The Lifestyle of a Real Estate Appraiser

As I write this, I am watching my two youngest children as they participate in gymnastics.  It is a Friday afternoon and most of my peers are sitting in a cubical somewhere.  We have had a very busy week, but all has gone smoothly and my assistants are just wrapping up a few loose ends before the weekend.  Sometimes I have to step back, shake my head, and say, “Wow, I am very blessed!”

relaxappraiserAs I lurk the various online appraisal forums, I see a whole lot of discouragement.  Rightfully so.  We as appraisers have experienced a lot of change over the past few years.  Many of us built up a business empire only to have it washed away practically overnight with HVCC and Dodd-Frank.  Some of us have restructured and have been able to see a resurgence, but not everyone.  “Requirements are up and fees are down. . .” or that is what I hear.

Nevertheless, I cannot help but wonder why more appraisers do not jump ship and find another career if it is so bad out there.  Now, I am not without compassion.  I know it is not as easy as trading in your clipboard for a spatula.  Changing jobs is a difficult process and does not happen without much consternation and heartache.  However, I tend to think that so many of us are sticking it out because we still have a pretty dern sweet gig!

All work has its challenges.  I have a friend who pumps septic tanks for a living (insert ‘crappy job’ jokes here) for heaven’s sake.  Appraisers are no different.  We deal with ridiculous regulations, difficult assignments, picky underwriters, and collections every day of our lives.  I remember walking around an old, dilapidated house in Dingle, ID one early spring day.  The snow was beginning to melt, but it was still quite cold outside.  As I came around the corner, a large amount of wet snow slid off the metal roof and landed on the back of my neck.  Instantly I was soaked from head to toe.  Some days I wag my head and ask myself why I am doing this.  It is on those days that I must remember that snow down the back of your neck is not the norm.

Most days, I enjoy a beautiful drive through the most gorgeous country God ever created.  I enjoy audio books as I travel, pleasant conversations with home owners, and time with my staff and my computer in the afternoon.  Most days, I go home between 5:00 PM and 5:30 PM.  Sometimes I work a bit after the kids go to bed, but usually on things other than appraisal.  My children are young still so I try to be there for them.  From gymnastics to piano lessons, dad is able to spend a great deal of time with them.  I am able to travel and take days off when I need or want them.  I do not have to go to a boss to ask permission for any of these things.  Sometimes I deal with employee issues, budgets, and angry customers, but all of that is minimal as well.

In the end, I love my chosen career as an appraiser.  Though the news may predict doom and gloom for the future of our industry, I have only optimism.  As I look around at the economic conditions, the kind of work my neighbors are doing, and other challenges, I am happy to be where I am.  Being an appraiser is one of the best jobs in the world!

Now, go create some value and enjoy the Independence Day Holiday!

43 thoughts on “The Lifestyle of a Real Estate Appraiser”

  1. Terrific article. I recently obtained my residential certification and (finally) have the ability to go out on my own without having my sponsor (who also happens to be my dad) tag along. The freedom, independence, and ability to work as much or little as I want is incredibly liberating.

    1. Work with a sponsor, a certified Appraiser out of his home as a certified trainee appraiser but of late he has become indifferent and I can’t get him to let me come to work. Talked to him but not told any tangible reason for his actions. Will like to change sponsors and work with someone who needs help or a company interested in hiring certified appraisal trainees. Any suggestions?

  2. Wow-who are you? Good thoughts and insights.
    I have spent the last 5 (of my 30 ) years as an appraiser begrudging the changes that happened at the last downturn. I refused to work for any AMC’s and worked only part time doing whatever non mortgage work I could get. I had enough to keep me busy while I downsized my long time family home and moved. Then moved again 2 years later. But have finished moving for quite some time, finished fixing up a rental house I had and sold it and then I noticed I wasn’t doing much work. I had to sit myself down and really think some things out. Did I want to do something else for the rest of my life? Should I retire at 57? Working part time I was playing lots of tennis, biking and working around the house. But I was missing the mental challenge of appraising. I like looking at houses, working up the numbers and figuring out how to value a property at the value I thought appropriate and also meet the lender requirements. That part has become the biggest challenge. Appraising has been good to me over the years. But a hard pill to swallow taking less $$ for more work. I came to realize that every business changes over the years. Nobody is promised a career in their field forever. I have relatives that worked for Eastman Kodak and thought the would work out their days there and retire. But Kodak went by the wayside and they were out of jobs at about 40 year old.
    I decided to adapt and go for it. I contacted a couple of AMC’s, revived some old credit union contacts and relatively quickly and easily I am back to full time work. It has been a challenge to learn UAD stuff. But trying now to go high tech as I can and step up and meet the challenges. As a one person operation, everything new is something I have to figure out myself. It hasn’t been easy but I am glad to be back at it more consistently. It is a good job to be in.

  3. I totally agree, Dustin. It is easy to forget how good we have it. I am sitting here in my shorts and a t shirt (no inspections this morning) getting ready to create another custom design and feeling very relaxed about the day to come. I have always said that if you don’t enjoy what you do for a living, find something that will. I found that career 11 years ago and now own the business as well. I can safely say that the other appraiser in my office enjoys what he does also and anything that comes up is generally very minor in the big picture. The clients we have are great and the people we meet daily are generally pleasant. I do feel strongly that those who continue to feel discouragement should probably pray hard about where to find a career that is more satisfying. Next to leading worship at church (which I still get to do from time to time), this is where I want to be. Thanks for the great article from the heart, Dustin.

  4. We tend to forget the good things in our job. I have three children and I was able to attend everyone of their high school volleyball, basketball and softball games. Sure I had to work some Saturday’s and even a Sunday, but at least it was the schedule I set up instead of someone else telling me when and how long I needed to work.

  5. Terrific piece Dustin. It is all too easy to complain about the negative things in our profession and our lives and forget about all of the blessings that many of us have.

  6. Robyn Gabriel

    Thank you for the reminder Dustin! For the most part we do have it good…i get to start off every morning with a two hour walk in the park with my dogs which I cherish, this 2 hours is my “me” time and I could never do this when I worked in a regular 8-5 job. Being an appraiser has allowed me to help out my family in so many ways and I will always be thankful for that day my husband said, “hey, why don’t we quit our jobs and start our own appraisal business?” thank you for your thoughtful insight, you’re a treasure, Dustin!

    1. Hi Robyn, I’m hoping to talk to someone who has been in the business a while. I’m a single mom with two kids and I’m looking at getting into this career. Would you mind emailing me at (I’m not a nut, ha). Thank you for your time! Jennifer

  7. I take offense to this post. I suppose over-all in a very general, blanket-comment, philosophical sort of way, I would have to agree with your statements. Though I would not applaud them with as much fanfare as some of the other commenters by a long shot. It has been my experience so far, that appraisers do tend to be a grumpy bunch at times and I would certainly agree that a little perspective could do wonders for many, in any profession, even the guy who empties the septic tanks. All that said, it is also my opinion that one of the problems in our industry is our lack of representation in an atypically regulated industry. While it is often difficult for a positive minded person to stomach, the complaining that appraisers do on social sites is a very good thing. The alternative is that we say nothing and continue to get squeezed harder and harder. That’s basic social dynamics. If no one ever complains, how will anyone ever know there is something wrong? For appraisers, we have zero organization, or at least none with real political teeth to compare with the likes of bank lobbyists and the NAR. We also have very little interaction with others in our profession. The need that created our industry, our “independence”, is also the very thing that hurts us when it comes to negotiating our terms of service. For these reasons, I would say it is dangerous to write a blog that insinuates appraisers should put a smile on their face and take it. That sort of statement sounds a whole lot more like it came from a boss of a septic tank company than it does from an appraiser who claims to want to help their peers create some value. I think I would offer you this perspective, if the complaining on the social sites bothers you, why go on there and engage in it? I think the social sites are the one good thing we have going for us when it comes to a form of “consensus” among our peers and the complaining that happens on them is no different than the snow down your back. I would say deal with it because the alternative is much worse. Sometimes it is good to simply be thankful for what you do have instead of what you wish it would be.

  8. Yea, the more I think about it, the angrier I get. So lets talk blanket philosophy if that is going to be the topic. I’ll try to be brief (ha ha) by making one point. I remember when I was younger I was full of “lets change the world”. At the time, one of my adult peers basically told me I should “put a smile on it and shut up”, in not so few words. They cited the fact that I was blessed to live in the United States and that I should accept the injustice because we have it so much better than so many other countries. I though that was a load of whooey at the time. Now I am a bit older and I understand many more things, including the fact that some things are simply as good as they are going to be and also that some things that I thought were so horrible when I was younger are actually good things. All that said, I have not changed my mind on the “advice” I was given by that adult peer all those years ago. Their advice was whooey then and it is still whooey now. I think the word I am thinking of is apathy. What a horrible disease that is. If civilization had always taken that road, we would still live in anarchy. I am older now and the same people who told me to shut up all those years ago now complain that our world is stuck and wonder why no one ever did anything to change the course when they should have. Be strong, be brave, be innovative, but please do not be apathetic. To close I would say that complaining about imperfection does not necessarily equal neglecting to enjoy the ride.

  9. Appraiser Eck

    Your “signature” phrase at the end of your blogs drives me crazy! We are Appraisers. We “Explain” value, we do not “Create” it. The Market does. Saying that really makes us as professionals look bad in that it’s as if the sayer is pompous enough to believe they in fact actually create value and can do so effortlessly.

    Please don’t use your given outlet to spread false statements or portray our profession as a walk in the park. I don’t know your market, but if you have so much free time, you must do Appraisals part time or your business must not be doing well. That you can be complacent about how we’ve been man-handled by legislation is literally stifling. For someone claiming to be an Appraiser coach, you’re harming the profession with this kind of blog more than helping it. I can appreciate that you enjoy your career, but you clearly don’t represent the rest of us.

  10. Dustin I totally agree. I say thanks everyday for having a profession that keeps a roof over my head and a meal on the table. I am very fortunate.

  11. “Appraiser Eck” is the perfect example of the whiny, complaining, bitter old fee appraiser that probably spends a few hours every day complaining along with others on some worthless “Appraiser Forum” instead or WORKING. If you know what you are doing, residential real estate appraisal is about the easiest $100K+ job ANYWHERE. You set your own hours, you make appts. convemient for YOUR time and work as little or as much as you want. And any “new regs and changes” are no issue for the PROFESSIONAL appraiser who regualrly takes ACE over and above what his/her state requires. Don’t like appraisal? then go “pick up a spatula” like Dustin suggested.

  12. Well you can’t expect the steady flow of interest rates dropping starting in early part of century for a decade of refinancing of the same properties would last forever. I was lucky to get in the business young in 2003 at 18, actually around 2000 started working for my aunt while I was in high school doing odd jobs, and that was what taught me how to be an appraiser. Before I even took classes I could do most of a 1004 form. Which I really don’t even know what it would be like to have another career besides bussing tables for a bit before I was licensed. The thing is when it comes to being a HUD appraiser you have to state that real estate 40 hour a week full time Job. I wonder how many appraisers are not abiding by this rule. The time I spent doing an appraisal from 2005 until now has gone way up from inspecting taking longer with drawing floor plan then walking back through taking up to 40 pictures. Typing a report seems to have tripled in time. Also I heard before UAD came out a promise of minimum fee and higher for costly areas of nation from Dodd-Frank, I have yet to see. I can’t complain though this has been a good business to work in, all independent contracting businesses have good and bad times. I love my career enough to stay with it, just have to be a monster money saver to survive in this business.

  13. Clay wrote: ” Before I even took classes I could do most of a 1004 form”

    Sure you could.

    And I guarantee that your reports were garbage and you violated numerous USPAP requirements and probably still do.

  14. Lorri in Texas

    Appraisals take a little longer to write but I have more time to write them instead of 3 reports aday hell!! I have been doing more rural work cause there are less appraisers that know who to appraise old style and do non-mls research. But the fees are $500 and I don’t drive a BMW or take my clothes to the dry cleaners. Lol

  15. We do this because most of us are too old to become astronauts…:)

    I stopped the mortgage work as the changes rolled it, just done with the nonsense. I turned to sales and have been killing it; I encourage every appraiser I speak with to do the same. Sure you deal with incredibly stupid and incompetent agents (that will never change) but the monetary rewards make it worth while. And the value that WE bring – as consultants rather than salesmen – is recognized by the quality clients.

    I still moan and groan but the rewards are better – more of you folks need to cross over the dark side 🙂

  16. Sorry to inform most of you but you are blind to reality. Eck is right. Ive been in the business for about 15 years. the fees then were around 300 and after all the regulations, inflation, added work the fees aren’t much more. I spoke to a major amc yesterday that said I had priced myself out of there rotation. This was for requesting $375 for a 1004UAD. I ewas told if I wasnt willing to accept $300 I was no good to them. I live in a town currently going through labor negotiations including cost of living, raises and the such. Why are we not entitled to such. Its ok with all of you that they expect more work for less pay and all the meanwhile everything else is increasing including one of our biggest expenses, GAS. Call me a whiny bitch if you like but I think I deserve more for everything I put into the business and all of you should too. Sick and tired of watching everyone bow down to the big banks. Why so they can go and charge their clients whatever they want all the meanwhile finding some sucker to take on a 1004 UAD with REO for 250. Go ahead you can have it. Yes there are alot of pros and cons too many careers and jobs. I love my freedom like most of you but until we stop accepting whatever they offer this industry is doomed. Go ahead, agin call me a whiny bitch all you want, if you think about it the trend will stay the same if all of you continue to accept what they say your worth rather than telling them what you are worth.

  17. A few thoughts prompted by the comments above:

    Professionals do not bid on jobs. Anyone who will give an AMC a bid is not being very professional.
    The response I use is “I don’t bid on jobs, my fee is $500. If you want someone to bid a job then call a plumber or a roofer. Tradesmen seem to enjoy giving bids. Professionals don’t. I asked a doctor for a bid on setting a busted arm onetime, after several minutes of silence he said he would get back to me real soon. Still waiting.

    If the AMC’s want to do business with some form filler, welcome to them. Otherwise they know what my fee is. I told them when I signed up. In addition they are told to never contact me and ask what I would do an assignment for!
    My time is expensive.


    1. Hi Al, I can see your point but just one thought….what is they called and said they had an order for a 1004 on 50 acres and it had a 10,000 sqft house with ponds and barns and other buildings…would your fee still be $500?

      1. I base my fee on the amount of time that I expect a job to require. I do not base my fee on the appraised value of the property.

        I have appraised million dollar properties for the same fee as small properties that bring into question the ability of finding a lender willing to make such a small loan.

        If I determine that the complexity of the assignment will require extra time then of course I will contact the client and demand an increase in the fee.

        If they don’t want to pay it, I don’t lose any sleep over it. I realized years ago that you can work your tail off and not make any money or just sit back and relax and not make any money. And it is really sweet when I know my competition will go charging in at a cut rate fee.

        I have always taken the attitude that if it is not worth doing then why do it?
        I try to use my time in a productive manner, not one where I am guaranteed a loss. Bottom line: use your time in productive pursuits, leave the rest to the clowns who enjoy subsidizing others.

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  19. Frieda Harden

    My husband and I are in the process of making a home purchase/getting loan approval. We have worked our butts off attempting to reach closing in a reasonable period of time, supplying requested information to the lender/loan processor, etc. Now we find out that the appraiser who picked up the job from the lender is not “able” to do the appraisal until mid-September; we were supposed to close in mid-July. This adds two more months to our waiting process, and is causing us to lose money. We liquidated funds from our investment account much earlier than it turns out that we needed to due to this delay brought on by the appraiser. It also means that we will have to find a place to rent in September because our current rental lease is up at the end of August, and others are already scheduled to move into our rental house. In addition, we are at risk for losing our earnest money deposit due to sellers’ frustration with how long closing is now taking. All of these outcomes are caused by the appraiser’s untimely scheduling of the work. The lender says federal laws prevent them from requesting a new appraiser due to suspicion that they would be suspected of having favoritism for a certain appraiser. It is unconscionable to me that this sort of delay by an appraiser is allowed and/or tolerated. I think there should be some sort of time frame attached to the work request for the appraisal to be done within a certain time frame from the date that the appraiser accepts the work order, like 30 days, and if they can’t meet that deadline, then they must not accept the job. Can I get some feedback here? I’m pretty naive to the way the appraisal business works, but I am extremely frustrated by this lack of timeliness in closing which is all caused by an appraiser’s selected work day. Thank you.

    1. Dustin Harris

      Thank you for your feedback, and I am sorry that you have had so much trouble. In 20 years of doing this, I have never seen things so busy as they are now. Consequently, most appraisers are backed up much further than their normal turn times. However, two months seems ridiculous to me. Your lender is only half right. They cannot switch Appraiser’s very easily, but if there is a good reason-such as the one that you have given – A new appraiser should be able to be given the job.

  20. Hey M, I think you’re right how about starting a union!!? nation and lobby on the hill?
    My question is why don’t you have already?

    From new guy on the block (I’m looking into becoming an appraiser)

  21. I hate this job. Yes, Im whining. Corelogic sent me a request for an Appraisal update on an assignment Id previously done. My fee was $100, Corelogic’s was $110. If I said “pay me more”, they’d say I refuse to accept the assignment for Fee Appraiser contracted terms and hit my “rating” with a negative mark.

    To anyone reading this contemplating becoming a Residential RE appraiser, dont do it. The work/life balance has become unbearable due to scope creep. Sure, I try to find non-mortgage and non-AMC work, but the vast majority of work is lender work assigned through AMCs.

    Some old-timers might have it good bc they had a solid client base before the collapse -but Im no youngster and have been kicking bricks for 17years. Like someone above noted, NAR and Banking lobbyists have helped ruin a once decent job. I don’t even call it a profession b/c Im not treated like a professional (it’s a job). If you want to cross your t’s and dot your i’s to provide solid, fundamentally sound USPAP compliant work for FNMA’s definition of market value (I argue their definition is different than that printed on their forms due to their guidelines), you will work you a55 off all day and night for a pittance.

    This job s*cks and sure, there are a couple nice elements to the job, but if Im going to work my a55 off I want to be PAID. I’ll sit in an office from 8am-6pm with weekends off and a solid salary any day, versus work my tail off to make Anand Nallathambi’s bottom-line of 2016, $6,066,587, increase.

    Oh yeah, I shouldn’t have to pump out septic systems (I have a VALUABLE skill set that has been fleeced by the mortgage finance industry -fleeced into chump change).

    Blow sunshine up the butts of appraisers all you want , at the end of the day this job is for suckers. (Or boilerplate/burn/churn wh*res).

    Thanks, and sorry to be so angry. Im the dummy who decided to pursue this job, MY bad!

  22. How long have you been in the field Alan. I am thinking of quiting my current job and becoming an appraiser in Canada. I work over 50 hours in my current job to be paid $900 a week. Am I better off being an appraiser to make a little more money?

  23. That depends Sansa. What are you doing for 50 hours a week to make $900? Are you watching TV to provide consumer feedback for Ad agencies? Or digging ditches and laying concrete? Is that $900 Canadian, or US dollars? US$ is .75 to CA$, atm. I mention how long Ive been in the field in my original post. I can’t comment on what the Appraisal Profession is like in Canada, b/c it could be vastly different (and I dont have the time to read up on Canadian Banking, Finanace, Loans and Funding, Demand for RE Appraisal products, et).

    IF it is similar to here in the US, Id consider going elsewhere. Assuming you have a college degree, Id pursue something else (you need a degree here in US, unless grandfathered). If you don’t mind sitting at a desk, take a month or two of computer coding classes, obtain a license for something else.

    Canada may be a different animal, so Id go to a Canada specific blog. But fyi, here in US, I spoke with probably 10 colleagues last week about various questions (appraisers often call one another to ask questions, help-out with answers, bandy ideas, e.t.). Of the 10 or so colleagues I spoke with, every single one was exhausted or spent, loathing their job, hating Legislation, Underwriters and AMCs, and hoping to find something else. In the US, RE appraising is now one for suckers and wh*res (with very few exceptions). Want to start an Appraisal Firm in 2017? Hah, good luck staffing it! Go to work for Corelogic or Assurant. Become a Realtor. I am in California,, in a market similar to most others in the US. Long term, AVMs are going to decrease appraisal demand here in US.

    *Again, take a look at Canadian Appraisal discussions, threads -your country may treat Real Estate Appraisers as Professionals!

  24. Real Estate Appraisal is not a profession, you are simply a clerk. Why did state licensing in the 1990’s claim a licensed appraiser would be a professional and able to earn large sums of money in a respected profession? Because states were looking to license and charge fees for tests and license renewals similar to real estate agents.

    Why is it that the fees have not gone up in over 30 years yet the complexity and government over regulation continue ? Because you are just a clerk and somehow real estate agents are somehow smarter than appraisers.

    Gee thanks Frank/Dodd for making every appraisal company worthless and unable to sell an existing business of 10/20 years of professional experience. Appraisal fees dropped from $450 to $180 overnight due to AMC’S owned by banks.

    Every down turn in the real estate market has been blamed by the bad or evil appraisers. In the 1980’s lenders were making home loans with 1st, 2nd and 3rd mortgages on a single property.

    The market collapsed due to houses with no equity and people not paying their mortgages. In the 1990’s the zero down loans and 125% loans again collapsed the housing market due to foreclosures. In 2006 more crazy mortgage loan products (liars loans and no income verification) were created and then the market collapsed again due to the bad/evil appraisers. Real Estate Appraiser jokes were constantly heard on late night entertainment television in 2006-2013 telling people how dumb and corrupt of a profession it is to be an appraiser.

    Each year a minimum of $5,000 dollars is spent on expenses of license, fees, marketing, data, E/O Insurance, etc, etc … and this is before a single dollar is made for the new year.

    At this point I just need to market myself as as Real Estate Broker due to appraisal fees which do not cover my expenses as an appraiser. Soon the carpet will be pulled from under those still writing reports and banks with just press a button to value properties. Some lenders are doing this now. If I had to do it over, I would have been a lawyer rather than an appraiser. I and many others were fooled by the original hype in the 1990’s about state licensed appraisers to be considered a professionals which is clearly not the truth.

  25. Can you choose your own hours? You say you get home around 5-5:30. Is working a start time at 11 feasible for an appraiser? Thats my question.

  26. Well, I am excited, taking my classes starting on the 23rd, have my sponsor and I am set to start this profession!

  27. I liked that you said that one reason to consider becoming a home appraiser is that it will allow you to help families in buying a new property and will also give you the opportunity to spend time with your family. I have been trying to find a new career path that will help me be home more often with my kids but I have been worried that I wouldn’t find a job that I enjoyed. I will be sure to consider becoming a home appraiser since I enjoy helping people and I could spend more time with my children.

  28. I’m a buyer. Just got an appraisal report two pages long that said no HUD plates on triple wide manufactured home. Cant get a conventional loan without. Fact is there are three HUD plates on it and I took pictures, passed to lender who passed to USA Appraisal who passed to appraiser who doesn’t answer the phone for no one. Took 12 days to write up, comps are weird, priced above what I’m paying. But how can she miss the plates? I complained to USA Appraisal who said its hard to find appraisers for rural areas and she was better than most. Is Oregon coast rural, yea but there are more rural places. Everyone I talk to says it takes months to get appraisals, whats the deal and how do you miss HUD plates in plain sight right where they’re supposed to be! ACK! Supposed to close monday but probably not, again….

  29. Just getting started in the profession. Will enroll in my first classes next month and get the ball rolling. I read the inputs by tenured Appraisers and by just-starting folk like myself. I do understand that this career will provide some tough challenges, however, I do believe the tenured Appraisers that say it is a satisfying career with excellent personal benefits.

    I am looking forward to getting started.

    1. Hey James!
      I’m looking to start classes soon and become a Certified General REA in Texas. After going through the comments I have become quite wary because it seems that other appraisers have lowered their standards thus lowering pay. I want to go into this field due to the pay and the fact that I can set my own hours. If you got your license, do you think this profession is worth it? Or should I look into something else? Please let me know!

      Any feedback from anyone would be greatly appreciated. You can reach me at

      Thank you!

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