When I was a child, I had a clear vision of what I wanted to be when I grew up. While my friends were dreaming of becoming firefighters, doctors, or teachers, I had a different picture in-mind. As children, my brother and I watched my father build a successful career as a real estate appraiser. Though it was a career that struck him by happenstance, it was something he really enjoyed, which was evident when he shared stories with us from his time “in the field.”
Though he initially entered the industry as a mortgage broker in the ‘80s (a role that never really resonated with him), my father cut his teeth as an appraiser working alongside my uncle Brian—his twin brother—at a real estate company in Detroit, before eventually striking out to start his own appraisal company. After running his business successfully for 12 years, he and his business partner were approached by a buyer who was looking to grow in the appraisal space. After selling, he continued to work within the business as it evolved and grew through additional acquisitions and personnel changes. Fast-forward to present day, almost 18 years later, and my father is still enjoying a fruitful career in the industry, now managing a cross-country team of hybrid appraisers.
I consider myself lucky to have had role models like my father and uncle, who illustrated what a successful career as an appraiser looked like. Their positive influence led me, my brother (Ian), and my cousin (Tyler) to all follow in their footsteps after college, becoming appraisers ourselves. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we were a bit of an anomaly; there weren’t a lot of young people like us entering the field.
As a 28-year-old millennial with five years’ experience under my belt, I recognize the opportunity that exists for young people to carve out their own path to a successful, rewarding career as a real estate appraiser. The challenge is: how do we educate and get them interested in the industry in the first place?
The Current State
While I had somewhat of a blueprint to follow as I graduated college and embarked on my career within the appraisal industry, that is not the case for many. For me, and so many others, an appraisal career is “the family business.” It’s engrained in us early on, which gives us a leg up as we know—at least peripherally—what an appraiser does, never mind the certifications, skills, and requirements needed to become one in the first place. However, this lack of awareness has led to a big issue from the Appraisal Institute, there are around 78,000 active real estate appraisers. On the surface that may seem like a healthy number, but when you consider that it’s been decreasing for the past five years–at a rate of 2.6% annually–it’s enough to cause concern. Then, when you factor in that 55% of current appraisers are nearing retirement, clocking in 20-plus years on the job with the majority between the ages of 51-65, then you quickly realize what a true problem we have on our hands. In terms of gender diversity, there is also room for improvement in that department as well (77% male and 21% female). However, instead of focusing on the “problems” we, instead, should look at the opportunity this creates for young people–regardless of gender–to enter the field.
A Growing Opportunity
When you consider the statistics, there is no greater time for young people to enter the real estate appraisal field than right now. What many may not realize is that an appraisal career can provide them with the level of flexibility and earning potential that they’ve been looking for all along. My brother, cousin, and I (who are all in our mid to late twenties) have greatly enjoyed our time in the field thus far and have been pleasantly surprised by many aspects of the job.
For starters, the industry is evolving. With the advent of new technology creating efficiencies in our day-to-day, many appraisers have embraced the hybrid model, giving them the ability to complete an appraisal report from the comfort of their own home. In this method, a real estate agent may go into the house to complete the inspection and relay the findings back to the appraiser, who analyzes the data and completes the appraisal remotely. While the hybrid model has been around for more than 10 years, COVID-19 amplified its importance. With the rise of remote work becoming more commonplace, this creates greater flexibility for the appraiser to manage their day-to-day workloads with more predictability while maximizing their potential to scale and conduct more appraisals in a shorter timeframe (maximizing their earning potential in the process).
Apps and valuation software have brought even more automation and efficiencies into the process, ranging from tech-enabled floorplan measurements to digital mapping that pulls in MLS data to real-time appraisal scheduling. For digital natives like millennials and Generation Z, the ability to work with these tools and embrace appraisal modernization is almost second nature. This creates an opportunity for young people to blaze their own trails and leverage their digital skillsets in a steady, lucrative industry.
With the ability to control your own working hours and the number of jobs you take on, you also have the potential to control your earnings to some degree. For some added context, data from the Appraisal Institute shows that more than one-fifth of appraisers take home at least $150,000 annually with another one-fourth earning at least $100,000, respectively.
Additionally, if you want flexibility to create more time in your schedule to travel, pick your child up from day care or school, or even explore a personal passion project, you have that ability as well. Valuation technology now makes it possible to digitally manage your schedule and arrange your calendar in accordance with what works best for you.
Tips for Breaking Into the Industry
As many young people are lacking the knowledge base and awareness to determine if a career as an appraiser is the right path for them, there is an education component our industry needs to address. My family and I sat down recently to discuss the need to attract the next generation of real estate appraisers and came up with the following tips for young people to help them break into the industry.
Do Your Research: Due to the 1,500 hours of field training needed to become a certified residential appraiser, coupled with the online learning and final exam requirements (both of which require a nominal investment), it is important for young people who may be considering a career as an appraiser to do their research. For starters, the Appraisal Institute launched a website—careersbuildingcommunities.org—in collaboration with 29 real estate-related organizations to create a source for high school and college-aged students to explore career possibilities within real estate. In addition, The Appraisal Foundation has a wide array of information on their website including education or requisite experience requirements needed to become a certified residential appraiser in addition to information on requirements by state and number of hours in the field, among other helpful tips and materials. Another way to gain a deeper understanding of how to break into the industry is to seek out mentorship from someone in the field. Consider leveraging LinkedIn to search for certified real estate appraisers and then reach out to them via messenger to ask if you can pick their brain about their experience in the industry. While this may sound unorthodox, you’d be surprised how willing busy professionals are to carve out a bit of time in their day to knowledge-share. The worst thing they can say is “no,” right? In addition, following nonprofit appraisal organizations on social media to stay up-to-date on free events or webinars they may be hosting is another great way to gain knowledge.
Seek Out Internships: Due to the in-the-field training and course requirements, it can seem daunting to jump back into schooling directly following the completion of an undergraduate or graduate degree (though it is important to note, some college coursework or requisite experience can also be considered in lieu of a four-year degree in certain instances). That’s why we recommend seeking out internships before graduation. Not only will you get hands-on experience, but you may even be able to fulfill some of your necessary training or coursework, giving you a head start when you do enter the workforce.
Consider networking with or reaching out to a local professional appraiser membership organization to express interest in securing an internship or finding a supervisory appraiser to work under to fulfill some of your requirements needed to become an appraiser. Simply searching “real estate appraiser trainee” in job search engines is a good first start. In addition, you may consider getting some of the appraiser trainee coursework (75 hours total) out of the way before seeking out an internship or supervisory appraiser to make yourself more marketable. This demonstrates your eagerness and commitment to the field to a potential employer.
Determine Ways to Offset Costs: If you can secure an internship or get into a training program with a corporation or appraisal management company (AMC), in some instances, they may sponsor you and offer to pay for your licensing coursework or exam fees necessary to become an appraiser.
In my case, I was able to secure a full-time job post-graduation and do my training part-time, which helped to lessen the burden of payment as I was earning a paycheck in tandem with the coursework. We recommend also seeking out scholarships as a way to offset some of these costs. For example, the Appraisal Institute Education & Relief Foundation provides scholarship opportunities for those pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees with a concentration in real estate appraisal or related fields. Taking a proactive approach is key to offsetting some of these costs before you are ready to enter the field full time.
While the requirements and training necessary to become an appraiser can seem daunting, a career in the field is worth the investment in oneself. The flexibility, emerging technology, and rewarding and fulfilling work that comes along with it make an appraisal career something that young people should consider. I have never once regretted the time spent investing in myself to become a certified real estate appraiser, and I know that many young people—if exposed to the idea early and often enough—will feel the same, too.