Ah, Appraisers… We Have a Problem!

A few weeks ago, I put out – what turned out to be a very poorly worded – blog post. The purpose of the article was to nudge appraisers into looking at their situation in a more positive light than what is sometimes the norm. Specifically, I often hear appraisers complain that we have not had a “pay raise” in decades. This comment usually stems from the fact that appraisal fees are very close (if not the same) to what they were 20 or 30 years ago. On the surface, that seems quite unfair. My point however is that – given large strides in technology – we are able to do more volume than we could two decades ago. Unfortunately though, the message of the post was overshadowed by a throw away comment (that, in hindsight, I literally should have thrown away) regarding the volume I can currently complete as opposed to the number I used to complete. The blog post received more comments than I have seen for months. Most of them were focused on my volume and not on the gist of the article. As you can imagine, a large majority of the comments were negative.appraiser-problems
No problem. I have tough skin and I stopped being bothered by negativity a long time ago (I would not have survived otherwise). I actually welcome comments of all flavors (as long as they are not vile or vulgar). I love constructive criticism and honestly appreciate my peers reading the article in the first place and then taking time to give their feedback. Thank you.

I do want to clarify a few things in that last article before I jump to the subject of today. First of all, I owe you all an apology. The article was – as I have already pointed out – poorly written. If the truth were known, it was a reprint of one of my very first blog posts (when I had about 7 subscribers). Due to the recurring theme, I thought it might be good to reprint it so my (now nearly 25,000) subscribers might be able to see it. Here was my blunder; I did not re-edit the post. I skimmed it, determined it to be worthy of print, and hit the publish button. My bad. After nearly five years as ‘The Appraiser Coach,’ I have learned a few things and I would not have written that article in that particular manner again. First of all, I would have kept the focus on the theme at hand and not run off in different directions. My volume was not the focus of the article. I used it as an example to make a bigger point, but it quickly became the point. I should have left it out. If you hear about my volume without understanding the entire business model, I can understand why some cry foul. For what it is worth, I toured the country a few years ago and spent two whole days teaching every jot and tittle of my business model to appraisers, USPAP instructors, and even a USPAP lawyer. Not one (after hearing the whole story) thought that what I am doing even comes close to the borders of unethical, illegal, or immoral. Outside the box? You bet, but different does not mean wrong. This workshop was recorded and is open to any and all to scrutinize. In the spirit of trying to be more honest, it is not free, but the ideas I share will the audience will (I guarantee) put any investment you make into that program right back in your pockets and then some. Finally, if I could do it over, I would have been better at being more transparent. I sometimes get the impression that, because I am so outspoken with my business model, that every one of my readers understand where I am coming from. I was proven wrong by multiple comments from readers who completely mischaracterized my appraisal process and then accused me of being a liar and a fraud. As an example, I failed to talk about my staff and the enormous help they are to me. My apologies to my staff and to the readers who do not yet understand my process for that oversight. It was not intentional, I can assure you. It just was not the focus of this particular article (I have written dozens of other articles which do address this topic). I should have also given at least a hat tip to the idea that scope creep and the AMC model have made things more difficult than they were 20 years ago. Again, it was not the focus of the article, but my failure to at least mention it caused some to feel I was not being honest in my message. I accept that feedback, and will try to be more forthright in the future.

And now on to the other purpose of today’s blog post. When I first started teaching other appraisers, I ran into a huge wall; the wall of negativity. By nature, I am usually a pretty optimistic guy. I have been hit pretty hard by the AMC model, scope creep, and the like as well, but my approach has always been to address what needs addressed and move on. By “move on,” I mean to think outside the box and make my business model work despite the challenges and regulations. It has not always been easy, but I have been able to create and maintain a pretty successful appraisal business, teach it to others, and help them to succeed as well. The problem remains however, we appraisers are too damn negative! If you have not done so already, I implore you to read the comments in the article I spoke of earlier and tell me I am wrong. The feeling of overwhelm and defeat is palpable.

Okay, climbing down from my soapbox now. I get it. I really do. Remember, my full-time job is not mentoring; it is appraising. More than 80% of my business is AMC work. I work in the field and deal with the same crap the rest of you deal with. I don’t like it either. Though I encourage all of us to be active in changing the system, we also must – in the meanwhile – find a way to make the current system work for us.

There are ways to make it work, but we must first start with our attitude. Do not misunderstand what I am saying here. I am not saying we succumb and comply. Hell no! We fight like dragons to change the system we belong to. There are a thousand things I would change about the appraisal industry if I had a magic wand and knew the right incantations. However, I am not going to throw up my hands and give up in defeat either. It is what it currently is, and I am going to be successful despite what is handed to me. I think there are far too many appraisers living in the “what if” world of yesterday. “If I could just go back to 2008, then I would be successful.” Well, HVCC happened. Dodd-Frank happened. Regulations happen. Of course we do not live in a true free market. Over-regulation rules the financial world – a world we have chosen to try to make a living in.

Now, what are you going to do about it?

 

Some appraisers get it. That was made obvious by the (admitted minority) of commenters who had a similar message to the one I bring you today. For example, Randall said, “We appraisers really are a bunch of sensitive and grumpy dudes… This article is only mis-leading if you have never read [Dustin’s] stuff before…. Most of the negative response here comes from one man shows, but this guy’s entire mission has been to promote the idea that you can have a more successful career and stress free life if you will try and spread your wings and hire some help.” Those are the appraisal business owners who will be here tomorrow. They see themselves as CEOs of their business and not only technicians. What does your future look like? Are you ready to look up? Can you see the opportunities that are right in front of your face? I can. It is time to be successful again! Let’s bring a more optimistic outlook back to the appraisal profession.

 

74 thoughts on “Ah, Appraisers… We Have a Problem!”

  1. Pingback: Ah, Appraisers… We Have a Problem! - Appraisal Buzz

    1. Spot on Dustin,

      I’m a second generation appraiser who jumped to the profession after spending 15 years in a cubicle as an electrical engineer.

      Overwhelmingly crabby and lazy!

      I make more as an appraiser than as an engineer! The business is there if you aren’t afraid to push yourself and think outside the box!

      Keep up the good work!

    2. Relax. Your premise prompted disagreement from me, too. We are all different as are our circumstances. After dealing for 38 years with completely clueless underwriters and now, AMCs, the bone of contention is not so much the trend toward the micromanaging of the process, but “fee creep”. After providing the same product for the same fee for years, suddenly, offered assignment fees drop 9.5%. Do
      one job at that price and the fee drops another 5%. Then you’re being offered assignments at 20% less than what was customary and reasonable 3 years ago.

      I still enjoy the profession, and have enough continuing education credits to be a doctor of something, but some day I’m likely to tire of being treated like a third grader and paid like a Walmart greeter. At this point, though, what else am I good for?

    3. I am not a subscriber and only glimpse occasionally at the your articles. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the information … some I agree with, some not so much. Your last article did catch my attention and half way through it I thought this is not a guy I would pay money to for anything. You spoke at a seminar I attended and seemed more concerned with telling us about how successful you are instead of appealing to those of us who are in the trenches. That article about how much volume you put out and how with the advent of technology we all should be doing better told me you are so out of touch with reality that I need not bother with your articles in the future. Yes, technology has helped but along with it comes added costs, frustration, and requirements from our lenders. I just spent 2 days in a residential statistics seminar trying to figure out how Standard Deviations, Measures of Dispersion, Central Tendencies, Multiple Regression, Valuation Modeling, etc. can help my residential business. How can one provide this information and still make a living since no one wants to pay more for it. Since 2009 when our industry was desecrated, our fees cut to peanuts, appraisers fled from the industry in droves and the number of bankruptcies for appraisers topped any other industry from 2010 to 2011 … and, what about all of the new requirements we face just to put out a simple, non-complex report. ? The only reason we’re doing a little better these days is the number of appraisers have declined to where, in some regions, we are in demand but reports still take double the time to put out and our costs of living keeps rising. At no time did our membership fees, our costs for data sources, our license, E&O insurance and education costs go down like our fees. Personally it was a devastating time … I went the through the 5 stages of grief and loss (loss off my profession), but I hung in there. Stage 5 is acceptance … I’ve ‘accepted’ that this industry is really messed up and that the Appraisal Gods are doing their best to dismantle and regulate it into oblivion. I ‘accept’ that using technology and statistics are factors of a successful business and that’s actually exciting but I just want to be paid accordingly. As Gordon Gekko said, “Greed is Good” yet appraisers have never been a greedy bunch … no one goes into the “Wonderful World of Appraising” to make billions, or even millions (except The Appraiser Coach) which in itself is one of our many problems. We’re unorganized and too busy trying to pay the bills to object to the fees in fear that we’ll get blacklisted. Anyway, while I still believe you goofed on your recent viewpoint regarding fees, I might still occasionally read your articles … maybe some day I’ll even subscribe. Thanks for letting me vent. George in San Francisco

  2. Dustin,

    Thanks for your comments! I appreciate what you are doing in our professional world of appraising or as my middle daughter coined the phrase “appraisaling”. I agree that too many appraisers are negative and basically grumpy. I spent 10 years teaching appraisal CE and encountered more grump old men that I want to remember. I was always thrilled when I had women in my class as they were less grumpy, and just slightly jaded. I have not read, nor attended one of your seminars; however, I do believe we (appraisers) can do very well in any environment. I admit that some of the AMC’s can be very very taxing and I have decided to limit my work with that model. Last year was my best year in 33 years in regard to fun and money, I made twice as much as my previous best year. What did I do differently? My focus changed to doing assignments for two basic clients. I was able to pay off my house and vehicles. What do I need to do differently? Hire at least one person to help me. I am using an IPAD and that has helped me greatly. I plan to go through your material to determine if I need to do anything else. btw….I especially like your blog that discussed hiring people., that was very well done. Also, I work and live in one of the poorest and small counties (population) in North Carolina. So, your business can thrive anywhere.

    1. My daughter calls me an appraisaler too! I’ve started calling myself an appraisaler when I feel like having a chuckle – I like the coaches message of remaining positive and having a small laugh at myself certainly helps.

  3. I would never have apoligized. There are MANY one man shops ran by appraisers that think a 40 hour work week is really accomplishing something. These same appraisers dont have an issue with the volume as they do jealously over those of us that work harder and more efficiently. These same appraisers would NEVER spend one red cent on someone to help them out bc they are too cheap and short sighted.

    1. This is simply not true and made up conjecture… Goals and opinions very from appraiser to appraiser. Back to the drawing board with your cheap and short sighted views.

  4. I have been incrementally improving my appraisal processes and delegating/automating whatever I can of the data-entry and other slog-type tasks possible. For awhile I even worked from the back of my car, while someone else drove for $10 / hour, an ambitious failure as an experiment but I learned a lot and it was all worth it. I’m all with you Dustin. It’s adapt or go do something else. Where else you going to make $150k+ a year and be out in the sunshine half the time? Of course it’s hard work, of course there are irritants. Get over it!!

    1. “….even worked from the back of my car,” I love that! I evaluated the idea of leasing a van and setting a workstation in the back since I have a territory that usually has 1 hour commutes one direction. Had to abandon the idea…moving vehicles and focusing on a computer screen doesn’t work for me. But, I do respect the experimenting you tried, and that is part of what I see this site is all about.

  5. Greg Stephens

    Craig
    Great response and congratulations on your record year. Continued success to you and Dustin.

  6. I’m unsubscribing. Your publication is amateurish and not at all helpful. Your ability to recruit so many subscribers only shows how desperate the profession is. Again, there have always been chop shops, but most laws today were put in place to stop this and if you are paying employees you should be be more honest about your bottom line. Sounds like you are trying to CYA after the fact (pitifully) and realized you’ve flagged yourself for some needed attention. Adios.

    1. LOL! I never subscribed and somehow this blog has data mined my information and sends me emails.
      So the gist of all this is that these “one man shows” are the problem. That is what is alluded and even quoted… I with Abby. Let’s just call this a failed thought and blog and move on. I’ve worked with a few appraisal shops and there is a very good and obvious reason we work by ourselves!

  7. I attended Dustin’s seminar in Salt Lake City in 2013, and what I quickly learned is that I was already moving in the right direction on efficiency. The seminar kept me moving that way, which 8 months later was necessary, as my sister and business partner got sick. She’s been offline ever since, I’ve been covering 2 territories (or most of) since June 2014. I would not have been able to do that, if I didn’t get more efficient.

    I’ve also learned to walk away when the fee doesn’t match the effort required. If I end up having free time as a result, on occasion, it’s used to reinvest in the skill upgrade by hitting the commercial books, so that there is more than one type of fruit in the basket someday.

  8. Since they came up with the UAD form, my hands have changed. The end of my knuckles have knots and my wrists hurt. My doctor said I have carpal syndrome in both hands. This form, and all of the dropdowns, has become very painful to fill out. I wonder if the form caused this, or if it would have happened without the typing. Does anyone else notice how the drop-downs have slowed them down?

    1. I have heard appraisers blame UAD for a lot of things, but now someone is blaming the UAD for their carpal tunnel syndrome….that really takes the cake.

  9. The coach has a database of 25,000 appraisers. If he bombards them with emails and sells his course to 1% of his list each month then he makes 25 x $295 = $7,375 each month. Not bad. So all you suckers keep reading the BS that the coach spews out and keep believing the dream. Eventually he will wear you down and you will feel compelled to buy the online course so you too can live the dream that flies in the face of the reality of the appraisal business today. Meanwhile the coach will be laughing all the way to the bank.

  10. Dustin;

    I’m not sure why you feel it necessary to apologize for a non-event. As I said after your initial post, your point was very obvious to the majority.

    Many appraisers are very “half-empty” in their viewpoint of the profession, and that was noticeable even when the appraisal licensing laws first took hold in the early 90’s. There’s nothing you can ever say to encourage, without some viewing that message as critical of them. There’s nothing ever done legislatively that isn’t viewed as an effort to eliminate them. There’s no fee that is ever fair enough. There’s no regulation that is designed to make them better at their craft. All AMC’s are small appraisal business killers. All appraisers are struggling. blah blah blah. It gets old to me.

    Just keep up the good work. I’ve got an awesome staff, and I’ve learned quite a bit from your monthly newsletter. For me, I believe the future is very bright for the appraisal industry. I love being an analyst of real estate value. The money is good, but this was never about the money for me. (A terrible idea would be to chase a career for the money alone. That results in teachers who really don’t like being around children – Or medical personnel who can’t stomach the sight of blood. People should seek out the things they love, and then look for ways to make money in those areas instead. That’s not the case for some appraiser professionals, who sought to make money first before thinking about the difficulties of the job.)

    I’m rambling.

    Have a great day pal!!

    Dale

  11. Hey Dustin,
    I’m not an appraiser. I am the Director of Operations for a family owned appraisal firm in business for over 40 years. We have a team of now 21 (19 appraisers and 2 admin myself included). I came to this industry just 5 months ago after running schools for 25 years. I give this back story for two reasons. One, business is business. It’s money in, money out and all the caveats of staff, regulations and ethics in all aspects of operations. Second, coming into a new world I purchased your two day seminar online and had a great experience. I was coming to the seminar looking for efficiencies and insights around the appraisal industry and you provided all of that and more! If I was out west I would join your think tank groups and love the blogs and newsletters.
    And while appraisers are a tempered group, if you knew the regulations around caring for children you would smile a little more:) I do understand that change is ….well change. I’m working to align a group, define our company culture and embrace change around the profession. Resistance is stronger from those that work from home and are isolated than those that come into the office and work in more of a team atmosphere. Another reason I enjoy your material as it brings it all into the open.
    As for the politics of bringing it into the open, tough skin or not, you are succeeding being more than above board in your communications. Again, thank you!

  12. Most of these hate posts can be listed in one single category: Schadenfreude.
    (Oh, look it up. You can’t have everything handed to you on a platter.)

    What would you say if I told you I could complete a comprehensive market analysis complete with graphs and tables in less than 30 seconds? (The reconciliation takes longer, but the gathering, analysis, and document prep is a button-push away.)
    Yeah, that’s what I thought you’d say. Don’t bet your car payment against it.

  13. Dustin, I appreciate you business model, I really do. However, at the stage of my life and career I am not interested in it and suspect many appraisers of my generation may not be also. I am in the sunset of my appraisal career and have no desire to become a CEO of an appraisal company and have additional responsibilities of a staff and office overhead. After working as a staff appraiser for two large appraisal companies and the as an Independent Contractor for both I can to realize that the appraisal fee splits were not equitable with the expanded Scope of Work to the appraiser. Therefore I decided to create my own business model by setting up a home office and just work for myself. I started with a few large bank accounts that supplied a high volume of orders but it became unbearable with their underwriting overlays and follow-up revision requests. I was able to gradually replace these accounts with local mortgage brokers that use just standard FNMA guidelines and pay top market fees and business has improved dramatically. I not have more order that I can handle in a week, get good market fees, and have very few revision requests (usually just something very minor). may other appraisers out there that have a lot of appraisal experience on their resume can pursue a similar business model without having to be responsible for staffing a office and the increased overhead?

  14. Robyn Gabriel

    It’s interesting to me to see the number of negative comments about an article or from a person who is addressing negativity! And for those dismissing Dustin’s success and/or business model I say it sounds like ‘sour grapes’. I have listened to Dustin’s talks at the Appraisal Summit, taken his 2 day workshop and was part of his mastermind group and I can say unequivically that the people who are calling BS absolutely do not know him or understand his purpose. The goal of appraisers should be ‘work smarter, not harder’ and that is one of the many things I’ve learned through my association with Dustin. We currently have 4 people in our office, 2 appraisers, one part time office assistant and we just hired a new registered trainee who we will be mentoring through to her licensing. It is quite possible to have help and be compliant with USPAP and other guidelines. Because we have qualified help we actually get to have family time again, get our weekends back, etc. I’ve sat in countless classes where all of the grumbling and pushback came from one group of appraisers…….the ones who had been doing it 30 years and just could not see their way through the ‘but we’ve always done it this way’ mentality…..this is the mindset of a lot of appraisers. I can’t complain about them too much, however, since in our area I get a lot of work because of them. If they have to quote a 4 week turn time because there’s only one of them and we can cut that time in half because we have help, guess who’s getting that work? Happens all the time…..maybe we would have gotten there without Dustin’s help….but it probably would have taken longer and been more stressful. His advice, friendship and mentoring gave us our lives back and helped us become more efficient in our appraisal practice. Does he charge for his workshops and mentoring? You betcha! As any good businessman would do……but if you apply any of his practices to your business the cost is easily recouped….it’s a no-brainer! There’s a reason the saying ‘you have to spend money to make money’ has been around for so long….because it’s true. Invest in your businesses and yourself and you’ll see a return on your investment. If you don’t, you’re doing it wrong

  15. R Patrick Goebel

    FBN and the like: Hats off to Dustin. Anyone that cannot see the business ingenuity of Dustin for what it is, too bad. Grow up. Find your own passive income stream if you dare. I am sure Dustin did not get this handed to him on a silver platter. He has busted his butt to get where he is. So go sit in a corner and suck your thumb or get off your butt and go get educated and do something to improve your situation. Move if you have to. Either you like your day to day profession like Dale says or you don’t. We all have grinds with AMC’s and CU, etc. But we ALL have them. It is part of the industry we are in. Every industry has “AMCs” and “CUs” of their own. If you put out quality work, you will have clients that seek you.

    My personal challenge is finding the time to be more efficient. I am routinely turning down work and have for years countered almost everything that is “suggested” by my favorite repeat AMC clients. Guess what, they will pay you market and RUSH fees if you ask. If they don’t, move on. If you are at capacity, why accept less. I realize that every market has varying population ratios of appraisers and some are more saturated. Guess I am fortunate there. I work in the San Antonio/Austin market. If you have a good attitude and can adjust to a move, please come help us. We need appraisers here. If I could clone myself 3 times, I would keep all 4 of us busy with the existing clients I oblige alone. It’s a great day to do well.

  16. The Appraiser Coach

    Just to be clear, the apology was for my poorly written article. I have not – nor will I – apologize for my business model or being willing to share it with others. Seems to me that the complaining is coming from those who have never taken my workshops and do not understand how I do what I do. Oh well, carry on!

  17. I’ve admittedly been behind on reading the Coach’s blog, so I haven’t seen the one coming under fire. However, I am going to touch on one item mentioned in this one – appraisal fees.

    I’ve been in the business for nearly 14 years, doing primarily commercial work, but every now and again doing residential work for court-related matters, tax appeals, or that person who makes a specific request that I appraise their home. I can tell you that our residential fees were around $250 to $275 for a 1004 and our fees for a 2055 were $175. Those fees are now $400 and $300 respectively on average (at least that is what is customary and reasonable in our area). I can tell you that technology has gone a long way in improving the efficiency of our profession.

    When I first arrived on scene, our residential department was still using a program known as FormFiller+ (a program working off of a MS DOS platform). It couldn’t be emailed, the photos were actual prints that were taped to the cover page and other photo pages within the report, and they had to either be hand-delivered or mailed. My boss – who is now my senior partner in the firm – would occasionally pick my brain to see what would make our firm more efficient. I told him that while I don’t work in the residential department, I can tell you that there is a TON of money that could be saved if they went with another report-writing software, digital photography, and used email to transmit reports. It would be costly at first since the software wasn’t free and we had to invest in digital cameras, but in the end, we would be much better off and our clients would appreciate it.

    So, the firm invested in the software, the cameras, and we had a couple of days where we did some training in the office on how the program works. But, in the end, we save a TON of money. Scotch tape was no longer being purchased at the frequency it once was (no photos taped to the reports), we weren’t purchasing film, we saved digital copies of our comp photos instead of having the same pictures redeveloped by a local photo shop, and we saved money on postage stamps since everything was being emailed. What’s more? We actually gained more clients who required emailed copies of reports and wouldn’t accept our MS DOS masterpieces. So, improving efficiency not only saved us money on expenses, but we were suddenly generating more fees via new clients.

    Simply put, efficiency can go a long way in helping the profitability of your business. Are fees still too low? Sure they are, but that is the fault of the appraiser….and another story for another time for those who are ready to throw flaming torches at me over that comment.

    As it relates to any negativity toward the human nature of making a mistake, I’m not sure if anyone has coined this phrase, but I came up with it one day out of the blue when listening to politicians blast each other’s ideas and having a conversation about that vitriolic dialect with one of my colleagues (so my apologies for anyone that has used it before to which I haven’t given credit). “You can get your point across without putting poison on the end of the spear.”

  18. Yawn. No substance in the articles here and only stating the obvious of working more efficiently. Own your BS and stop with the apologies.
    Those who can, appraise and make money. Those who can’t, teach or start blogs and sale illusions.

    1. Are you ready to become enlightened? For a small contribution of $295 we can reveal the appraisal business secret sauce. Step right up and get the secret before we raise the price!!!!

  19. I enjoyed the article. I received my associate license in 2012 and my certification in 2015. All I know is current regulation. Seems like pretty standard stuff for any licensed or certified professional. After I received my associate license I began reading different blogs and postings to familiarize myself with the industry. I was blown away by the negativity and was almost scared out of the industry. I’m glad I stuck with it. Keep the blogs and podcasts coming Dustin.

  20. Dustin, you’re as controversial and famous as Justin Bieber. I think I’m going to start calling you Dustin Bieber 🙂 Just remember, there is no such thing as bad publicity. Channel it. However, there is a key difference between you and Bieber, you’re a great spokesperson for our industry. Keep it up.

  21. Wow! This topic is touching a nerve. I have been an appraiser for more than 40 years. Staying positive and growing professionally is the daily mantra. I have never taken the Appraiser Coach course but I have a pretty good idea of the message. The theme is positively adapting to a changing business environment. I am now primarily an appraiser of commercial property. Fees have gone down. But I don’t need to look back decades. We work in the Northern California geographical area. The competition is fierce. The competition is not coming from the appraiser working out of their extra bedroom. It is from larger firms who make good use of databases, report writing software and a division of efforts on every appraisal. In short, survival is about positively managing teams. One of the benefits is that our work product gets better. There is simply no way to stop the evolving demands of our clients. Everyday here begins with the question…How can we do this better?

  22. I am still trying to figure out how to start an appraisal company again after HVCC. Exactly how do you hire appraisers, get them approved on all your coveted lenders list you have worked so hard for years to get on and then is it just hope that this newly hired appraiser doesn’t run off with half your business and accounts? With the way the system is now, I dont even see how it is possible to have a multi appraiser office without seriously lending out trust to people you really dont know and hope that they dont run off with your business and clients. It has already happened to me once so I might be a little hesitant to go down that avenue again. So how in the world can anyone grow an office with multiple appraisers in this business anymore?

    1. As this article and the responders have proven. There is no shortage of dumb people. Simply deflect dificult questions and call most appraisers bitter and negative.

      1. I can assure you they have no secret weapons… Maybe you can move faster without that cash in your pocket slowing you down.

    2. Robyn Gabriel

      Since I have to run out the door to an inspection…my short answer to this question is this. My husband and I are both appraisers so I have no worry of him leaving and taking clients..:-) the trainee appraiser we are taking on is someone I know who had an interest in changing careers. She is almost done with her tests and will have her registration soon. She will sign an employee contract that I made up outlining how long she will work for us, whatever time frame we determine is appropriate for the training we have given her. She has said she doesn’t want to go out on her own and will be fine just working for us…..but if she does eventually then that’s okay too. Our job as her mentors is to train another awesome appraiser to add to our dwindling ranks! If you have good relationships with your clients you won’t lose them. But you have to be willing to give up some of your paycheck maybe initially to pay a new employee but everyone benefits in the long run.

  23. Great article Dustin and an excellent response Dr. Julian. There have been a lot of negative days in the valuation industry and I think we can all benefit from some positivity and proactive solutions going forward. Thanks for the work you are doing and keep up the great work!

  24. Its all well and good, except that the Volume of information in each of these reports today encompasses two other careers. Title Work and Building Inspection. Add the appliance inspection and it is three. Appraisers will do anything if you make them, and they don”t even mind NOT getting paid. All to save the Loan applicant from a Building Inspection.
    Everyone is always adding new ideas how to do more with Technology, but it is still an investment, to purchase these technologies and the wages are not here. Every key stroke counts.
    The big bloggers are the ones who are not in the streets daily and a few that I know do not even have the knowledge to perform complicated work.
    NOBODY talks about how to make more money…….But I know for sure it is not Volume!
    When the volume goes away, so does the money. The Cheap appraisers will go out of business in two month, if that.
    I go to classes for License renewal and the Instructor has a General License, with A Real Estate Company, An Appraisal Company, and An Investment Company. Why is he even teaching? I asked. He says it fills in any shortages in the businesses. Employee wages etc;
    I get that, but wouldn’t one make more money selling Commercial property and doing Commercial appraisals? There is something terribly wrong. WE DO NOT GET PAID FOR THE SERVICES WE PERFORM and the knowledge we have.
    I am able to do 2-3 appraisals a week. That is it, after 29 years. There was a time I could do 15-18, in the late 1980’s when they were 3 pages long and a few photos and a Map. Now every appraisal is a Narrative.
    I charge at least $400 for every appraisal, on what I believe is a non-complex property. Most are more and now way more as my work has become harder. I do not mind hard. If the money is appropriate, you can make some money. Most of these assignments come from Lenders who do not do business with management companies, private work, and Mngmt companies that know me. They only use me when they cannot get an appraiser to do the Complex work.
    How do we ever expect to get a College Graduate into this Career when most of us cannot make a REAL Living? Wages must be discussed. A Smart College Grad will more likely want a Living wage career.

    1. You’re obviously just bitter and negative if your not here to congratulate this blogger for…. I’m not sure what for….

  25. Dustin, I found your last article “Never had a raise….:” to not be much different than what you typically post. Your logic was flawed and thus your conclusions hold no weight. Do you think I could convince my local/state teachers union that because they are using more technology today, that we should pay them the same salary from 1996 (20 years back) because that represents a raise?
    As it relates to negativity in the industry, have you reviewed the 2015 Nation Appraiser Survey (Allterra Group, LLC) from you good friend Joan Trice.
    In part it asks.
    “Do you still experience appraisal independence pressure today to inflate value (43% said yes or sometimes)?
    “Do you think the HVCC and subsequent Appraisal Independence reforms have been positive for the appraisal profession (60% said no)?
    “Has the Dodd-Frank had a positive or negative impact on the profession (63% said negative)?
    “ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE FUTURE OF APPRAISING (75% SAID NOT)?
    I’ve learned more from those who question me, than those who agree with me.

    1. Dustin Harris

      I think that is the problem, Bill. Some people who read that article thought I was somehow convincing the AMCs to pay us even less. Obviously, I was not. I am very aware that we have a very negative attitude in this profession. I fight it every day (the comments are evidence of this). My article had no other agenda than to help appraisers see some things to be grateful for. I doubt very highly many AMC personnell read my rantings. So, no worry of convincing the “union” we should be making less.

  26. I would have to agree with the amount of negativity in this profession. I was once part of that group of negative appraisers, how could one not be, with all the publications out there pronouncing doom & gloom. This backed up by the AMC’s, scope of work and lack of pay increases. When I started (1992) I charged $325 for a report on a home that sold for $35,000, while the real estate agent received $700 commission (2%). Today I receive about $425 for the same property and the agent receives $4,100, so in 20+ years I received a $100 raise and the agents received a $3,400 raise, hence we can see where some of the negativity comes from (especially when the agent is not accountable for anything they put on the MLS about the property, they don’t even have to report the correct GLA size). In the past ten years, I have had three different yearlong breaks from this profession, two with the US Army to a faraway land in the middle east, and one with a non-profit housing authority. Each time I came back to the restart my business, I noticed how negative all the publications were and how all the appraisers echoed those articles (were the articles echoing the appraisers, or causing and reinforcing the negative attitude of the appraisers, which came first). I too had staff at one time, and look forward to having them again. I also have even had several trainees (I had to let them all go when the Army came calling about my all-expense paid trips to certain places left unsaid). Dealing with people (staff) can be difficult, and my opinion is that 90% of appraisers like their solitude and quiet (think coast watchers on the islands during WWII). The other ten percent put themselves out there (read: Dustin Harris, Phil Crawford, Dave Towne, and any other appraiser bloggers/newsletters) and want to lead and help this industry. However, these are only individuals, talented as they may be, still do not carry enough weight to greatly affect the profession at a national level on a regular basis. Our so called industry associations are failing, they should see the writing on the wall and create one voice at the national level to deal with Fannie Mae, AMC’s, HUD, scope creep, C&R, etc (think of the protection that the NAR has done for real estate agents). We need that voice, we need that organization that will stand up and say enough, and we need them to help protect our profession from the constant onslaught of legislation & new regulations. Until then we will trend towards the negativity because we can see the writing on the wall and feel frustration at not being able to do something about it.

  27. I also have been reading Dustin’s articles over the last few years. Some are good, some not. I will thank you for guiding me into the 21st century when it comes to technology.. I am slowly getting there, but yes, I am getting there. I also agree that if you hire help, you will be
    able to crank out more appraisals. Negativity, ha, I enjoy the company of most appraisers! I love my job! I am also a ethical person when it comes to appraising (AND LIFE). Dustin, your not! . Here is some topics for your future articles. Dustin, you have stated that your hired help picks and chooses your comps (among other things)., That is appraising!. That is not ethical unless you disclose on the report, and they (assistants) have at least a provisional license. One of the most important tasks as an appraiser is finding the correct sales for comparison with the subject. Yes, researching and finding comparables is working as an appraiser. Dustin, you have your assistants working as appraisers. That is how you can produce the numbers. I love you man, but I consider you a bottom feeder. With your unethical practices. 5-8 appraisals a day. It is physically impossible for 1 person to put out 5-8 appraisal a day. Unless your unethical. Example, 5 inspections. Each one takes about 1 hour including driving time. That’s 5 hours gone. You use the minimum comps, 5 comps X 5 = 25 homes, that you took photos of. Each one takes 15min. That’s 6 hours. That’s an 11 hour day. That does not take into account writing the reports. You don’t write the reports, but assume you spend the minimum time.. 30 minutes per report. That would be another 2.5hrs…. Yes, it is impossible. Unless you hire assistants to do everything!!! Dustin, read the certification that you sign, it states “I selected and used comparable sales that are locationally, physically, and functionally the most similar to subject property”! The certification does not say your assistants. It SAYS “I”. Meaning you Dustin, the appraiser. Now, I have to ask the question, what other appraiser responsibilities do you delegate to your assistants? Probably most, right! How else can you complete 5-8 appraisals a day! (and sell your wares, write articles, etc).I have also consulted with uspap instructors, all of whom stated that finding/locating comps is working as an appraiser. Dustin, in order to keep up the volume, you cannot turn jobs down, no matter what the fee! So in essence your unethical practices have resulted in lower fees, less work for your peers, and a expectation of a quick turn-around time by the lender. Fees… Just look at one of the largest lenders and their fees. Wells Fargo/Rels. I was working for Wells Fargo in the late 90’s getting $375.00 per order. Standard fee. Move forward 2010, Wells Fargo/Rels pays me $275.00 per order. Then in 2012, Rels reduced the fee to $270.00 per standard order. I am sorry, but did someone say I got a raise!!! WTF. Anyway, Dustin, thanks for the articles, and keep it up. I may disagree with you, but I do like reading some of your material.

    1. The Appraiser Coach

      Jerry:

      As I have mentioned, I enjoy the fact that everyone has a different opinion on this forum. However, when someone calls me out as being “unethical” or a “bottom feeder,” I am not going to lie down and not respond. As was mentioned on my previous article and the individual who called me out on “fraud,” I would respectfully request you do more than simply speculate. I realize I put myself out there and paint a proverbial target on my back when I share my opinions, but unless you have a specific (not speculative) evidence of unethical behavior, I would suggest you be more careful in your rhetoric. If I (or any other appraiser) accused you of the same, you would be justified in calling libel and ask for some sort of proof.

      Do you really believe, if I were the unethical appraiser you accuse me of being, I would be willing to share every detail of what I do online? As mentioned previously, I have had USPAP instructors and lawyers as well as state board (including my own state) members in my courses. Never once, after learning what I actually do (which is much different than you falsely speculate I do), have I had them raise concern. I can assure you I am obeying (as far as I understand) every state law and/or USPAP statute and/or federal regulation and/or client specific instruction and/or other certifications.

      Furthermore, your speculation regarding my fees is also misled. I take only customary and reasonable fees. Period. Pardon my French, but how the hell would you know what my fees are?

      Well, congratulations; you got me riled up (not easy to do). Again, I do not mind those who disagree with me. Like Abraham Lincoln, I learn much by surrounding myself with those who do not share my opinions. However, if you are going to have the balls to call me a fraud or unethical or a bottom feeder, I would suggest you back it up with some sort of evidence…. beyond what you think you know based on reading a few articles.

      1. Hmm…well, I feel I must play devils advocate here a bit and may it loathe me to say, I had some of the same thoughts as Jerry. Now wait a second before you get riled up because I agree with your response to what Jerry said 100%. My thoughts too went down the road of adding up inspection times, comp photo times and report writing times. While I did not right away go down the road of calling 100% BS, I did wonder how often the 5-8 a day actually happened. I can envision a day when all stars aligned, an appraiser could get through that many, ethically and competently. I envision the support staff doing all they could. My wonder was how many days are actually like that, when all the stars are aligned? If you truly get that many done each and every day, without working until 2 in the morning many of those days, I say bravo. Though to play devils advocate, there is always that person, in every profession, who cites their best day ever and then acts as if they do it all the time. Just sayin.

        Now to play the other side of the coin, I have yet to even come close to the efficiency I could bring. So, when I wonder if 5-8 is a possibility, I frankly really don’t know. I can see what I would need to have in place to get there. I can see where it could go wrong and can see where it could work out. The message you send today and have been sending, is to stay positive and find efficiency. I wonder how anyone can find fault with that.

        1. Dustin Harris

          I have no problem with questions, M. Would be happy to answer what I can (though this forum does not lend well to it). It is the accusations that rile me up… especially when they stem from obviously false speculation. Your tone is much more conducive to civil discourse.

          My firm (I stress that word because I obviously have not done well with that so far) averages 80 reports per month. Depending on the market, that number is higher or lower. How does that break down? Well, if my math is correct, we appraise about 4 properties per day M-F. Obviously, it is not as consistent as that (thus the 3-8 range). Now, the obvious trade off is that I have to hire (and pay well), train, and supervise very competent individuals. Payroll is obviously my largest cost (or investment) as a business owner. I am different from many other appraisers because I am not running a one-man shop. For many, my model does not appeal to them. No problem. I am not out to convert the world. I am just trying to help open some eyes to new possibilities if one wants to do things differently. As I have mentioned before, all of what I do is well in compliance with rules and regs. I am a believer in doing things honestly and ethically (which is probably why Jerry’s accusations got me so fired up). Everything done in my office is personally supervised by me. At the end of the day, it is my signature (though there are other sigs as well) on that report. It is my license and reputation on the line, so you better believe I take that seriously.

          1. You really don’t need to explain to me or apologize to anyone Dustin. What you are doing here is great. I think I was trying to point out the power of perception. My intention was to do nothing more than look at the thing from another view and alternate perception. I have read enough of your posts to know you are honest and ethical.

    2. Jerry,
      Delegating appraisal report development tasks to assistants and market data researchers is nothing new. Commercial appraisal offices have done this for years. It is the only way a commercial office of any size can operate economically. There are some activities can be completed lower paid staff and other responsibilities that can only be the guy or gal signing the report. If you have trained staff that researches and confirms sales data for your report, there is nothing unethical about that. But realize that if a problem develops with the market data or if the wrong sales are going in the report, the signing appraiser is responsible. For years my company provided eminent domain appraisals to government agencies. These projects often involved 20 to 30 properties that required 80 to 150 page narrative before and after reports. The only way to complete these projects within the contract parameters was to have competent staff to assist. Sometimes, I was out testifying or in mediation for properties on the last project while my staff was working on a new one. We did not have an office full of appraisers doing what could be done by clerical and researcher staff. Again, economically, it just doesn’t work even when the fees are much higher than residential lender assignments . Dustin’s way of doing residential seems to be along this line. It is not unethical.

  28. I like posting here. Why? Its mostly a positive environment, at least always from the coach. I am not always positive. But at least I know that being positive is the best path and try to get there as much as possible. If I wanted to be negative all day, I would go to the other forums and join in the non-stop ugliness. It has been said that appraisers are a negative group. I am not sure I agree with that whole-heartedly, but there is no doubt a negative sentiment exists in significant quantities. I like to remember that when people feel bad, they often feel they need to vent. When people feel good, they tend to move forward to the next good feeling. I also think it is likely the very successful appraisers do not waste time venting on forums. That’s my take on the data.

    I have been very interested in human behavior lately. I’ve been sponging in material on the subject as much as I can. I have always been a student of human behavior, but my latest passion has stemmed from an interest in politics. I’ve found there are some phenomenal thinkers out there who in my opinion have a pretty good take on the human situation. I watched two programs last night that blew my mind a little. The first was called “Requiem For The American Dream”, an interview of Noam Chomsky taking about the division of wealth and power in America – now there’s a guy who can see “all things considered”. The next was called “I Am”, from a comedy director turned, I suppose I’ll say, activist. Of the many wonderful things presented in the program, my favorite was the science of connection between all living things. Turns out this is not science-fiction. We are connected to each other in marvelous and in some cases, measurable ways. One poster here today quoted the guy who said “greed is good”. That guy was referenced in the program too, but not in a positive way. Now this forum is about appraisal and making money, so let me bring these larger concepts back to the topic at hand. Working together is a good thing. Being positive is a good thing. Change occurs first as an idea, then as an idea shared, then as an idea shared turned into action. This forum and the others are the beginning, sharing ideas. We must all continue to share with each other, even including and with those who we may not agree with, or even like, and eventually the shared conscious will lead to action.

    So what’s my big idea? I have a few. I think what the coach has done, as have many others, is the first and most practical step. Its what all successful businesses do, find efficiency where ever it can be found and implement it. After that however, I have much sympathy for many of us who are not quite as talented as all that. It is after all, quite a task just to learn how to be an appraiser and quite a task after that to simply be a one-person self-employed business. How can the average person do all that, and take things to the next level and influence positive change in the industry? My answer is by working together.

    I’ve been reluctant to share lately due to my own greed. Also because I haven’t thought it all out and worry about looking the fool. But to heck with all that and here goes. My first idea was to capitalize on trainees. Not the first person to think of that am I. I was thinking of an intern relationship where the entire company was dedicated to bringing trainees up and expanding the whole thing into an educational business model. My other idea has been to form a local appraiser union. I have since merged the two ideas into something even bigger. An appraiser-owned, cooperative type AMC. What if an appraiser could join and be part-owner of an AMC? What if it was open to every appraiser? What of one persons job in the company would be the bidder, who bid every job? What if that person where elected to the position? What if every appraisal company in a region joined? No one would have to give up their existing business, they would just also have second business. All orders would be assigned in rotation. Peer review groups could be established. Report standards could be put in place. If the thing became big enough, education discounts could be obtained. Health benefits could be obtained. And if every darn appraiser in a region joined, it would be more powerful than a union. How many of you would be willing to accept orders without even reviewing them, from an AMC owned by yourself, with orders bid individually by people who know how to bid? I would. The masters of the world (I learned this last night from Noam Chomski) like to initiate regulation in their industries because they know they will eventually self-regulate the industry. Why couldn’t/shouldn’t we do exactly that.

    So, I say stay positive and continue to explore possibilities. Continue to share and maybe we will see real change in our careers.

    1. Dustin Harris

      Wow M. You have obviously put some time and effort into this thinking. Lots to digest here. Thank you for being vulnerable.

    2. I’ve noticed that the when you first click into the field (before typing anything) the cursor/carat is the same height as the background image in FF 3.6. After you have typed something in the field the cursor returns to the correct size. Any suggestions on how to get around it? I’ve tried setting font-size on the containing div and the input but no success.

  29. I started appraising 24 years ago. My first month two of the appraisers in my office were continually talking about the end of the appraisal profession. I have no idea where those 2 guys are today. Last year I had my best gross year ever. Gave more money to charities than ever. Took more vacation time than ever. I love my office. Coach you are correct, there are to many nattering nabobs of negativism out there (Spiro T Agnew for you unknowing folks). The major problem we have in my office is the inability to find appraisers to work. We are turning down 10 to 15 good paying appraisals a week. Someone out there pack your bags, move to Ocala and join my team. Keep it going Coach. Don’t ever give up.

  30. Dustin, I read your articles and it only supports the reality of this business. Appraisers have been beat down for the past 10 years, demoralized, nickel and dimed to death, called crooked, criminal, greedy, just about every name in the book by all the organizations that rely on our work. We are viewed in most cases as an unnecessary evil and fee like we are fighting for our rights every day. The fact that we cannot unite, nor able to increase our fees while our costs keep rising might be the source of the bitterness from appraisers.
    Fact is, this is a capitalist society. I am not saying the people who accept low fees are scum, but they do allow a pattern of acceptance which effects us all in a negative way. Maybe it’s the fact that so many bottom feeders are capitalizing on our misfortune as I have noticed people like yourself are hoping that appraisers do not realize buying a directory is a lazy way of not using Google, which gives the same results. Maybe its that all these appraiser organizations who vie for our membership fees, then do absolutely nothing to benefit their members other than tell us what we already know. Could be that some are realizing that after expenses and taxes, appraisers make around the minimum wage or that he/she could make more money working at Home Depot or McDonald’s. You have found your niche Dustin and I applaud you for taking the chance. Most appraisers who failed as appraisers simply work for AMC’s, but you have capitalized your own failures into an income, good for you, but I am never ever buying anything from you, who in a nutshell hocks your publication as a “coach” to appraisers when you say “Do this and do that to maximize your business” instructing us to beat a dead horse while you laugh your way to the bank selling desperate appraisers who are struggling financially that they will do better with YOUR information.
    Accept the fact that you have found your game, but unfortunately it is at the selfless expense and self greed that is killing this great country. If you really cared, you would offer your services for free, not for a fee. Appraisers are like a piece of discarded bread in a duck pond while all the feeders pick us apart piece by piece, one of whom is you. I don’t feel sorry for you or anyone else, we are all in control of our destiny. You can sit on your a**es and complain or do something creative to earn a better living, Dustin did, I may not agree with whom his clientele is, but this is America, not Obamacare and we can still reject paying for your service, joining any useless appraiser association, or waste our money on any other so called increases in business by using a particular program or directory. The real criminals are the ones who have created an unneeded expense like monthly fees for software, high data fees, AMC fees, E&O requirements, these people are the real ticks. I wish you all the best of luck in a business that is dying, poisoned by the fact we cannot agree on anything.

  31. Bert Sugarman

    The question is ….how many on your staff are Certified Appraisers ? If you are the only one, then you can not possibly do all you say and stay within the law If you have Certified Appraisers on your staff then you are nothing more than an appraisal shop….Congratulations but nothing new there.

  32. Anybody want a 4 to 6 million dollar property fronting the Pacific Ocean (Neptune Ave – Encinitas CA) for $395 minus a $28 technology/delivery fee ($367). Decline.

  33. Large strides in Technology gave us 10 times more work and the cost of the Technology has skyrocketed.
    We are now, Appraisers, Writers, Title Abstractors, Building Inspectors, Personal Property Inspectors, Statisticians, and
    we employ thousands of AMC employees, and Bank employees throughout the Country. .
    All of our time is spent on writing, composing, researching, inspecting and doing all other laborious jobs( in 48 hours).
    And if appraisers all quit, thousands of Bank and AMC employees would be back on the streets.
    Our wages are stolen and given to people who do only ONE job.

    Twenty years ago you earned what you charged. Not split your income three ways, then pay for the cost to do business with all of the high price technologies of today. And don’t forget there is actually very little volume today, as there are millions of folks in the Valuation business.

    1. Technology doesn’t operate in a vacuum and if our education, paid subscriptions, systems, etc. results in a savings of 20 minutes of our time while others can push an additional hour of THEIR time back to use, we lose 40 minutes. We have lost hours of our time per report by way of technology, and also get paid less.

  34. I’ve never understood the explanation that “it is against the constitution to make voting compulsory”. In Aus showing up is compulsory, what or whether you scrawl on your voting card is not. I just wish they would formalise the “None of the above” option and print it on the card.Maybe if it were reframed as a “duty to your country” it would be accepted better in the states.

  35. What’s Taking place i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I have found It absolutely useful and it has helped me out loads. I’m hoping to give a contribution & assist other customers like its aided me. Great job.

  36. I’ve read enough from your support group (scrolling down, scrolling down, scrolling down)

    Hi Dustin, you are pretty good (adequate) at damage control.

    Not buying it.

    It’s so frustratingly clear that you are catering to the AMC’s and other interests at OUR expense.

    One day the AMC’s sat down and said “wow, we are really getting slammed with bad press from appraisers. There must be an appraiser out there with a public forum we can manipulate, control and offer incentives to in order to make us look like we’re not taking advantage of the appraisers and the innocent borrower forced to pay more for less?”

    I’m sure you have already posted your apologize on the Appraiser Blog. Probably not, but I’ll check.

    1. You got me John. Thought I could hide all the kickbacks I get from AMCs, but you’ve revealed to the world who I truly am.

      And I almost got away with it if it wasn’t for you menacing kids.

      ?

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