The Appraisal Rules of Etiquette

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

In this day and age, it seems like a lot of things have fallen by the wayside and good manners should not be one of them.  When you do an appraisal, you are representing yourself and the people who have hired you. A certain degree of professionalism should always be the standard and not the exception.  With that being said, what are the expectations in this day and age? Here is a list, by no means exclusive, of rules to live by.

  • Be on time. Not half an hour early, nor half an hour late. If you show up too early, homeowners might not be prepared for your arrival and if you show up late you keep them waiting. Time is money and you shouldn't waste anyone else's time.
  • Cell phones should be used sparingly, if at all in a customer's home. Sometimes it cannot be helped, but personal calls that seem to ramble on do not endear you to anyone. If you must answer or use the phone, do so as briefly as possible.
  • Don't ask to use the homeowner's bathroom. Yes, if you ask, they will point you down the hall. But you are a stranger and should not impose except in the direst of circumstances.
  • Don't ask for anything to eat or drink. Again, take care of these needs before or after your arrival. If they offer you a drink, you can accept their hospitality but don't sit down to dinner with them.
  • Keep your vehicle presentable- inside and out. For years, UPS drivers would wash their vehicles daily to maintain a professional image and often, that is what a homeowner would see both first and last.
  • Maintain your personal hygiene as well. Some of you will laugh, but others will argue. Bathe daily, wash your hands frequently with soap and water, clean and trim your nails, shave all necessary areas, floss and brush regularly and get your hair cut at least once a month.
  • Personal attire should be business casual or better. Polish your shoes and brush off any lint. Depending on circumstances, you could get dirty. I would recommend a change of clothes and/or a pair of coveralls.
  • Laptops belong on your…lap. The homeowner does not know where your computer has been. Don't set your Ipad on their table or countertop and send a germaphobe into orbit.
  • Be prepared to take your shoes off inside. This still unsettles me a bit, but some homeowners will cringe if you do not take off your shoes inside. I know a person who refused to do so and wound up discoloring a $10,000 Oriental rug. Some homeowner's will provide you booties to wear inside, but you might be advised to bring your disposable ones and make sure there are no holes in your socks- just in case.
  • Be polite and appreciative. Just saying please and thank you can set you apart from the rest.
  • If you smoke, chew tobacco or chew gum, do it someplace else. Even if the homeowner lights up in front of you, you are best advised to wait until doing so yourself.
  • Be prepared. Bring at least one business card to leave with the homeowner and be prepared to hand out more.
  • Pay attention to what the homeowner says. Having to repeat yourself over and over becomes tedious very quickly. Take notes where necessary.
  • Never assume that a home-owner is your best friend. Off-color jokes and foul language are best saved for your home, not theirs.
  • Be diplomatic. Sir Isaac Newton once said, "Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy." You will not always agree with the homeowner, but you are their guest and should always remember that.

Are there any other rules appraisers should remember? What is the worst experience you can share of an appraiser abandoning society's norms and values? I would love to hear from you. Just be diplomatic. Please. Thank you.


And this, my friends, is what happens when somebody has too much time on their hands.  I especially like the "polish shoes and brush off any dust."  Are you for real, man?  "Floss daily!"

Most of the appraisers I have met over the years are professional, hard working, socially acceptable people.  We have been conducting our businesses in a professional way or we would not still be in business!  We may not ever wear a suit but do not need to be told to wear clean clothes,  floss our teeth or bathe daily.  Really!  Seems a little insulting to me.  How about some worthy articles?  Sandy S.

I have been an apraiser since 1980, always measure first, and take off my shoes. One time, I came in low for WAMU and received a complaint that I had damaged her carpet. I could reply, that I always, take my shoes off, not a problem. Back when, you had to put your room walls in the sketch. I always arrive early and sit in my car to take my notes, select the comps etc. I never enter until the appt time. I tried giving a time range and the owner thougt that that was when I would be doing the appraisal. I shower and dress prior to an appraisal, but I have seen (and yes, smelled others that should have). Mouth wash in the car if you have a problem. NEVER dirty or wrinkled clothes. I've seen that too. Never discuss value and always ask prior if they have any info or a floor plan that may be useful. Updates and a list of costs. Explain that cost doesn't always equal value etc. Once in a great while they may have somehing that you missed. Remember that you are often the only person that they meet incolved in the whole process and that they will comment to the client. I used to bring a check list with me and info sheet that kept them busy while I did my job, often they follow to distract you from damage to the home. One time when just learning, the homeowner was rushing my partner through the home, I followed behind and found the holes behind the door knobs and holes in carpet beneath the throw rugs. Take photos to CYA, one good appraiser that I know was sued. After the appraisal, they guuted the home and never finished it. One photo I always take is the crawl space. Saved my ass one time when I could proved that it was nailed shut during the appraisal. I was taught that to take anything from the owner could be used as a bribe. I will show them the comps that I am considering only if they ask. After HVCC, I do very little lender work as I can not accept what most want to pay. I may be poor but with my years incested refuse to work for half the price and deal with an AMC. No problem, I wasn't the rich appraiser that the dishonest ones were anyway. Just a thought and a bitch. I thought that I had the best job in the word. Shame on HVCC and the AMC and the appraisers that cave in. Cathy

Get real, Mr/Ms Anonymous, and keep your identity hidden, too. You just exposed yourself as one of the numbskull group someone referred to above.Very good points, Kevin ... it would be good if more so-called professionals in this profession would present themselves as such.Dan Daniels; Almany-Daniels Appraisal, Ocala, FL

 That said if the appraisal comes out to the borrowers liking I am a great guy. If not I was drunk, wearing flip flops, and not the kind of person that should be let anywhere near their home. LOL

Some appraisers seem to think it is a huge accomplishment to arrive at appointments early. In my opinion it is just as rude to arrive early as it is to arrive late. No problem sitting around the corner until my actual appointment time. Clients are impressed when you hit the door bell at your exact appointment time. Hot weather or not printed t shirts, sneakers, and cargo shorts just arent professional

Business casual does not mean flip flops and ragged Bermuda shorts or ripped jeans topped off with a faded baggy t-shirt. Why do so many appraisers go out of their way to look like they shop at Goodwill and dress in the dark?  Don't you own a mirror?  Please present yourself in a professional manner.  High heels and 3 piece suits are not practical for field work but at least try to look like you have a real job.  It doesn't take any longer to put on clean well-tended clothes.  Dressing like you are headed for a day at the beach or fishing in the high country presents the idea that you don't take your job or yourself seriously.  If you don't respect yourself, no one else will either.

Mr. Hopkins makes some excellent points indeed but does not address what is, in my opinion, the crux of the issue. That is, the painful reality that adult professionals have to be told how to behave. I wish that I could blame it on the current deterioration of society as a whole, but being in this business since 1984, my observations have been that this business has always attracted an inordinate number of numbskulls. This is currently compounded by the fact that to choose this profession these days, you have to be somewhat brain damaged.     Jim L.

I think the sad part is that most people just don't know or even realize that their behavior is offensive. Hopefully this discussion will lead to informing the unaware.Thank you for your kind words! KH

Kevin, I agree 100% with your rules and follow them all myself! Here's another one....if the homeowner asks if they can help you measure, politely decline. :) Since I am a female appraiser, it seems like men that are gentlemen ask to help. I politely say " No, thank you. I appreciate it but I'm good and have everything I need." Especially in summer, I am constantly offered a cold drink, but I always decline and say I have something in the car for when I'm done. About the shoe removal, I ALWAYS wear shoes that are easy to slip off and ALWAYS remove them if the yard is wet or muddy and my shoes have gotten dirty. And I don't necessarily wait for the homeowners to ask....if you go in the door, look and see that the homeowners have a place where they have removed their shoes, take yours off too. Thanks for the great "rules" if we'll all follow them! :)

If I see a pile of shoes near the front door I offer to take my shoes off, most of the time the owner says it's ok to wear shoes.  Regarding cell phones, I never take a call in the clients house although I have my phone with me.  Over the years there have been a few times when I needed to make a call from the house, so I like to have it with me.  I feel like when my phone rings in the house while with the owner and I turn off the ringer without answering that shows a sign of respect to the homeowner, talking with them and working on their appraisal is more important then my phone call.  I often turn off my ringer, but sometimes I forget. 

Kevin: Thank you for taking the time to write this important article. Image is everything and you make some great suggestions. I would just add a couple of clarifying thoughts to what you written. First, I agree with the cell phone suggestion and would even take it one step further. I leave my phone in the car. There is nothing so important that it cannot wait 30 minutes. I think it is embarrassing when the phone rings while I am trying to give my full attention to the inspection so I just avoid the problem all together. Second, I always suggest to my students/clients that they set up their appointments as a window of time (i.e. 9-11 am) rather than a set time. It seems more convenient to the home owner to give them a set time (i.e. 9:30 am), but I have rarely been able to be to an appointment exactly on time so a window is actually more convenient for the contact. I will often call them 20 minutes before I get there as well so they do not have to sit and wait for me. When you do as many inspections as I do each day, the windows are most helpful. Keep up the great work!  -Dustin Harris, The Appraiser Coach  

Great points Dustin! The phone ringing is awkward. If someone had children or family that had a real need to reach them, I would hate to leave the phone behind but I understand your point.I agree with the window as well- it is whatever you communicate to the homeowner so there are no surprises. Does anyone window an entire day or half day at a time?Thanks for your input!KH

shoes off if asked only if I feel that the house is clean. I had customers ask me to take off my shoes and there house was a dirty, stains on the carpet, ect... I think its a judgement call not a rule. As for the way you dress, try wearing a collered shirt in East New York at 2 pm  on a summer afternoon, you should just paint a target on your chest. Every area is different and you should dress as needed.

Thanks for a great article.  I hadn't thought about the bit with the car.  Early in my career, I drove a little red Nissan pick-up.  It always bothered my boss.  One day I had to inspect a home in a very exclusive, gated community.  My boss insisted that I drive his Mercedes.  It took me a long time to figure out why.  About how to dress:  I remember an appraiser showing up in shorts and flip flops.  

I would gather that Kevin is a city boy and is speaking about big city ways. Some of us in the country do things a little different. First, inspect the inside first so there is not a problem tracking mud into the home (not that it is much of a problem in our area. Most of the time as we only get about 12 inches of rainfall a year and a little snow every 10 to 20 years). As to taking off your shoes, at 72 years old it is a major ordeal (you will see when you get old) so I have only done it abuot 3 times in the last 20+ years. As for attire – it needs to be adjusted to the property and weather. High end estates wear shoes (but ones that do not need to be polished) assuming it is not on acreage in the country. For country property it is best to wear boots that a little cow or horse manure will not hurt (and of course not ones that you have to polish – save the polished ones for court work or dances), but again, do the interior inspection first. I did an inspection the other day with shoes on (even though I know better) and still have not gotten the foxtails out of my socks and shoes. And of course business casual changes with the type property and client – in the country you better arrive in some kind of jeans or they will think you don’t know what you are doing. So jeans and work boots for the country are appropriate (of course it takes a boot jack to get the boots off and boot hooks to get them back on). When you go to the lake in the summer and it is 110 degrees shorts are in order (but not with flip-flops). That way people there will think you are familiar with the area and again might know what you are doing and not some city person without area competence.  Or, am I just to old and set in my ways? Alan

Many of the comments in this article are valid but some are a bit questionable. I'm a professional but I'm still a human being!I live and appraise in the desert and while I try to make my appointments early, sometimes that isn't possible. When you're measuring a 3,000+sf house and it's nearly 100 (or more) degrees, it's nice to be offered a glass of water when you get inside. I do carry water in my car but think there is nothing wrong with accepting a glass of water - not only when offered but even asking for one if it isn't.The one that really got me was the idea that requesting to use a bathroom is bad. I'm often in the car for hours. If I can find a public restroom, I certainly do but often that isn't possible. Excuse me, but everyone has to use a bathroom! I am always very polite about the request but - when you gotta go, you gotta go!

I agree that when you have to go, you have to go!  Oftentimes I have 30 to 40 minute drives each way in areas with no "friendly" places to use a bathroom (or you are expected to buy something you don't want or need).  I am always very polite and no one has ever seemed remotely put off by it.  Of course, I try to find / use a public restroom, but it isn't always convenient or on the way.  In all the advice, common sense should come foremost - how would you want someone showing up to YOUR house?Thanks and best to all--Cynthia in Chicago, IL

I have always just removed my shoes upon entering (unless the floor was filthy), however recently I had a homeowner who was offended by that.  She preferred my shoes to bare feet.  Now I ask before removing them automatically.

This is the sort of thing you either "get" it or you don't. Professionals don't need to be told how to conduct their business and the marginal folks aren't going to care.The attire and customs of the area should prevail and an appraiser should have the good sense to discern them properly. Why would you hire an appraiser whose job is to analyze market reaction when he can't even discern appropriate attire and conduct? This begs another question; knowing the diversity of this country, its terrain, climate, multiple ethnicities, regional cultural differences, as well as the broad varieties of structures we inspect why would you ever think you could ever write an article giving specifics of proper appraiser conduct in the field? Every article I have ever read about this subject makes this same assumption and gets the same feedback you see here. 

If an appraiser does not even have the common sense and courtesy to understand these things, take their license. Those are all no brainers that I have been practicing for over 17 years. Respect is the only word needed here. I give half hour windows, this alleviates me being late due to traffic or running behind from another appointment. I never pull in their drive, unless a rural property where street parking may be unavailable. I never take my cell phone in an inspection, how terribly rude same for asking to use their bathroom. I would complain if someone walked in my house and asked to use the restroom. I do not take any food or drink from a homeowner, I do not want it to be perceived as them doing me a favor and maybe their value will be higher in return. I always keep water in my car. I fully explain the process on the phone and in person. Always hand a business card with your introduction. I also carry booties or take my shoes off. If you unlock a gate or door lock it back up. Leave it the way you found it. It just makes me shake my head that appraisers do some of these things during an appointment. How hard is to be professional? You can say what you want about my post, but I have remained successful in my career because of the way I handle my business and the reliable, credible results I produce.