The Appraiser Reality Show

I am really not into television.  I don’t even pay for cable or satellite service.  Just don’t have time for it.  I stay caught up on the news and other pop culture through the Internet, for free.  So, it goes without saying that I am also not into reality TV.  Well, unless you count Duck Dynasty.  I am pretty sure I have seen every episode of Willie and Jace (yes, for FREE on the Internet—happy, happy, happy).  Despite my general lack of interest in television programming, I have always thought that the work life of an appraiser could be perfect for reality TV.

We have a very interesting job.  It is one of the few occupations which allow observation of the most intimate portions of an individual’s home. Even the electrician, plumber, or carpenter do not have the same access that we do. Though real estate agents also walk through a fair number of homes, they often see structures that are either vacant or spruced up for possible showing. The majority of homes that we see, on the other hand, are not for purchases but for refinances or other financial changes to a mortgage. Therefore, most of the homes that we walk through are shown to us in their ‘natural’ state.  Granted, they may pick up a few things in anticipation of our visit, but it is interesting to see the things they don’t clean up.

I have been in the homes and apartments of the more destitute among us. I have seen the inside of the middle-class homes of this nation, and I have also been granted access to numerous high-end homes of the rich and famous.  In the end, it is true that most people are just average people. A large majority of the homes that I have walked through revealed no real secrets to write home about, and most days are just ‘another day at the office.’ I suppose many of those more boring clips would have to be edited out of our reality show. However, two decades as an appraiser have also revealed much about human nature and how we really live our lives behind closed doors.

I have seen things that made me laugh. I have observed things that would make a grown man want to cry. I have been privy to everything from your neighbor’s lingerie to which version of the Bible they read. I have seen posters on teenagers’ walls that make me wonder about their parents and items on parents’ walls that make me wonder about their children. I have found that many people have absolutely no shame and have literally found actual skeletons in at least two  closets. Now THAT would be an exciting episode in the Appraiser Reality Show!

Certainly, my suggestion of a realty show is somewhat tongue-in-cheek (I say that for the naysayers who are already writing their hate mail).  I understand there are confidentiality rules and that most people do not act the same way when a camera is present.  The question of an appraiser reality show does however make one raise an eyebrow, and possibly smile or cringe at some memories of reality TV worthy moments in his or her appraisal career.  What are some of your more memorable moments?

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.


20 thoughts on “The Appraiser Reality Show”

  1. I can think of two instances that I wish I was in another place. On one occasion a woman told me it was fine to go through the rooms as no one was home. I opened the bathroom door to see her husband on the toilet (I still can’t get that image out of my mind)! I wanted to finish the inspection and get out of the house as quickly as possible. The only problem was I needed to still inspect the bathroom!
    Another time I was having my trainee inspect the subject on his own for the first time as I followed along with him. The look on the borrower’s face was priceless when my trainee asked her if she had gas. He realized what he had asked and tried to correct himself by asking if she had natural gas. Sorry, but I lost it.

  2. My husband and had discussed last year how perfect the appraisal business would be for a Reality Show. They have just about every other profession in Reality shows, why not Appraising. There are so many funny instances and serious ones too that would be perfect for such a show. But like you other than One Reality show, I really hate them and of course the confidentiality would be an issue. But it is something fun to think about.

    Have a good year!

  3. About 8 years ago when I was a trainee, I was with my supervisor on an “estate” appraisal. The son of the deceased, a county police officer, apologized profusely before entering the property. He explained that his father had lived through the Depression and was a “collector” and rarely disposed of anything. Upon entering the property there were stacks of news papers, magazines, catalogues, butter containers, etc in piles with paths through the house to the bath room, TV, refrigerator, recliner and bed. The basement had more of the same along with old vinyl records, boxes, and cabinets full of paperwork. The son kept apologizing throughout the walk through and told us that this was “bad”, however, not the worst part. He said that he and his sister would have to go through every page of every magazine, newspaper and box as his father would hide money, $10 & $20 dollar bills in the pages, “just in case . . .”.

  4. You have no TV whatsoever? Hmmmm. I bet your wife and childrem (if you’r married and have kids) really love that. There’s your first episode of your reality TV Show. But I did send an email to the TV producers on the “Flipping Vegas” reality show and asked about something a reality show on appraising.

    1. The Appraiser Coach

      Gary, I am not sure if you are being sarcastic with your comment, but I am going to assume you are serious. I am married and have four children and they DO love it. It was a mutual decision and one of the best our family has ever made. We spend our evenings reading together and playing games. A bit old fashioned, yes, but we are a close family.

  5. I remember appraising a house in West Los Angeles. An older lady that owned the home lost her husband 7 years previously. Since his death, she has not touched or walked into their master bedroom, which was small since it was an older house. She has been sleeping in another bedroom for the past 7 years so that she can preserve the master the exact way it was at the time of her husband’s death. It was very spooky. The bedroom was full of dust, spider webs and had an awful smell. The husband’s slippers, clothes, glasses and other personal belongings had not been touched for 7 years; all covered in dust and spider webs. Poor lady could not bare the loss of her husband of 55 years…

    1. The Appraiser Coach

      Joe, that is a awesome (and kind of sad) story. Will you allow me to publish that story in my newsletter? Love it.

  6. One of the most interesting things I ever saw was at the inspection of the home of one of the earliest appraisals I can remember in my real estate/appraisal career. In my ripe old years, I would never set foot in the door under the same circumstances, but I was pretty green at the time. I was greeted at the door by an approximately 7 year old boy. He informed me that his daddy was sleeping but that he had told the boy the appraiser lady would be comming to look at the house.
    Upon entering the home, the first thing I saw was multiple ashtrays, food dishes, etc. along with a 3/4 empty gallon of whiskey on a coffee table next to the guy who appeared to be “sleeping Daddy”. I was uncomfortable, but the child took me through the home and showed me all the rooms, including the last one, a large “would be bedroom” with tinfoil covering the windows, florescent lighting and the entire floor of the entire room of the (concrete block walls and concrete floor) covered in about 3 feet of actual dirt…….I assumed it was just a large cat box room mabe for a really large kitty hiding under the furniture…or something like that…..

  7. Hi Dustin – I had this same thought about a reality show a few years ago…thanks for sharing. Memorable moments…

    1. In 1991, my trainee Ana (now my wife) and I inspected a house where they practiced Santería. The whole vibe in the house was strange, but when we went to the rear yard, Ana started tapping me on my arm. She continued tapping me until I finally noticed the deceased sacrificial animals displayed along the rear fence. The inspection ended a couple of minutes later.

    2. I inspected a house where the owner had a very large Rottweiler named Lucky. He was too large for her to control, so she sent me into the rear yard alone, stating he was “friendly”. I soon discovered just how friendly, as he proceeded to mount me from behind and wrapped his paws around my torso. He remained in this position…literally walking/thrusting behind me while I took my measurements and pictures. While he attempted to violate me, the owner kept yelling “Lucky, no…stop!!!”. I finally made it back inside, covered in mud because it was raining. The owner was so embarrassed that she kept her head down and could not look me in the eye for the rest of the time I was there. I guess the attempted rape of the appraiser by her dog was too much for her.

    3. I inspected a very high end home in the Hollywood Hills and the lady of the house was showing her friend pictures of her recent breast augmentation, as if I wasn’t even there. She then asked me what I thought and I said something like “excellent work”.

    Ahhh, the memories.

    1. Jason, did you meet your wife (trainee) before or after the incident with the Rottweiler? It must have been before because if it wasn’t for you already being in a relationship, who knows how things could have turned out! I wonder why some people own the dogs they do. I had another incident recently where the dogs in the back were vicious and the owner spoke only Spanish. As I went to go in the backyard, one tried to bite me so I quickly closed the door. I was finally able to see the rear of the house, but couldn’t get out long enough to take a photo before the dogs would come running from the side of the house. I had no choice but to finally ask the lady in the house if she could go take it. I tried to explain the best I could since I don’t speak Spanish. She walked to the corner of the yard, faced the corner of the fence and took the picture! I kid you not! I motioned for her to face the rear of the house. After another failed attempt she finally faced the rear of the house, but then held the camera up and took a photo of her face! I didn’t want to be rude but I couldn’t help but laugh. I was finally able to get the photo!

  8. Always wondered why they have not done the reality show thing…. Here are a couple of stories.
    When I first started appraising in the 1980s I was working for another appraiser. He sent me out to do an appraisal in not the best of areas. There was alot of “gang” activity in this area, so he told me to go early in the day. I got to the house and the wife let me in. I measured the exterior and then proceeded to go from room to room. I was in my late twenties at the time and very naive. We got to a room that was locked, and she informed me that was her husbands’ “special room” and she did not have the key for it. Then we went into the kitchen and she proceeded to show me the large hole under the kitchen table that was covered by a rug. I was afraid to ask what it was for. When I got back to the office and relied this story to my employer, he laughed tell he cried. He said the hole in the kitchen floor was to hide the drugs and the locked bedroom was where the money was. I was totally shocked!!!!

    This was probably one of the most embarrassing times of my life. I went to the door to introduce myself to the homeowner. He came to the door in a “skimpy” pair of silk shorts (that should have been my first clue!). He said he was going to change and to go ahead and measure around the house and come in when I was done. When I came in the house, he offered to help me measure the interior. To my surprise, he somehow had even smaller shorts on. When we got to the master bedroom, he took the tape to the bedroom wall, while I went on into the master bedroom. To my surprise, he had laid out many pictures of himself naked. I just kept talking and got out of that house as fast as I could. I relied the story to my boss, who again somehow thought it was funny. A couple of week later, I came in the office, and he said that the same homeowner had asked me to come back out to the house. He said I had not measured it correctly. I told my boss there was no way in hell I was going back there, and again he just laughed at me……Oh, to me young again……Good times!

  9. Tradewinds Appraisals Maui

    About 20 years ago and before digital cameras were invented, I was on the island of Molokai appraising a 20 acre parcel for a radio station owner who lived on Oahu. He told me he commuted to Oahu daily and proceeded to show me his private grassed runway and cessna plane. Glancing at his helicopter that was sitting the corner of his hangar, I mentioned that I really wished I could take aerial photos of his parcel. Without hesitation he fired up the engine so we could take some photos. Then he extended the tour to include the entire west coast of Molokai. After we landed back at this property, I couldn’t thank him enough for the tour. Then after I left, depression set in because when we were up in the air and getting angles for aerial photo of his property, my 35mm camera ran out of film…..hehehe….and I forgot to pack extra rolls of film in by pocket.

  10. Several weeks ago I was asked to do an appraisal of what appeared to be a typical one story family home…3 bedroom 2 bath…I pulled the county data and the sketch seemed pretty basic. I made the appointment with the borrower who was purchasing the home from a family member. When I arrived at the house I quickly saw that the garage had been converted and had a separate porch entrance (oh joy) Of course this was not on the sketch or recorded with the building dept. I’m still okay at that point as that is fairly common in our area…..little did I know what awaited me on the other side of the door! The woman who answered was Russian and spoke very heavily accented English. From the front room I quickly determined that the home had been added on to..and not in a good way….not only that she told me there were 9 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms! Definitely not typical! I explained to her that I needed to take pictures of each room and proceeded to wander around…first bedroom door I open, there is a man asleep in a hospital bed….I think, okay, I can edit him out later….on to the next room! So I open that door and there is a man lying buck naked in a bed facing the wall so my first view of that room was a strange man’s behind! I was mortified to say the least and I am pretty modest as a rule so I was actually pretty traumatized by the whole thing! Turns out they’re running an adult foster care home and have put up rooms just willy nilly for residents…….I’m still slightly traumatized….I was actually afraid to open any more doors after that 🙂 .

    1. Robyn, this is why in the appraiser arsenal you keep Purell Hand Sanitizer for the the hands and bleach for the eyes (please don’t try this at home)!

  11. Living in Idaho County, Idaho with no zoning whatsoever makes this an ideal place for “preppers” to build their version of safe house shelters which are scattered around the county. Many of them were built in a hurry in the late 90’s, and never completely finished. These range from underground houses to giant quonset huts finished with living areas and surrounded by 10′ prison-style barbed wire fences. Most are equipped with generators and/or solar power, and have large rain collection systems for water. I’ve seen basements full of live rabbits and chickens, and bomb shelters full of ammo and dried food. My favorite one to date is one that I refer to as the “Scooby Doo” house. Upon entering the house it looks like a regular house with a built-in bookcase in the basement, until you pull on a certain book and the bookcase spins around revealing a whole new underground living area. From here one should feel safe from intruders, but in case someone were to discover you there, you could retreat to the bathroom where the back of the shower stall pops open to reveal an entrance into a 100′ long bomb shelter with an escape tunnel that exits through a hillside behind the home.

  12. Here is my worst one. About 15 years ago I appraised a house in L.A. for a refinance. Upon walking up to the house I encountered a smell that was making me gag. I entered the house and had to exit as the smell was too intense. I starting measuring the house and came to the crawl space. The sight sloped down to the street. The house was on a raised foundation. The front of the foundation was approx. four feet high and the rear was at ground level. Well, like I was saying, I opened the crawl space opening to find the reason for the cash out refinance. The toilet pipe was broken and the sewerage was accumulating in the crawl space. The surface was a gray color and bubbling. The house was later torn down.

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