Becoming an Appraiser: Careers, Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of becoming an appraiser? See real job descriptions and find out the truth about training, licensing, career outlook and salary to decide if becoming an appraiser is the right choice for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as an Appraiser

An appraiser estimates the accurate value of personal and real property often needs to be determined by banks, the government or insurance companies using research, critical analysis and observation skills. Consider the following pros and cons to see if becoming an assessor is the right career for you.

Pros of Being an Appraiser
Opportunity to be self-employed (27% of real estate appraisers were self-employed as of 2012)*
Most positions require only a high school diploma or associate's degree*
Some work is performed out of the office or even at home*
Flexible part-time work may be available (13% of appraisers work part-time)*

Cons of Being an Appraiser
Slower-than-average job growth for real estate appraisers (6% from 2012-2022)*
Slow growth opportunities for auto damage appraisers (3% from 2012-2022)*
Demand for appraisers decreases in a recessive economy*
Overtime and weekend work sometimes required*
Generally need to obtain a license*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Essentials

Job Description and Duties

An appraiser assesses the value of property, such as jewelry, art, antiques, real estate or cars. Art, jewelry or antiques may be appraised to determine authenticity and value before an insurance policy is issued. Appraisers also inspect auto damage after accidents. In the case of real estate, appraisals are performed to determine property taxes, confirm sales prices or determine collateral value for mortgages. According to the BLS, most appraisers work for insurance companies as auto appraisers or appraise real estate for municipalities and mortgage lenders. The BLS also noted that 27% of real estate appraisers were self-employed as of 2012, which could allow you to be flexible about the hours you work and the fees you charge.

During the appraisal process, an appraiser takes photographs, draws up floor plans, takes measurements and communicates findings through written reports. Much of the work of an appraiser takes place at a location other than an office, but time spent sitting at a computer and writing reports will be necessary. Appraisers can specialize in commercial or residential real estate, auto accidents or personal property. Regardless of the specialization, you'll need to be knowledgeable about any concerns that may affect the value of the property or item. You should also be up to date on tax issues and other complex regulations, especially when real estate is being appraised. Insurance companies and mortgage lenders count on appraisers to be extremely accurate and detail-oriented.

Occupation Growth and Salary Information

The BLS predicted a 6% increase in the employment of real estate appraisers and assessors between 2012 and 2022. Employment of auto damage insurance appraisers was expected to increase 3%. These projections were based on an expected decline in real estate purchases and improvement of road and automobile safety. However, many job opportunities should still be found in major metropolitan areas with more home sales and in regions that experience damage from natural disasters.

As of 2014, the BLS estimated that auto damage appraisers earned a median salary of approximately $63,420. Appraisers and assessors of real estate had lower salaries, even though more education and training may be required for these positions. Real estate appraisers and assessors earned an approximate median salary of $52,570 as of 2014.

Requirements

Education Requirements

Appraisers who assess the value of residential real estate typically need to earn an associate's degree, while commercial real estate appraisers are often required to hold a bachelor's degree. The field of study is not specified, but the BLS recommends taking courses in business, finance, math, economics and real estate law. Appraisers who specialize in auto accident evaluations usually don't need a college degree, but knowledge of automobiles and repair issues is a skill set that employers prefer. Taking auto repair courses at a vocational school can be beneficial for work with a car insurance company. On-the-job training can teach you a majority of the skills you will need to perform the duties of an appraiser.

Licensure/Certification Requirements

The BLS states that most appraisers need to be licensed or certified in the state where they live. However, the specific requirements are dependent on the nature of the appraisal work. Appraisers who work for car insurance companies may be able to work under the company license rather than an individual license. Certified Residential Real Property Appraisers appraise real property with loan values of less than $250,000 and residential property with loan values above $250,000. To qualify for this certification, you would need 2,500 hours of experience and 21 units of specific college coursework or an associate's degree.

Certified General Real Property Appraisers who have no value limits are required to earn a bachelor's degree and complete more hours of training and work experience than Certified Residential Real Property Appraisers. Licensed Residential Real Property Appraisers appraise complex and non-complex residences. License candidates need 2,000 hours of training and 150 hours of education.

States may also require licensing applicants to complete coursework and pass an exam. Appraisers who are working on licensing requirements are designated as 'trainees' in many states and can conduct appraisals with only 75 hours of appraisal-related education.

Job Postings from Actual Employers

Many employers seek applicants who are able to travel to different locations and who have some experience in or knowledge of the industry. Excellent written and interpersonal communication skills are a necessity, and real estate appraisal postings specify licensure requirements. Below are some examples of real career listings from March 2012:

  • A county assessment office in Pennsylvania was looking for an entry-level appraiser to visit real estate properties, take measurements, draw out floor plans and note property details. Applicants needed their own vehicle, and less than a year of experience was the minimal requirement.
  • An insurance company in Dallas wanted to hire a self-starter who could appraise auto damage and work with repair facilities to negotiate prices.
  • A bank in Wisconsin was searching for a residential review appraiser with five years of experience and an undergraduate degree in economics, business or finance. A certified residential appraiser license was required, and knowledge of credit lending practices was preferred.
  • An insurance company in Orlando desired an automobile appraiser with at least one year of experience to inspect damaged vehicles and estimate settlements. Applicants needed to pass a field certification exam, and additional courses were required after hire.

How to Rise Above the Competition

Advancement in this field is generally based more on experience than education, and the BLS has concluded that appraisers who pursue higher levels of licensure might receive elevated pay and be more attractive to employers. Additionally, an appraiser can obtain optional certification from a professional organization to exhibit an advanced dedication to the field. The American Society of Appraisers and the Appraisers Association of America offer certification and accreditation for appraisers of all types. Usually, applicants must have five or more years of professional experience and a degree, in addition to passing an exam. The International Society of Appraisers offers continuing education courses to help appraisers strengthen skills. Coursework covers the areas of report writing, appraisal techniques and personal property.

Other Careers to Consider

If the training and licensing requirements seem daunting, you might consider one of these alternate careers, which offer similar salaries and job duties.

Insurance Investigator

One career that's similar to appraiser is insurance investigator. If fraud is expected, the investigator analyzes the claim and conducts fact-finding activities, such as surveillance and interviews. Working in the evening and on weekends may be necessary, and uncomfortable confrontations with individuals may occur. Investigators only need a high school diploma in most cases, and some law enforcement or insurance claims experience is preferred. The BLS expected a 3% increase in the employment of claims adjusters, examiners and investigators from 2010-2020. The median salary as of 2011 was approximately $59,000.

Real Estate Broker

Real estate brokers help their clients buy and sell property and guide them through the negotiation process and regulatory requirements of the transaction. The BLS estimated that 57% of real estate brokers and sales agents were self-employed as of 2010. Brokers are only required to hold a high school diploma, but some employers prefer candidates who have taken college courses in business and real estate or have completed a degree program. Brokers must meet licensure, and requirements will vary by state. Generally, brokers must take real estate courses and pass a comprehensive exam to receive a license. An 8% increase in the employment of real estate brokers was expected from 2010-2020, and the median salary was around $59,000 as of 2011.

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