An Appraiser Thanksgiving

I have always enjoyed Thanksgiving.  It is a day to fight with family you never see but twice a year, indulge in the sin of gluttony, and freeze your can off as you pull hamstrings in a game of backyard football.  And then of course, there is the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Just as Christmas is not all about stockings, trees, and an overweight old guy in a red suit, Thanksgiving is not all about turkey, , stuffing,  and that creepy pretzel Jell-O stuff. Though we celebrate the coming together of Indian and Pilgrim, the true story of Thanksgiving goes much deeper and has great significance for the modern day appraiser.

Despite what you might have learned in your public-school upbringing, the true story of Thanksgiving is more complex than finding a new land, learning how to grow corn, and celebrating with dancing, corn-beer, and gigantic turkey legs. When the Pilgrims first came to this land it was barren and untamed. The original governmental and economic system set up by the voyagers resembled something similar to what you might see in present-day Cuba, North Korea, or China. A large reason why the Pilgrims had such a difficult time the first few years and why so many died was the flawed system of rule they established… with mostly good intentions.

The original governing-economic system set up under Capt. Bradford was that of equality in all things. All must work, all must harvest and all share equally in the spoils. Unfortunately, human nature has not changed in the thousands of years we have inhabited this planet. Some work harder than others and others work less than some. In the end, many sat back and watched the little red hen plant, sow, and reap all by herself. When the smell of freshly baked bread filled the air however, all expected to eat equally. Unfortunately, life is not that kind. The ‘Law of the Harvest’ does not put itself on hold just because you have big buckles on your shoes and one on your hat as well.

Thankfully, wiser heads prevailed and the leadership learned that equal distribution (though sounding compassionate), was not the best system after all. A new system of ‘if you are able, and you want to eat… you have to work’ was soon implemented and the large gathering of people around the primitive banquet table was the result.

When I first decided to become an appraiser, I went to my father-in-law for advice. He had spent his life without a boss and so I sought his wisdom. In true son-in-law fashion, I quickly forgot 99.9% of what he said that day, but one thing sticks out.  Said he, “A self-employed man wakes up every morning unemployed.”  In other words, as a real estate appraiser I must find a way every day to put food on the table, clothe my children’s backs, and keep the roof over their heads. With the ups and downs in the market, that is not always an easy task. Yet every Thanksgiving holiday, I sit down at the banquet table and thank God for the blessings He has given me throughout the year. Every year I’ve been able to pay my mortgage. My children have never gone hungry (well, unless they were naughty). We have always had vehicles to transport us.  Sure, there have been times when things were tight, but we have always had clothes on our backs and have been watched over and blessed in so many ways.

This Thanksgiving, as you sit down at the table across from those despicable people that you call family and partake of cranberry sauce and yams (who eats that stuff any other time of the year?), take a few moments to reflect upon the blessings in your own life. I am convinced that God loves all people but, as an entrepreneur and a business owner, sometimes I’m able to see his blessings a little bit more poignantly.

Happy Thanksgiving and go creates 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.

4 thoughts on “An Appraiser Thanksgiving”

  1. As you described, it is nice to have a Thanksgiving and some of those relatives we never see except on this occasion.
    I am lucky, because appraising is only a part time business, as I can no longer live on the income. I have another career.
    However, I am praying for the one appraiser I know that has lost everything after working 25 years on these streets.
    He has lost his home, now his business, since the HVCC and the AMC’s it has more than taken its toll on everyone of us.
    Some more than other.

    The fees are so low here in Michigan even your coaching cannot help. All of the Lawyers and CPA’;s know that because of the AMC’s the price for an appraisal is just $150. I know this because I work for Lawyers and CPA’s and I have lost a ton of business. Fast and Cheap won in this area. I know the game. You get what you pay for, however most folks are refusing to do the rock bottom prices that the Appraisal Sweat shops are paying and even some have gone hungry. Where are those stories??? Our wonderful government at work!!!

    1. Take heart and have hope. Agencies are taking a hard look at AMC’s who broadcast a rock-bottom fee and always take the lowest bidder. This practice may be banned as it “creates an atmosphere” that leads to taking a less compentent appraiser’s work over an appraiser who is more competent and refuses to negotiate his fee to a rock-bottom, sure to lose money on the deal, price. As time progresses and lenders who have taken these less competent appraiser’s values lose significant money after the transaction defaults, the data will show that the present system does not lead to higher quality work. It would appear to me that one could already take a significant random sample of failed transactions, plug in the fee that the appraiser actually received, plug in the primary borrower’s credit score and then compare this sample to one where the performing loans of the same seasoning, possessing similar credit scores but have a customary, reasonable fee associated with the appraisal product. I think this comparison would “tell the tale” and wake up the marginal lenders who are staying in the real estate business instead of the mortgage lending business. I know I would get a “red mark” for the above run-on sentence, but that is it in a nut shell.

      Have a Happy Thanksgiving and let’s thank our God for all that we do have!

      John B

  2. I sympathize with the article and all the following comments. I have enjoyed ups, way ups, downs, and way downs over the last 5 years of doing business on my own, not to mention intense joy and frustration(AMCs). But like my tax specialist cousin, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I enjoy the business and being self-employed. I always try to keep a big picture perspective. I thank God for His favor.

    All the best to those who are making it work. And to those who are struggling – Malachi 3:8-10.


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