If you’re a licensed trainee entering the appraisal business, finding a supervisor can be a challenge. Many real estate appraisers don’t have the time to mentor a beginner. Sometimes they fear that the newcomer, once fully trained, will become a competitor. However, this is a “greying” business. Older appraisers will often want to keep the business alive, and thus will be glad to train a successor. Appraisers generally agree that an intelligent, enthusiastic newcomer will find a mentor—although it may require a diligent search. Here are expert tips on how to find an appraisal mentor.
How to get your foot in the door
“I recommend finding an appraisal mentor who is passionate about appraising,” advises Jo A. Traut, appraisal curriculum and content specialist at McKissock Learning. “You will not effectively learn from someone who is sour about the appraisal profession and is just looking to turn around an appraisal order for a fee.
“To get your foot in the door, you’ll need to demonstrate how you can add value to a potential mentor. You may be skilled at marketing, spreadsheets, regression analysis, technology, creating websites, using social media, or managing an office. Or maybe you grew up on a working farm, and you can use that experience and familiarity with farming to convince an agricultural appraiser to consider you for appraising agricultural properties. Or you were a home inspector and/or are familiar with construction, major components, and mechanicals. We all have skill sets and experience that we can market to potential mentors.”
Traut recommends considering other entry-level and contracting jobs, such as completing quality-control reviews or managing appraisal orders for a bank or an AMC. Some banks, larger appraisal firms, and AMCs make a point of hiring and training beginners, she says.
“Another option is starting a career with a tax assessor office or a governmental body,” she concludes.
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How to face common hurdles
Daniel A. Bradley, SRA, CDEI, director of online appraisal curriculum for McKissock Learning, notes that many appraisers today are not making the money they made prior to Dodd-Frank and the proliferation of AMCs—and thus hesitate to bring another paid employee on board.
“A learning curve has to be negotiated before employing a trainee becomes profitable,” he says. “Probably the most important advice I can give is to bring something to the table. For example, is the trainee good with computers? Maybe the trainee can offer to help set up and maintain the supervisor’s computer system or update/improve the supervisor’s website. A skilled marketer could help the supervisor set up and implement a marketing plan to obtain new clients. If the trainee loves mathematics and statistics, how about helping the appraiser set up a regression program or some other type of statistical analysis program?
Trainees leave appraisers open to serious liability issues, Bradley adds, and many appraisers are rightly concerned that the trainee will spend one or two years with them, become licensed or certified, then leave and open up a competing firm.
“A would-be trainee might need to sign some sort of non-compete agreement,” he concludes.
How to land an interview with a potential appraisal mentor
“I would recommend going to the state board and finding the closest appraisers to you, then call them up and tell them you’re a licensed trainee and you would like an interview,” says Mark Gerber, broker and appraiser at Park View Realty in Casselberry, Florida. But be sure you don’t shoot yourself in the foot when you’re requesting the interview, or after. Joseph “Jody” Cagle of The Appraisal Center of Middle Georgia (Warner Robins, Georgia) recalls a recent encounter he had with a recently registered appraiser looking for an appraisal mentor.
“On the phone, he seemed like a very pleasant person,” he says. “He had worked as a manager at a few different businesses. His primary goal was to have more free time for his children, which I think is great. But reviewing his resume, I noted that his grammar was awful. His resume was formatted in 17 different fonts that made no organizational sense. He included a reference twice (once as a pastor, once as a friend). He even misspelled his own last name. Now I am sure that this gentleman is thinking how difficult it is to get hired—but had I received a professional resume with some attention to detail, I would definitely have given him a follow-up interview.
“No one really understands the real need for appraisers. It’s not to value a home; it’s not to ensure that the bank isn’t making a bad decision. It’s to uphold the public trust. That’s our number one priority, and everyone forgets it. The nation needs appraisers. The nation needs us, yet they don’t see the real reason we exist. One day, there will be no one to develop an unbiased independent third-party opinion of market value. There will only be a machine, and the value of your real estate will be dictated to you. This is the reason we need new blood into our industry.”
McKissock is your appraisal wingman. Whether you’re looking to get your license, find an appraisal mentor, or upgrade your license and grow your career, we’ve got your back. For more tips and insights, check out our article: Encouraging Advice for New Appraisers.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on September 17, 2019 and updated in May 2023.
Article written by Joseph Dobrian. Joseph Dobrian has been writing about commercial and residential real estate, and real estate-related finance, for more than 30 years. His byline has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Real Estate Forum, Journal of Property Management, and many other publications. He is also a noted novelist, essayist, and translator. His website is www.josephdobrian.com, and he can be contacted at [email protected].
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