What are some ways appraisers can generate new business and new leads, outside of AMCs? How do the top appraisers market themselves? We recently interviewed three industry leaders, who shared their marketing tips and techniques.
They agree that having an online presence is essential. So is a network of contacts in all areas of the real estate industry: not just the lending community. The basic idea most in play, nowadays, is that your appraisal skills may have applications in areas you hadn’t thought of.
Add some non-lender work into the mix
Britton Falkner, manager and chief appraiser at Joseph & Co. (Hoover, Alabama), acknowledges that it’s getting harder for appraisers to generate new business, largely because of the power that AMCs wield. Loan officers are sometimes reluctant to work with appraisers independently of an AMC, so appraisers have become more likely to offer their services to other professionals, such as attorneys and accountants, who might need an appraisal for purposes other than a home loan.
For related info, check out our article: How to Market Your Appraisal Services for Divorce and Estate Work.
“We try to do as much for those outside sources as possible,” he says. “The MLS for the Birmingham, Alabama area has made a push to get accurate square footages for its listings, so we work with brokerages, offering to go into buildings and obtain accurate measurements at a relatively low rate. Money-wise, it’s not as much as an appraisal, but it’s steady work; it doesn’t take long; it helps us build relationships with realtors. It also speeds up the process of calling realtors and getting comps.
“The biggest part of our business still is working with lenders, so we still make the effort to meet lenders and accountants. Maybe twice a year, we go out and pound the pavement; we don’t want to be too overbearing about it.”
Put out a monthly newsletter
“Most appraisers are older folks, so they’re not as plugged into the social media side of things as they might be, nor as willing to make changes,” says Falkner. “When I started working here, the only marketing was door to door; I’ve tried to manage our Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. We’ve also started a monthly newsletter that has got pretty good reception.”
The newsletter, Falkner says, reports on recent transactions in the Birmingham area, as well as zoning changes and other useful information. It’s a cheap, easy, steady way to reach out to clients, and since the newsletter comes out monthly, it forces the company to pay a little attention to marketing on a regular basis, as opposed to neglecting that part of the business when appraisal work is heavy.
“It shows up in people’s mailboxes regularly, so it helps to prevent a ‘feast or famine’ situation,” he says. “It costs us almost nothing. Our articles tend to be about commercial real estate, but we add items that are personal to us, about how we do our work. We may have clients who only need an appraisal every year or two, but at least we stay in their minds with that newsletter, so they think of us when they need an appraiser.”
The newsletter is Joseph & Co.’s chief marketing tool today, Falkner says. Door-to-door marketing is falling by the wayside, and daily posts on social media don’t seem to get much attention.
Build new relationships
Jaime Patteson, research specialist at Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Stan Johnson Company, notes that traditionally, appraisers generate new business by developing relationships with brokers and sales agents, mortgage brokers, loan officers, title companies, and developers, and by staying relevant within the real estate industry by attending and joining professional organizations. These might include the Mortgage Banking Association, Appraisal Institute, NAIOP / Commercial Real Estate Development Association; MLS, CCIM, SIOR, and CREW.
“Build new relationships from existing client referrals,” she urges. “The old real estate principle is that the three secrets of success are ‘location, location, and location.’ When building business, it’s ‘relationship, relationship, and relationship.’
“Some of the most successful appraisers I know create opportunities to be seen and heard within the industry. They offer services that include solid real estate valuations, in addition to other services like consulting on portfolio valuation assets for lenders, REITS, and other parties. They speak in public, addressing organizations or real estate schools. They testify in legal cases and stay current with industry-related technology as well as the economic factors that impact real estate markets.”
Another way appraisers can generate new business is by offering consulting services to real estate law firms, Patteson says. In that arena, appraisers with MAI or CCIM designations will probably be preferred.
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Leverage online marketing tools
“Other useful marketing tools include social media, blogging, online industry publications—published interviews and articles—and a strong website,” Patteson adds. “I believe that offering relatable market statistics, or discussing changes in the industry, as part of the website, can lead to new business.”
“The most important thing an appraiser can do to generate new business outside of AMCs is to have an online presence,” insists Gary F. Kristensen, SRA, ASA, IFA, AGA, appraiser at A Quality Appraisal (Clackamas, Oregon). “That starts with a company website and social media pages that highlight your skills and experience. If you don’t know anything about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), learn or hire someone who does. SEO takes time but pays back for years and years. If you don’t have time for SEO, you can purchase Google ads. If customers can’t find you when they’re searching for an appraiser in your area, you will not get the job.
“In addition to having an online presence, it is important to make connections with real estate agents and attorneys. I often speak at real estate offices and try to maintain connections through direct email marketing of those who I have met in the past. Hard work and persistence work for marketing your business. Building a steady flow of non-lender business does not happen overnight.”
Diversify your client list
“Finally, don’t put all your appraisal eggs in one basket,” urges Patteson. “Getting hooked on one or two large clients can lead to a sudden drop in workflow, particularly if economic conditions turn in the direction that is not favorable for a large REIT or lender. These entities can be fickle in tough economic times. Don’t get me wrong: a client base anchored by a large lender or REIT is good business. But keeping your client list diversified within your core strengths seems like a more productive path.”
McKissock is your appraisal wingman. Whether you need professional development resources to help generate new business, CE classes to diversify your appraisal skills, or education packages to upgrade your appraisal license, we’ve got your back.
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 by-line 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.