
“Remain unbiased at all times and use reliable data to support your value conclusions.”
“Be thorough on your inspections.”
“Fact check, fact check, fact check!”
“Pay attention to the details and educate yourself continually.”
“Use all the technology available to you.”
“Look at [your supervisor’s] previous reports to study the appraisal line by line to understand the analysis of the report to arrive at a final market value.”
“Read USPAP, know USPAP, and understand USPAP. USPAP is every appraiser’s guide to maintaining ethical practices throughout the entire development and reporting process, which is the whole premise of ‘promoting public trust’ and providing credible results.”
“Find a supervisor who will truly spend time with you and help you understand all the components of appraisal that you just learned in appraisal courses. A well rounded supervisor with knowledge of more than one type of property is best.”
“Find yourself a good mentor. Even after you’ve finished your apprenticeship you will still have questions. Make sure to get acquainted with other appraisers in your area and to have a go-to mentor that you can bounce questions off of. Other appraisers in your area will be one of your best resources.”
“Listen to other appraisers and learn something new every day.”
“Never stop learning about the industry and changes.”
“Always be willing to learn new techniques.”
“Be open to advice from experienced appraisers, and ask lots of questions.”
“Become a member of appraisal organizations and network with the best appraisers to gain the most knowledge in your field.”
“Develop a good network to help with answers to questions that crop up as you work on reports and keep up with what is happening in the industry.”
“Get the highest level of training and education available to develop the most accurate and reliable appraisals possible, and maintain credentials with periodic courses.”
“Diversify your appraisal practice!”
“Try to cultivate business other than through lenders and AMCs.”
“Have good organizational skills!”
“Make a plan for time management and set specific goals for your first year!”
“Be mindful of scheduling appointments and not taking on too much. The inspection part is the easy part. Budget enough time to research and create a credible report.”
“I would prioritize activities in terms of time blocks to run my business. Even staff appraisers can benefit from blocking out time periods to get all the work done.”
“Before you begin your appraisal career, please carefully consider if you should take the path of a residential appraiser or a commercial appraiser. I myself am a residential appraiser and I have had a fulfilling career working in many roles in many different areas; however, I have found that I am excluded from many government jobs and higher level positions with a greater level of compensation (sometimes with a pension, which is not easy to find) due to not having a commercial, general license.”
“Residential appraisal is hard (the rules keep changing) and it’s difficult to make a good living that way. Go with commercial or eminent domain work.”
“Make sure you are ready for the physical and cerebral challenges that will face you. Stand up and don’t bow to pressure.”
“Find yourself a good mentor who will train you properly, follow the law, and research, research, research. Keep your ‘nose clean’ and don’t be intimidated by bullies. ALWAYS REMEMBER, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. Follow your instincts for the betterment of the profession.”
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Additional advice for new appraisers
In addition to the top twelve most common tips listed above, appraisers also shared the following advice for newcomers to the profession:
“Trust your instincts.”
“Stick to your guns when you feel you are right.”
“Don’t give up.”
“Think outside the box.”
“Listening to buyers is knowing the market.”
“Don’t let something new or complex get you down. Every report has its own complexities and the satisfaction you receive from working through the appraisal problem will help you write a well rounded report that your client will appreciate.”
“Get out there and inspect lots of properties, simple and complex. Practice your measuring and sketching skills, careful and precise observations during the inspection. Take your time, don’t be rushed. Get informed about building practices and current building trends and costs. Don’t be afraid to call the local Realtors or Builders and pick their brains on what is driving the local market and buyers’ reaction to various amenities, etc.”
“Choose a niche and work towards it. Get as much experience as you can in various work, but get to your niche and perfect it.”
“Specialize in types of appraisals and/or geographical regions. This will you save time and target your talent.”
“I’ve only been appraising for 3 months, and the best advice I could give to someone just starting is to ask a lot of questions. There are a lot of little details that can be easy to overlook if you aren’t sure what you are doing.”
“If given the opportunity, train under as many different appraisers as possible. Starting out, I was surprised to discover how different one appraiser’s development can be from another’s while still following the same basic guidelines. By observing different appraisers, both in the field and in the office, I was able to gain different tips and tricks that helped me develop my own preferred process.”
“Trust your training and don’t sell yourself short.”
“Never under sell your services.”
“Charge enough for your services and do not accept the fees that the client says is typical for your area just to get assignments. They will pay it if you request it.”
“Communication is the biggest need in our industry. Communicate with the lender, point of contact for scheduling, the realtor, etc. to separate yourself from the competition.”
“Do an appraisal with more than the client asks for and you will be more than successful.”
“Set boundaries for yourself or you will be working 24/7 and burn out.”
“Don’t allow the job to take over your life. The appraisals come and go and one day you will look up and wondered how the last 17 years passed you by…make time for those you love.”
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Practical tips for new appraisers
Besides the general advice given above, some of our survey respondents wrote in more specific advice, including several practical tips and tricks for new appraisers, such as:
“Get waterproof, non-slip shoes!”
“Have a pair of mud boots in your car.”
“Take more than enough photos when viewing a property. Additional photos help with addendum requests, notes, etc.”
“Prep your report and pick out more than 3 comps for your subject prior to arriving at the subject, and plan on driving to the comps and photographing them the same day as your subject’s inspection.”
“Ask the homeowner upon being assigned the appraisal what the current condition of the house is…if they are currently in the process of any updates…if there is a basement or not…if there are any improvements in addition to the dwelling i.e. in-ground pool, garage bays detached or attached…what zoning they are located in…if they are in a flood zone…are there any abnormalities about the subject?”
“Take your time and learn how to properly measure a home.”
“Get your basic appraisal classes completed early so you can get licensed as soon as possible. Most appraisers typically receive a sizable pay bump once licensed.”
“Find a supervisor you want to work with before you start your classwork! That is the hardest part of getting started.”
“Take all your courses through McKissock, as they are the very best and offer great prices.”
“Take a course in statistical analysis. There is so much information out there, it is better to understand the nature of the market statistically.”
“Learn how to quickly scan your work for errors so you don’t turn in a report you’ve worked hard on only to find out you looked at it so long you missed a handful of small errors that make the reader/client question your competency.”
“Learn what the review appraiser is looking for when he/she is reviewing your work. It should help prevent significant errors on your part and maybe a possible review in the disciplinary office.”
“Join Facebook groups to have easy access to discussions with other appraisers.”
“Find a routine and do it the same way every time. It will help you stay consistent with your appraisal work and reduce liability if you can show a pattern.”
“Keep a record of every job you worked on forever.”
“Be organized and systematic with how you log your experience so you can easily submit it when you are ready to upgrade your license.”
“Do your research. Make sure that the market you are covering is not already saturated with other established appraisers.”
“Take time to meet with an appraiser to see if this is something you want to pursue. Also know that what you assume is NOT always correct. Make sure you ask questions and take good notes.”
“Practice math more. Math is so important to our profession. Good luck!”
Find more resources for new appraisers in our post, 5 Helpful Resources for Appraisal Trainees.
What’s your number one piece of advice for new appraisers? Join the conversation! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Or, sign up for our newsletter to get a new survey question in your inbox each month.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on October 29, 2021 and updated on June 28, 2022.