Thinking about being an appraiser? Here’s what you need to know. - by Bill Pastuszek

April 14, 2017 - Appraisal & Consulting
Bill Pastuszek
Thinking about being an appraiser? Here’s what you need to know. This is a great profession. I am at my most serious when I say this. I had a chance to be a loan officer or an appraiser: my father (also an appraiser) convinced me to choose the latter and I never looked back.

I shouldn’t speak for my peers, but most would admit that they can’t imagine doing anything else. There are those days when an appraiser may wish he or she had never heard of appraising. But compared to what many people think about their chosen line of work, such days are not frequent, and in the larger scheme of things, can be selectively overlooked. And as a high school coach used to tell our team, it’s all about attitude anyway.

Your task as an appraiser is inherently interesting. You are challenged most days to solve difficult, but not insurmountable, valuation problems in rational and logical ways. This, while many people around you are not acting rationally or logically, nor are they wanting you to act that way either.

You have the opportunity—the responsibility—to think and act independently. You may be accused of “impeding” deals; of not ratifying what two or more parties (not necessarily) well-informed, not necessarily acting in their own interests, and not always well motivated, have decided a price agree to represents market value and have convinced others to agree with them. You may spend time figuratively or actually scratching your head and saying, “what were they thinking?” But the answer you provide—and are paid for—is yours. And you have to stand up for it dispassionately and persuasively.

You will wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. You will be terrified at the possible incorrect adjustment you made in the sales comparison in that appraisal done 5 years ago. You will worry about when the Appraisal Board will invite you to appear before them with your report and workfile to answer for this possibly incorrect adjustment.

All that aside, it is strangely satisfying to be complimented (sometimes,) for being “right.” Remember, appraisers get paid for their opinions. And these opinions are supposed to be supported and stand up to scrutiny by both the informed and the uninformed. But it is a good feel to finish an assignment and know that it was done “right.” It strikes me that is a different kind of right than having the right value.

So what are some of the downsides to being an appraiser?

The Barriers to Entry: Huge! The system has you starting out in real estate appraising as if you know absolutely nothing. However, you have to have a college credential to get to point of being considered for a license.

You have to sweat passing a number of courses. You hope fervently that you have positive educational experiences, i.e., passing the tests, including getting through 15 hours of USPAP + exam.

You then have to submit to being supervised for a period of time until you amass enough creditable experience to submit to a review of your work. You hope that your work will be favorably reviewed and that you will be allowed to take a national exam (which not that many pass on their first attempt.) Never mind. You’ll get it on the second go-round.

Once you have the credential, you can look forward to juggling cash flow to keep the car gassed up, running, and insured, paying other kinds of insurance, and taking care of rent, mortgage, tuition, all the other bills and responsibilities of being a human and an appraiser on this planet. Your hours will be long and sometimes you will work without breaks for days on end.

Plus you must endure politely insults, slights, and arguments with clients, borrowers, and others, including everybody out there that professes to know more than you about real estate valuation.

All the time you will keep telling yourself, “It’s all about public trust. Remain independent, objective, and impartial. Don’t mislead; be credible.” You too will start to wake up at night, worried about one appraisal or another, just like your now peers. You are now an appraiser!

However, all snarkiness aside, being an appraiser has payoffs. If you are willing to climb the steep learning/earning curve, you will end up with a great career. So, it won’t just be a job, but an adventure! Go for it!

Bill Pastuszek, MAI, ASA, MRA, heads Shepherd Associates, Newton, Mass.