Wednesday , 30 September 2020

So, You Want To Be A Real Estate Appraiser

This article was originally posted here. For additional articles by Dustin Harris visit his website.

On a regular basis, I receive messages from individuals who want to become real estate appraisers. After finding my website, they reach out to me – sometimes in desperation – for advice or leads to help them achieve their goals. Here is an example (used with permission) that came to my inbox just this morning:

Coach, you do not know me, but I have been reading your articles for over a year now. I very much appreciate your views on things and I want more than anything to be an appraiser. I have shadowed an appraiser for a day and knew then that this is what I want to be. Unfortunately, I have reached out to over 30 different appraisers in my area and none of them are willing to supervise me. Do you know anyone in the [redacted] area who might be looking to take on a trainee? Also, what advice would you give to someone in my situation? Any help you can give me would be appreciated. Sincerely, John [redacted]

Unfortunately, there are plenty of appraisers who would be willing to give John advice. I say ‘unfortunately,’ because the ‘advice’ would likely sound something like this, “Run for the hills, John! Do not do it! You will spend years and lots of money and sacrifice to get your license only to find yourself working long hours for little pay. Become a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant; anything but an appraiser.”

Well John, you are not going to get that kind of advice from me. I absolutely love being an appraiser; you can make a lot of money at it and do it with a somewhat normal schedule. Appraisers are retiring and/or dying at a rapid rate. Very few newbies are coming in to take their place. This is unfortunate, because it is a wonderful career. But I have digressed somewhat. Let’s get back to the question at hand; how do you find someone willing to train you?

Let’s face facts; the Appraiser Qualifications Board (AQB) has made it increasingly more difficult to become an appraiser. Getting from where you are to where you want to be will require thousands of hours of being carefully mentored, experience logs, as well as the equivalent of a four-year college degree. There is serious talk about changing some of those requirements, but the path from point A to point B can be daunting. Furthermore, the incentives for current appraisal business owners to hire an underling can be small. Most appraisal clients require a Certified Appraiser to complete the work. Why take on a trainee if they must accompany them on all inspections? Many appraisers are, with due justification, afraid of what happens after their trainee is licenced. What keeps that person from turning around and becoming your competition? It has happened to me, and it is not a positive experience.

Yet, there is hope! Every year, hundreds of appraisers still manage to become licensed, and not only through nepotism. Despite the hurdles, there are ways to accomplish your goal, but it might take thinking outside the box. Here are three suggestions to consider if you want to become a real estate appraiser.

See Things Through Your Potential Employer’s Eyes

The typical approach to finding a mentor includes making phone calls and sending resumes to local appraisers explaining you want to be an appraiser and asking if they consider taking you on. What is wrong with this approach? It is one-sided! It is all about the potential trainee and not about the potential trainer. It is very clear what is in it for you. What is in it for them?

Let’s face it, an appraiser is not going take on the time commitment and liability required to train a newbie unless there is a clear financial incentive to do so. Appraising is not a charitable cause. So, do not leave it up to your potential mentor to come up with that incentive. Give it to them on a silver platter. Rather than saying, “I need a job. Will you please give me one?,” show them where you can provide me an additional stream of income (or higher income with their current streams). For example, most non-lender appraisers do not require a Licensed or Certified Appraiser to be fully involved in every aspect of the appraisal process like lender-clients do. What if you committed to spending your time and money bringing in non-lender business that would not be there without you? Another option is being willing to do Tier I level work (i.e. data-entry, research, etc) for free (or low commission) in order to help take the pressure off your mentor’s shoulders. Less stress on them means more time and attention to train you.

Do not approach a potential trainer with the same old story about how you want to be an appraiser. I’ve got a file three inches thick with those stories. Stand out from the crowd by telling me how you can help me.

Give More Than You Receive

Napoleon Hill is famous for teaching that a principle of success is to give what is required and a little bit more. Do not just do what is written on your job title. Always go the extra mile. This will create a bond of loyalty with your employer and job security will be less of a problem.

What do you bring to the table in addition to the desire to become an appraiser? Do you have a background in web design? Perhaps you can commit to revamping and maintaining your mentor’s business website. There is a lot of non-lender appraisal work to be had, but most appraisers do not have time to pursue it. What appraiser would not be willing to bring on a trainee who promised to bring them additional, less-frustrating work?

Create a Long-Term Incentive

One of the biggest obstacles for an appraisal business owner in hiring is the fear of competition. Why should I spend the next 3-4 years of my life training you if you are just going to turn around and compete with me once you are certified? Even if this concern is not voiced by your potential trainer, you can be assured it is thought. Address the elephant in the room. Tell them that you appreciate their fear and then offer them some solutions.

Be willing to sign a Non-Compete Agreement (NCA). Though they are difficult to enforce, your willingness to bring it up will go a long way to reassure your mentor that you will honor that agreement. Perhaps you could set up an agreement where your employer escrows some of your paycheck while you are training that cannot be recouped until you return so many months in service after the mentoring process is over. Another idea is to be willing to work geographical areas that your mentor is either competent in (or could become competent in) which they are not currently working. Agree to work these areas with a fee split after you are licensed so as not to threaten their current coverage areas.


Sometimes the traditional approach to something is not the only or best approach. If you want to become an appraiser in today’s environment, it is going to take some creativity and sacrifice. Perhaps you can consider relocating. What about paying your mentor tuition for his willingness to pass on his time and knowledge similar to how you would pay for a college education? One thing is clear, calling all of the appraisers in your area and begging for a job will likely not get you much.

Despite what I sometimes hear from my peers, appraising in a wonderful career choice. Do not listen to the naysayers. If this is something you want to do, there is a way to do it.

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About Dustin Harris

Dustin Harris
Dustin Harris is a successful, self-employed, residential real estate appraiser. He has been appraising for nearly two decades. He is the owner and President of Appraisal Precision and Consulting Group, Inc., and is a popular author, speaker and consultant. He also owns and operates The Appraiser Coach where he personally advises and mentors other appraisers helping them to also run successful appraisal companies and increase their net worth. His free podcast can be listened to on iTunes and Stitcher. He and his wife reside in Idaho with their four children. He loves playing in the outdoors and watching movies indoors.

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