Real Estate Appraiser Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a real estate appraiser's salary and licensure requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a career as a real estate appraiser.
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Real Estate Appraiser Career: Pros and Cons

Real estate appraisers travel to different locations each day to establish what property and structures are worth. Read the following pros and cons to determine if pursuing a career as a real estate appraiser is the right choice for you.

Pros of Being a Real Estate Appraiser
Residential appraisers may only need an associate's degree*
Decent pay (mean annual salary over $58,000)*
Self-employment possibilities*
Some work performed outside of a traditional office environment*

Cons of Being a Real Estate Appraiser
Limited employment opportunities (six percent growth from 2012-2022)*
State certification is usually required*
Decline in housing market reduces need for appraisers*
Working overtime and on weekends sometimes necessary*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Job Duties and Description

In the process of buying or selling a home, refinancing or obtaining insurance, the worth of a property must be determined. A real estate appraiser uses various tools to research comparable sales and location details, take measurements, draw up diagrams, take photographs and produce a written report of the value. To meet the needs of clients, evening and weekend hours may be necessary and travel may be extensive. While some work is performed in an office at a computer, a lot of the work involves visiting properties, and you aren't always stuck behind a desk. Real estate appraisers work for private appraisal firms, insurance companies, mortgage lenders, property management groups and government entities. Some appraisers may also choose to become self-employed. Career specialties include residential or commercial property appraisal.

Salary and Employment Prospects

The need for appraisers will grow when population expansion increases the need for real property. However, with advances in technology and more lending institutions using automated software programs to calculate value, the amount of appraiser career opportunities may be limited. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the field of real estate appraisal and assessment will experience a slower than average rate of growth, six percent, from 2012-2022. Appraisers and assessors of real estate earned an average salary of about $58,000, as seen in May 2014 data from the BLS.

What is Required?

Education and Certification

The type of real estate appraised and the state of residency will determine what level of education you will be required to complete. According to the BLS, residential appraisers will generally need to complete an associate's degree program and commercial appraisers should hold a bachelor's degree. Although a field of study isn't specified, an educational background in business, economics, real estate law, English, computer science or finance could be beneficial. Some businesses may hire individuals with only a high school diploma, but these employees usually perform their duties in an apprenticeship or training role and work towards completing licensing requirements and necessary coursework after hire.

Certification and licensing requirements will vary between states, but federal law mandates two types of certifications necessary to practice as an appraiser, The Certified General Real Property Appraiser and the Certified Residential Real Property Appraiser. The residential property certification allows appraisers to determine the value of residential properties with a worth of over $250,000 or any properties valued at less than $250,000. To obtain this certification, you would need to earn an associate's degree or 21 units of post-high school education, complete 200 hours of appraisal courses and obtain 2,500 hours of work experience over a two year period.

General property appraisers are allowed to appraise any type of property valued at any amount. You will need a bachelor's degree, complete 300 hours of appraisal classes and gain 3,000 hours of experience in 2.5 years. Some states may have other levels of certification for property such as duplexes and other multiple-unit residences. All the certifications require the completion of classes teaching the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), created by the Appraisal Foundation and passing a state examination.

Necessary Skills

To perform the necessary work, real estate appraisers must have strong research skills and be able to accurately interpret data and use critical thinking and analytical methods to produce an informative written report. Accuracy is key because appraisals are used to determine loan amounts and sales prices and incorrect determinations could result in financial loss for a company or home seller. You will need excellent organizational and time management skills as you strive to meet deadlines and travel to multiple locations each day.

What Employers Are Looking for

Many job postings tend to ask for specific appraisal experience and strong computer and communication skills instead of requiring a specific college degree. In addition to an appraisal license from the state and adherence to USPAP standards of practice, travel is required and a driver's license is a must. Below are real job postings found in April 2012 that may shed some light on what employers want:

  • An appraisal firm in Iowa is looking for a residential real estate appraiser to research property information and compile data in a detailed appraisal report. Candidates must be able to conform to USPAP standards, hold an associate's degree and have some experience appraising real estate. Maintaining confidentiality and finding ways to improve the appraisal process is desired.
  • A lender processing service in Pennsylvania wants to hire a real estate appraiser with current state certification, strong written and verbal communications skills, a clean driving record and experience in residential appraising. Candidates must adhere to all industry laws and regulations and have access to appraiser software.
  • A county in Michigan is seeking a property appraiser to work in its equalization department. Candidates must have computer skills and a Michigan driver's license. The ability to understand the state's tax system is required.

Standing out in the Field

Real estate appraisers need to keep up with all the regulatory and market changes that occur in the field. Taking appraisal and real estate courses in addition to attending seminars and lectures help you remain valuable to your current and future employers. The field is dependent on economic and housing market changes, so knowing about various types of real estate instead of just focusing on basic residential or commercial properties will open up more employment opportunities in a competitive industry.

Joining a professional organization - such as the Appraisal Institute or the American Society of Appraisers - will allow you to network and exchange ideas with other professionals in the same line of work. Both organizations offer multiple levels of membership that demonstrate expertise and dedication to the field of appraising. Membership requires the completion of coursework, obtaining work experience and passing an exam.

Other Careers to Consider

Real Estate Sales Agent

If the slower than average job growth rate for appraisers is discouraging, you might want to consider a career in real estate sales. Real estate sales agents help their clients buy and sell both residential and commercial real property, research property and neighborhood information, assist in negotiations, market listings and prepare contracts. Although real estate agents only need a high school diploma, additional state licensing is required. Requirements vary by state but usually include passing an examination and completing real estate coursework. During the 2010-2020 decade, the BLS has projected a 12% increase in the employment of real estate sales agents. The BLS also estimated that agents earned an average yearly salary of over $51,000 in May of 2011.

Building Inspector

An additional alternative to a career in real estate appraising is finding a job as a building inspector. According to the BLS, job growth for construction and building inspectors is expected to grow by 18% from 2010-2020. Building inspectors perform a detailed analysis of the safety and structural integrity of a new or existing home or commercial property. Using records, plans and complex instruments, inspectors check electrical components, plumbing, roofing materials, foundations and other elements of the structure and recommend necessary changes or repairs. Many building inspectors gain knowledge on the job and 35 states have laws requiring licensing or other regulatory constraints that may involve testing, work experience or education necessities. Construction and building inspectors earned an average wage of close to $55,000 a year, based on BLS figures from May 2011.

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Kaplan University

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Ashford University

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Northcentral University

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  • Doctor of Business Admin - General Business
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Southern New Hampshire University

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  • BS Finance
  • AS in Business Administration

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Penn Foster Career School

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Grand Canyon University

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Herzing University

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Colorado State University Global

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  • MS - Management
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