So, You Want to Become an Appraiser

One of the most common questions I am asked as The Appraiser Coach is, “I want to become an appraiser. How do I find someone to train me?” It often comes from wanna-be appraisers who feel saddened and defeated by their perception of the current system. They want, more than anything, to become a real-estate appraiser but see the numerous hurdles to their goals as almost insurmountable.

As we are all painfully aware, the appraisal industry has undergone a great many changes in the last few years; increased education and training hours (in addition to other obstacles) have made getting from here to there a daunting task. Indeed, becoming an appraiser is a different animal than it was even a few years ago. However, that does not mean it is impossible to do. Far from it.

Those of you who know me, know that I am a glass-half-full kind of guy. There are a great number of nay-sayers out there in the appraisal world. I am not one of them. In fact, I frequently get hate mail from appraisers who think I am just “too optimistic.” Whatever. I am of the philosophy that man (or woman) can achieve any and all things they put their mind to. Napoleon Hill is one of my favorite dead mentors and, if you have read any of his books, you will find he was the eternal optimist.

Let me offer a few words of advice that I often give these aspiring appraisers. First, do not ever let anyone tell you that you cannot (or should not) do something. If I had listened to everyone who ever said I couldn’t, I would still be working the grill at McDonald’s.


Second, study the industry and decide if this is really something you want. It may not be everything you thought (or hoped) it would be. Caution Here: See notes above on the first point as many appraisers will try to talk you out of this as a career choice. Listen to what they have to say, but make your own conclusions.


Third, map out your plan to achieve your appraisal license. Be as detailed as possible with what, when, and how you will accomplish the smaller goals that lead to the ultimate prize; your appraisal license.


Fourth, consider taking a non-traditional route to your goal. Human beings often look at every box from the inside. If you cannot seem to find a mentor to help you achieve your goal, it is time to step outside the proverbial box. Here are a few ideas. Does your state allow reading appraisal reports to count toward your hours? What about working in a county assessor’s office for some of your experience? Can you hire your services out virtually (i.e. help with data gathering or type-ups for appraisers across the country, so there is no chance of you ‘becoming their competition’)? I am sure you can get creative and think of more on your own.


Finally (and most importantly), stop looking at your own desires in isolation of others.


The large majority of wanna-be appraisers come to me with some version of the same mantra: “I called every appraiser in my area and none of them want to train me.” Well, duh! Why would they? What is in it for them? In fact, there can be much in it for them but most experienced appraisers are not very creative in this sense. “Hey, I want to be an appraiser. Would you consider training me?” does not cut it. If you want someone to spend time, money, and effort on you, shouldn’t you first consider what value you can create for them in return? In the end, we are all self-interested creatures, and training someone out of charity is not typically a viable reason to take you on as an apprentice. You may consider offering to work for them for ‘free’ in return for their mentoring. I have even heard of trainees paying their trainers like you would pay for college tuition. How about an agreement to give back three years of service in their business once you have received your license in payment for their efforts? Most appraisers are concerned about you becoming their competition, so you would be wise to write up and sign a non-compete clause in the very beginning.


What other options can you think of to provide your potential mentor? Remember this as you are looking for a Certified Appraiser to train you; always be asking yourself, “What kind of value can I bring to my mentor? Why would they want to take me on?” In other words, you need to put yourself in their shoes and provide them with an offer they cannot refuse. (Side Note: Any prospective appraisers who want to work for me for free helping to gather data and do data entry can email me at [email protected]. I would certainly consider any and all offers).


The bottom line is this; if you want to be an appraiser, you SHALL be an appraiser! So it isn’t as easy to get into the industry as it used to be. Big deal. Nothing worth achieving is ever easy. Set your goals, see yourself achieving them, take the first step, and you will eventually get to your destination. You may need to take a longer (or different) path than in the past, but you will get there.


Now, go create some value!


Dustin Harris is a multi-business owner, but he has found most of his success as a self-employed, residential real estate appraiser. He has been appraising for nearly two decades. He is the owner and President of Appraisal Precision and Consulting Group, Inc., and is a popular author, speaker and consultant. He owns and operates The Appraiser Coach ( where he personally advises and mentors other appraisers helping them to also run successful appraisal companies and increase their net worth.  He and his wife reside in Idaho with their four children.

34 thoughts on “So, You Want to Become an Appraiser”

  1. I took on a trainee about a year ago. She had been my assistant for 6 months prior to that. She’s going to be a good appraiser some day. Though she’s young (25), for the most part she’s very reliable and perceptive and has a good work ethic. Only drawback I have is that there’s no one out there and no course and no book to tell the Certified Appraiser HOW to do the training, what to look for, watch for, etc. Other than watch and learn and conversational instruction, I’m not sure what I should be doing. I feel I’m out here with no support. I take her training very seriously. Any suggestions?

  2. I agree with Anna. A course to “Teach the Teacher”. This article was very timely as I was contacted this week by a gentleman who has taken the REA1 and USPAP courses and has applied for and is waiting to receive his trainee license.

    We had a long talk about the business and he wishes someone in the classroom would have given them a heads up on how difficult it would be to find a mentor. He understands that at least for several months, tis will be an unapid position.

    So Dustin, the next article/video topic; Training the Next Generation of Appraisers.

  3. AnnA:

    Good for you for taking her training seriously. Too many appraisers do not and that is one of the problems we are now dealing with. In 2012, the AQB put in place rules that will go into affect in Jan of 2015. One of them is to require both trainees and supervisors to take a course designed to teach how to supervise. I am not sure how the actual course will roll out and if it will be any good, but it is a possible step in the right direction. I wish you all the best in your decision to train and hope things turn out well.

  4. Jill Merwin, SRA

    Oregon has a good supervisory/trainee class that is required prior to taking on a trainee. It might be a good place for you to start.

  5. AnnA: I went the the TALCB Education Committee last Friday. They are in the process of developing a Trainee/Supervisor Course and hope to have it available in mid 2014. has a book on Supervising Beginning Appraisers and they also have an on-line 3.5 hour course. Teresa

  6. Pierce Blitch, III, IFAS

    I have trained (or retrained) 6 appraisers in the last 30 years. Non-Compete agreements/contracts are non-enforceable in Georgia. It typically takes at least 3 years before I feel somewhat comfortable not reviewing EVERY report the trainee/licensed appraiser sends out of my office. I have never asked anyone work for free but have started at just above minimum wage and increased over 12-18 months, then they go to a commission split as an independent contractor. I believe my commission splits have been very fair. It’s a sliding scale that starts at 60/40 and goes up to 90/10 based on total company dollar production by the appraiser. However, even after 4-5 years, they invariably strike out on their own. I don’t think that a mentor really starts to make a decent return on their investment in time and money until the 3rd or 4th year. I have been without a trainee for 2 years but just might take one on soon to help with the volume of work that I have to turn away.

  7. The Appraisal Institute had a course called “Supervising Appraiser Trainees” a couple of years ago. I found it helpful. However, nothing is better than experience. Every trainee is a different experience and some pick up on the process faster than others. Be aware that it’s important to have the time as a supervisor to properly train and support your trainee. Make it clear what’s expected of them and what they should expect from you so there are no surprises. It will save a lot of time and effort in the long run.

    Taking a trainee on is a lot of responsibility and work which will impact the other responsibilities you have running your practice. I don’t expect my trainees to work for free. However, if I’m to dedicate myself to them, I do expect them to be fully committed to learning our trade as there are too many people out there that think appraising is easy. Then, months into it they decide there’s easier money elsewhere… and there probably is. So, make sure they truly want to be an appraiser and lay out a clear and honest path to achieving their goal. Both supervisor and trainee must be fully committed to the same goal for the relationship to bear fruit.

  8. I have trained two appraisers during my career and both are really good appraisers. It was important to me that they become good appraisers and not turn out to be glorified office help. Both left and went on their own. The first one took 1/2 of my previous work from my clients. The last one was with me for 6 years, taking forever to become Certified. I always paid her something and she received a 60/40%, then a 75/25% split. When she left, my stress level dropped incredibly and my income increased last year by 16% with my not having to work any additional hours. I have no need to ever go down that path again and incur what it cost ME!

  9. Hi! I am so glad that I came across this article! I am beginning my RE Appraiser education. In my research of the career, I have found many posts mentioning how difficult it is to find a mentor. Thinking about that made me feel as though maybe I would not be able to accomplish my goal. I started to think I should give up before I get in too deep. I started to become discouraged and unsure of my choices. Reading this article gave me back the excitement I felt in the beginning! This is the job for me and I will accomplish my goals! Thank you very much for the encouragement!

  10. I am so pleased to find this article today! I just received my Trainee License last week and I have been feeling some doubt about my possibilities of finding a place to log my 2000 required hours. It really is up to me to make myself more valuable!

    I know the apprentice routine quite well since I am a Brick and Stone Mason by trade. A work injury in 2009 knocked me out of the trade I enjoyed for almost 40 years, and now I am re- training myself for a new profession. I went back to College while I was recovering from my injuries, and I will meet the requirements to get my AA degree this Summer. I decided to study for my Appraisal exam and attend College to get a Business degree at the same time so that I would meet the new education requirements for Appraisers that will take effect in 2015.

    I’m doing well for a 61 year old appraiser trainee, and my next goal is to learn as much as possible to make myself more valuable to someone who will be willing to take me on as a Trainee “apprentice” Appraiser. Thanks so much for your encouraging words!

  11. Michelle ~
    Thank you for your post as well! I am in the same position you describe. My desire is to become an appraiser but I keep running into the same ‘doom & gloom-sayers’ perspective on finding a mentor. It would help to know how things turned out for you and how you finally found your mentor.

  12. I worked for an appraiser during my last semester in college and got all my classes done to become a trainee appraiser. During the course of my classes I read about the ethics and laws involved in the process. I found out that her having me do entire reports and inspections by myself and only glancing over the report before I submitted it was both unethical and illegal. I felt myself on a great path to having the career of my dreams, my breaking point was when she decided to move to Florida and have her niece do appraisals for her there, and me continue to do appraisals here. That company is the only experience in Appraisal that I have, and I still want to finish my training, When other prospective employers ask me why I left that company I’m no longer sure how much detail I should go into. Any ideas how to get back into it?

  13. Good for you, and thank you. As a trainee I’ve been lucky to have been paid for my training. I do not read the Appraisal Coach often but working for free is a horrible practice, suggesting so with what we have to contend with just to get into this field is not doing anyone any favors. It is a great way to keep people out of this field if that is the goal. I have a college degree and drive. The suggestion of trainees working for free is an insult. Paying the mentor for said training is even worse. I have a contract that I am fine with where I am to work for my mentor for a year after my certification.
    It’s dang near impossible to make the 2500 hours in 5 years if you are not doing it full time with financial compensation.

  14. Any new updates or comments since 2015? I had completed my courses and my hours in the early 2000’s. I ended up leaving the profession right before getting my license due to the economy. It is now 2017 and I am retaking the courses and starting my hours ALL OVER again. I am also finishing up my Master’s Degree in communications at the same time. Any new tricks to the program in the last two years Dustin?

  15. Dustin Harris

    Nothing has really changed so far, but it looks like we are poised for change in the future./

  16. I’m interested in obtaining a license in residential properties. I’m a little nervous to proceed because I have no idea how I will obtain the necessary trainee hours. It seems like something licensed appraisers aren’t interested in because it cost them time and money. I live in VA and I am happy to go through the process, Its just hard to find someone willing to train.

  17. I’m interested in obtaining a license in residential properties. I’m a little nervous to proceed because I have no idea how I will obtain the necessary trainee hours. It seems like something licensed appraisers aren’t interested in because it cost them time and money. I live in VA and I am happy to go through the process, Its just hard to find someone willing to train. Any idea where I can start?

  18. I recently completed my appraisal training courses and I am now looking for a mentor. I live in Denver, Colorado. I am an excellent worker, professional, committed, creative and fun to be around. I am looking to learn from the best and will make your time as a mentor worthwhile. Please feel free to send me a message if you are interested in some assistance. [email protected]

  19. I just finished the require courses for trainee. I live in CA, Orange County and looking for supervisor.
    Thank you

  20. Kelli Dallimonti

    Hello, I am in the middle of my classes here in Charleston SC. Do you recommend that I call around, email or try via social media to find a mentor? [email protected]

  21. Hi! I am wondering what the general order of action is… Should I take the appraisal course work first, and then try to find someone to mentor me? Or should I find someone to mentor me first, and THEN take the required course work?

  22. Good Afternoon!

    My name is Jill Shuss and I lived in Erie, Colorado. Today, just a few minutes ago, I passed my last required course to become an appraiser trainee! Very exciting!!! Therefore, I’m looking for a mentor in my area who is willing to take on a trainee and maybe even a possible full time employee after I’ve completed my required hours as a trainee. I am a very reliable/proactive individual and have an outstanding work ethic. I’m willing to put whatever hours into becoming an efficacious appraiser.
    I would love to hear for back from you!
    [email protected]

  23. Hey Dustin,
    Great advice – the glass is ALWAYS half-full!
    I liked your out-of-the-box solutions for finding a mentor; I will try all of them and any others I can think of
    I am just starting this new career at age 77.(my entire family lives into their hundreds)
    I will continue sending comments on my progress and how I found a mentor for your readers.

  24. Hi Coach,

    I am going to pursue for Real Property Administration program. Please advice me what further steps i have to take after completion of my program. And how can I do my work after that?.

  25. Hi my name is Elizabeth Cox, and I have completed all of my appraisal courses to be a trainee appraiser, I have work alone side my husband for the last 35 years and know how to complete single family appraisals and inspection to get them out the door to the clients. I have a list of clients we have work with. My husband past away in July and I am trying to start over, I will work for free if that,s what you want. I am located in El Paso, TX please call if you can help at 915-217-7590. Thank you for your consideration

  26. I find it appalling how so many people have to grovel just to become a trainee. That the people who have had the privilege to get the hours required then sit on a pedestal and act like god for training someone. It’s laughable. Looking into the industry I can now see that those who have had the power, very clearly, enjoy the seat on throne. I’ve never read something so pretentious. As if the job you do is saving a life like an EMT. This job has trained a lot of boot lickers, and truthfully is beginning to sound like a pyramid scheme. Pretending to be a professor isn’t a smart look. That’s exactly what this industry does by being as selective as they want and exploiting people who are trying to appraise. This is what I believe a direct result of trying to create monopoly so there isn’t any competition. It’s not hard to look in and appraise this as bullshit.

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