What’s it like getting started in the appraisal business? We sat down with young appraiser, Lindsay Onuffer, to find out. Lindsay is a 22-year-old appraiser trainee in Pennsylvania. Below, she shares why and how she began her appraisal career, what her job is like, and advice for others who are interested in the appraisal business.
Q: What made you want to get into appraisal?
A: I became interested in the appraisal profession because of my mom. She’s not an appraiser, but she works closely with a lot of appraisers. In college, I had to do a 9-week internship anywhere. I told my mom, and she reached out to a colleague of hers who owns a real estate and appraisal services company and arranged for me to do an internship there.
I loved my internship so much that I extended it to a 12-week internship. I was learning so much about real estate, and everything about it interested me. By the time I was finished with the 12 weeks, I knew that I wanted to be an appraiser. When I was finished with college, I went back to the same company, and I asked for a job. I’m now completing my training there, and I’m enjoying every minute of it.
Interested in becoming an appraiser trainee? Find out if real estate appraisal is right for you in our free career guide.
Q: What’s a typical day like for you?
A: There’s no such thing as a typical day for an appraiser, in my opinion. The routine is mainly the same: schedule appointments, go out on appointments and work on paperwork. However, you really never know what you’re going to see. It is rare that a day goes 100% as planned. Appraisers have to be ready for whatever the day throws at them.
To me, the unpredictability is the most exciting part of the job. Every day is something new, something different. It might not always be fun, but it is never boring.
Q: What were some of your preconceptions about appraisers, and how have they changed?
A: One preconception that I had about appraisers—and I think a lot of other people have, too—is the idea that appraisers just walk into a house, and they automatically know how much it’s worth. I am guilty of thinking that before I started this profession, too.
Appraisers do not walk into a property and just know how much it’s worth. The inspection of the property is just one part of the appraisal process. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into it, such as researching and analyzing comparables and market conditions.
Also, appraisers do not determine value. They give their opinion of value.
Q: What skills do you use every day?
A: Some of the more easy-to-learn skills that I use every day are measuring houses, taking pictures, using the computer, and navigating appraisal software. Those skills, anyone can learn.
The hard skills to learn are the ones that can’t really be taught—the skills that come from experience. These skills, for me, are things like talking on the phone, looking confident in a house, and patience. Lots of patience. The only way to learn these things is to observe and practice.
My supervisor would have me sit in her office while she made phone calls so that I could see how she acted and reacted on the phone. After watching her for a while, she had me start making phone calls to schedule appointments. The first couple of times did not go how I had planned; I sounded nervous, I was getting flustered. But she had me keep doing it. After a while, it got easier and less nerve-wracking, and eventually, it became effortless.
All of the skills I now use every day as an appraiser trainee has required me to understand and put to use new competencies that I have learned through on-the-job experience and appraisal classes.
Q: What advice do you have for people interested in becoming an appraiser?
A: My advice for people who are interested in becoming an appraiser is to take control of your training. There is a problem in the appraisal profession with trainees finding supervisors. I went through it, and it is very stressful.
I would suggest for anyone who’s interested to start taking your appraiser trainee classes whether you have found a supervisor or not. Having all of that education under your belt can help you be more marketable as a trainee to a supervisor. And if one person says no, then try the next. Do not let somebody else take away your chance at starting an amazing career.
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Q: How does your appraisal job compare to other jobs?
A: Appraising is very different from any job that I’ve had before. I’m only 22, so I haven’t had that many jobs in my life. I mostly did things like waitressing and coaching gymnastics. These jobs, for the most part, have right ways to do things and wrong ways to do things. They have specific instructions.
My supervisor always says, “Appraising is not a science, it’s an art.” Appraisers all work differently, and they all have different opinions. There’s no definite right way to do an appraisal or a wrong way. Don’t get me wrong, there are rules to be followed. But the process each appraiser uses is unique to that appraiser.
It is difficult to learn an art—to learn a job that is subjective. My appraiser trainee job has been more difficult for me than any other job I’ve had, but it’s also more rewarding. It’s not just a job for me. It’s a career, and a very exciting one.
Lindsay Onuffer is a 2018 graduate of Indiana University of PA with a degree in Management, focusing in small business entrepreneurship. After college, she got her Real Estate Salesperson License and then started her training to become an appraiser. Her desire to become a real estate appraiser came into focus through her close relationship with McKissock Real Estate and Appraisal School, where she worked her first job.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on November 1, 2019 and updated in May 2023.