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How to Become an Appraiser

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Put Your Skills to Work as a Real Estate Appraiser

If you have an interest in real estate but don’t want the uncertainty of making your living from sales commissions, consider becoming an appraiser. Appraisers use a variety of evaluation methods to determine what a property is worth. This information is used in a number of ways, including determining tax liability and helping the completion of the mortgage underwriting process. Many real estate appraisers are self-employed and even work from home. If you are a mother looking for a career with job flexibility, appraisal might be a good industry for you.

Job Description

A real estate appraiser performs multiple assessments of a property to determine how much it’s worth. This process includes performing a property inspection, researching the history of the property via legal records and researching the value of surrounding properties. Real estate appraisers can provide valuation services for residential properties, including single-family homes and multi-unit buildings, as well as commercial and mixed-use (i.e., residential and business) buildings.

The median annual salary for real estate appraiser can vary depending on whether the appraiser is self-employed, works for the government or within the real estate industry. In addition, the value of the property itself may have an impact on compensation, particularly for self-employed, independent appraisers.

According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average median salary for a real estate appraiser employed in the finance and insurance industry was $64,460 in May of 2016. Appraisers working for local governments averaged about $49,010.

Education Requirements

Real estate appraisal is a licensed profession. Federal law dictates that an appraiser must have an appropriate state license if his or her valuation can be used in any federally based real estate transaction. Practically speaking, this means that most real estate sales requiring a mortgage will need the services of a licensed appraiser. This is because federally based transactions are defined as those involving any type of federal guarantee agency. These include FHA mortgages, VA mortgages, USDA mortgages and even mortgages issued by an FDIC-insured bank.

Qualifying for a license level requires completing an educational program, performing appraisals under the supervision of an experienced appraiser and passing a licensing exam. Specific requirements are established by each state, though state laws must comply with federal guidelines. Most states recognize four levels of licensing, and standards typically meet or exceed the following:

  • Licensed Trainee Appraiser: In states that offer a trainee appraiser license, typical requirements include completing a 75-hour course in real estate appraisal before the candidate can begin supervised work as a trainee.
  • Licensed Residential Appraiser: Must have 30 hours of college-level education, complete 150 hours of licensing education hours of appraisal education and have the ability to document at least 2,000 hours of supervised appraisal experience over the prior year.
  • Certified Residential Appraiser: Must hold at least a bachelor’s degree and complete 200 hours of licensing education along with 2,500 hours of appraisal work over the past year. 
  • Certified General Appraiser: A certified general appraiser must complete 300 hours of licensing education and 3,000 hours of appraisal work over the previous two-and-a-half years. 

In addition to education and work requirements, appraisers are also usually required to take and pass a licensing exam for each level of appraisal practice.

License level corresponds to the value and complexity of the property being appraised. For example, entry-level appraisers are restricted to working on relatively small and inexpensive residential buildings. As appraisers become more experienced, they can apply for higher levels of licensure, allowing them to appraise large, high-value commercial properties.

About the Industry

According to the BLS, most appraisers either work for local governments or in the real estate industry: 30 percent work for local government and 30 percent for real estate. Some 23 percent of appraisers are self-employed, while 6 percent work in the finance and insurance sector.

As an appraiser, you’ll do a lot of your calculations and paperwork in a standard or home office. However, you can also expect to be on the road a lot, traveling to different properties that need an appraisal. Most appraisers work full-time, but if you are self-employed, you’ll have some flexibility in your hours.

Years of Experience

The longer you work as a real estate agent, the greater your income potential. A survey by PayScale.com shows these median salaries correlated with years on the job:

  • 0–5 years: $44,000
  • 5–10 years: $62,000
  • 10–20 years: $78,000
  • 20+ years: $82,000

Job Growth Trend

Job opportunities for real estate appraisers are expected to jump over the next couple of decades. The BLS notes that employment is expected to grow by 14 percent between 2016 and 2026. It should be noted, however, that the demand for real estate appraisers corresponds with local real estate markets. If you are thinking of becoming an appraiser, do some research on real estate costs and sales in your area. The BLS also notes that appraisers who develop their skills and who can appraise different property types will increase their job opportunities.