Get Out Of Your Appraisal Cave

A little while ago, I attended the annual AI (Appraisal Institute) Conference in Texas. It wasn’t my first time there, but I was still struck by just how few of the attendees were residential appraisers like myself; the vast majority were commercial.

A fellow residential appraiser had noticed the same thing, and asked me why I thought the percentages were so skewed. I gave him my honest answer: in my opinion, the majority (i.e. over 50%) of residential real estate appraisers are introverted in their personalities.

appraiser caveHere’s something that may surprise you: I include myself in that group! I know that I’m the Appraiser Coach, and I give lots of public talks and workshops, but it’s the truth. Getting my ‘social face’ on isn’t always easy, but I do it anyway because I believe it’s extremely important to attend events like the AI Conference and others. There are two main reasons for this.

Firstly, attending big get-togethers is absolutely vital for staying at the forefront of the real estate appraisal profession. At events like the AI Conference, there are dozens of vendors offering all kinds of appraisal-related services. I’ve talked before about the vital importance of using the latest and greatest technology in helping your business to be more efficient and more effective. Conferences are a great place to get up to date with the latest technological innovations.

Secondly – and perhaps even more importantly – is the opportunity to rub shoulders with other professionals in the field. I come back from each conference I attend with a stack of business cards from people I’ve met and talked to. From that point on, I have the chance to call them up for advice, or send business their way in the future. All of these people have their own areas of expertise, and their own social network. The opportunity to potentially tap into both of these is worth the price of admission alone.

Another incredibly important thing to note is that some of the biggest decision-makers in our field attend these conferences. Let’s be honest for a minute: we, as real estate appraisers, spend a lot of time complaining. It’s true! Yet for some reason, we rarely do anything about it. Well, if you start attending these conferences, you can do something.

The people who actually affect the things we complain about – the regulators, the AMCs, the clients – are at these conferences. You don’t have to complain in a vacuum. You can attend these events and talk to the decision-makers face to face. You can share your opinion, challenge them, and bounce ideas off them. In short, you can at least try to affect some real change in the industry.

You know the expression, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain about who’s in office”? Well, the same thing applies in the real estate appraisal world! We spend so much of our time simply driving to our inspections, getting them over with, and retreating to our appraisal caves. When we do get together, we end up complaining much of the time.

My plea is for us to stop doing this. We need to spend more of our time together as a group, outside our appraisal caves, trying to affect meaningful change. Above all, we need to stop complaining about the way things are, and start trying to affect how things will be in the future. We may be naturally introverted more often than not, but a little effort to overcome this could go a long way.


For more information on this subject, please download and listen to The Appraiser Coach Podcast Episode 036 – Get Out of Your Appraisal Cave

24 thoughts on “Get Out Of Your Appraisal Cave”

  1. As someone who never complanes, commplaines, complaines, (I don’t even know how to spell complane), I agree.

    Seek the truth.

  2. As an extrovert residential appraiser, the idea that residential appraiser’s don’t go to ‘conferences’ because they are introverted is ‘cockeyed’ to me. I think it is more about the current work load and regulatory environment. I have not had a vacation in 10 years (a weekend getaway is not a vacation, I’ve taken the time for several of those). Taking a week or even a few days off to go to a ‘conference’ is not going to happen and a vacation? LOL! Both mean that I’m away from making a living and unfortunately, that has become a problem in this industry over the past 10-15 years. I’ve been in business for over 30 years as a residential appraiser and I’ve never had a more difficult time making a living in this profession. So, for me if I can’t get the latest and greatest on technology, software and regulation, in a CE class or online, I can’t get it.

  3. Joshua Hatfielod

    Victor is right. I too am an extrovert residential appraiser. Meeting new people every week is one of the perks of the job, as some of the interactions have made a lasting impact on my life, for the better. I forget the ones that don’t. My short days are 12 hours and the long ones are 16+ hours plus. I’m coaching my son’s flag football team now, it’ll be base ball in the spring, scrambling to find a stopping point on a report so I can bolt out the door to put on practice, spend Saturday’s at the field for game days. I’m not complaining. After all, we are 5-0:-). I happen to love my life and career choice, but if I’m ever going to take a few days off during the week and into the weekend its going to be spent making memories with my family. The week of Christmas and depending on what day of the week 4th of July falls on tend to be the best times for me to take off. Maybe the majority of appraiser’s have lost faith in the higher ups that influence regulatory decisions. From out here it seems like their voice is but a whisper for change and protecting over 80,000 livelihoods.

  4. I’m an SRA but don’t attend national conferences or local meetings because the focus is heavily commercial. Very little about residential appraising

  5. I have attended eight expos/conferences in Las Vegas over the past five years. Each time I have attended I have come home with a new client that pays good fees and extends the turn times for me if necessary, have my E & O Insurance reviewed face to face with an agent often lowering my premiums, learn a new technology tip which saves me time and money and win a few dollars betting on a college football game. My only regret is I never get to talk to the Coach face to face, one on one. He is usually too busy helping other appraisers!!! The cost to go to Vegas is clearly payed for within a few months.

  6. Julie M McIntosh

    I have to agree with all the other comments noted above. My husband & I are both certified residential appraisers and we tag team our work load. We do take a vacation once a year, but it’s not really a vacation. The week of 4th of July works best, we carry our laptops with us and for several hours a day we are sending out reports of all the site inspections we squeezed in the few days before leaving.
    We can’t stop working, because the money stops coming in, we will spend while on vacation…so we have to be extra careful with money in June to be able to “vacation” in July, and pay bills in Aug.
    On top of that, our son is a soccer player on an academy team. That level of soccer is similar to AAU basketball, lots of traveling, and expense to play in hopes of getting a college scholarship. Any potential free time is spent on our son & his soccer needs.
    My husband is in Las Vegas for the conference this week, but only because I am home keeping the doors open. Going to the conference is going to be a good thing because we may have picked up some new clients, but if you don’t have a someone to fill in for you (that you can trust), you can’t take a few days off.

    1. Julie,

      Great comments. I felt like you were talking about my family so I wanted to respond to u . My wife and I are also an appraiser team and my kids play MEGA/ALOT of soccer!! We live on the fields/sidelines. My son plays competitive soccer out of New Orleans and we travel the southern region playing .. along with the showcase weekends. Fun times . He is only a sophomore in high school so we have a couple years before college..
      You are correct when u say if someone doesn’t keep the business going the bills don’t get paid..

      CCA-Crescent City Appraisal Services

  7. Victor nailed it.. been working hard since 1993 and it’s tougher than ever – no time – no $$$
    I am going to the AARO conference next week however but only Sunday and Monday.

  8. So many reasons! We are also very extroverted but: Las Vegas too far and expensive for time off (what about Orlando or Atlanta sometime), Everything is always emphasis on Commercial; other than picking up yet another AMC what could we get that we can’t from our office with keeping up to date. Additionally as far as the AI, my husband, now retired, was an SRA and former president of a chapter in Texas. Moved to Fla and attended meetings immediately and they were such a clique we never even hardly got spoken to much less to find out that he was always so involved, etc. So we dropped going. No one else in our office pursued an SRA since most banks we called on didn’t even know what it was much less cared. All in all that is how so many of us just plug along keeping our head above water with no real help as things keep getting worse for us. We love being an Appraiser but very little is done to really help the residential appraisers, even our classes no longer include interaction among those attending which use to help in exchange of ideas and information.

  9. I agree with Victor. It’s not about being introverted. I find most appraisers enjoy the inspection process the most. It’s the lack of time Appraisers have as professionals. Dustin how many conferences did you attend before you decided to be a business owner 1st and appraiser 2nd and using the law of delegation? Don’t forget most of us are technicians 1st. That’s one of the many reasons why you have been successful at being the Appraiser Coach. You may want to consider your position on this one Dustin.

  10. Seems many of the comment this morning are focused on the comment I made about appraisers being introverted. I think there was a bit of a reach in understanding with that comment. I did not say “all appraisers are introverted.” I said over 50% (IMO) are. I stand by that statement. I have no way to prove it other than my own anecdotal interactions, but I think its true. Remember, I included MYSELF in that group.

    Seems to be a bit of a victim mentality today. I would challenge my fellow appraisers on that perspective. I understand you are busy. I understand you feel like the business runs you, not the other way around, but don’t forget who controls that. Jay, I did not start going to appraisal classes and conferences after becoming ‘The Appraiser Coach.’ Rather, it was choices like taking time away from my business to work ON my business (I ‘lost money’ when I left too) that helped to improve my business success.

    Currently, I am at the Valuation Expo in Las Vegas, NV. I have met contacts that will help my business. I have learned about technology that will save me money. I have heard from people in high places where this profession is headed. My business will be better for me taking the time away from the day to day to be here.

    I understand where you are all coming from. Remember, I lived on that side of the fence for a very long time. It was not until I made an active choice to do things differently that things began to change.

    1. Dustin, is the key speaker again from Mortgage News Daily? You know the guy who thinks appraisal fees are $800 (100% to the appraiser) and that we easily complete 3 to 4 a day and make $400, 000 a year? Working from memory, but these numbers should be close (don’t make me research the article on his site). Why travel to a conference, when I can read blogs and get the same fake news from my desk.

      Seek the truth.

  11. Vincent Disangro


    I could not agree more with my residential peers that are taking fire in the trenches. Because of the truism “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” I can sum up the majority of the problems in residential world in six letters: AMC & UAD!

  12. I have presented residential sessions at AI conferences for more than 5 years and this past year I did three residential sessions with the largest attendance at all three in all my years. It was in Canada and most of the attendees were from Canada. Where were our U.S. residential appraisers? AI would offer more residential sessions if the attendance were higher and you let them know you wanted more. In Texas two years in a row at AI conferences I struggled to have 20 in each session.

    Conferences offer us the opportunity to network, meet folks from the lending world, AMCs, vendor world, and leaders in the industry. I hope to see the residential attendance in Nashville, TN July 2018 breaking records. You’ll see some residential sessions and if you don’t attend, shame on you.

    1. Sandra, why do appraisers need to attend a conference where they could meet the heads of banks, AMC’s etc., where they will simply be encouraged to sign up and loose 50% of their fees? By my estimate (guess), I work with a hand full of 1,000 residential clients available, and have no problem declining 5 assignments a day for a variety of reasons (fees, turn times, scope creep, fees, liability, fees). Why do appraisers need to attend a conference where THEY will be recruited? I stay home and recruit THEM.

      Seek the truth.

  13. I agree totally with Victor! I am working my rear off with 60-65 hrs a week and making less that I have in years. When I do take time off it is for family! I used to go to conventions all the time, had the money and time to do so and was making more money on less hours. Not the same today!

  14. I have to agree with Dustin and Sandra about attending conferences. I belong to the American Society of Appraisers and have the ASA designation. The local chapter and the annual conference have afforded great opportunities to meet others in the profession. Some have become personal friends and some business colleagues. If you are working 60 plus hours a week, have you tried a different approach to your business to develop a more balanced life? I am a 25 to 30 hour week person and making great money. In order to do that, my business practices and the use of technology have change a lot in the last five years. Got out of the commercial and eminent domain biz and just doing residential. It use to be that appraisers worked in offices with other appraisers away from home. Now because of technology and economics, many of us work at home and become isolated. I would suggest that in order to grow the business and to grow professionally, it is beneficial to associate with other positive and professional folks and not just on Facebook.

  15. Sandra, I presented a session at the annual AI Conference in 2016 in Charlotte. My talk was primarily focused on market analysis in residential work. I also noticed the general lack of residential appraisers at the conference.

  16. As someone who is in the process of obtaining my Appraiser Trainee certification, the first concern that comes to mind while I read some of these posts, is why is it that so many of you after working 20+ years as an appraiser, can’t afford to take a “real” vacation?

    I get it… I am just learning about the stringent regulations (I just finished the 15hour USPAP course), the AMC’s, big data, PIW’s, the Zillow Effect, etc.

    What an appraisal business looked like in the past or even today, a suspect will look completely different tomorrow. And what that new look will be, I have no idea.

    I have to say, your posts are not very encouraging! I hear the same sentiment echoing throughout. Everyone seems to be working harder and longer, but for less money. Any solutions out there?

    I have chosen to take the appraiser road as my second career, not only because I have had a deep interest in real estate and its valuation, but I know where there is turmoil and change (as you all are experiencing) there can also be new opportunities.

    I understand that it is difficult to quantify the cost of attending a trade show or conference, but I have always asked myself how can I also gauge the cost of not attending.

    I have a thought. Perhaps some of you should consider taking on a trainee to mentor and hopefully grow your business, so maybe you will have a chance to take that “real” vacation…

    1. To seek the truth Doug, go back and read my comments on all of Dustin’s blogs so you can be enlightened. The issues we face can be street, block, neighborhood, city, county, region, state, federal, etc., related, so a one size fits all approach (blog, podcast), could in fact be just the opposite approach you may need to take.

  17. I learned this early on in my appraisal career. The original instructor stated if you get in this business better have some money for the things that you can’t control in life. He said get ahead in money by at least 6 months. I know it may take awhile to save, but many people think it not possible to manage to keep enough money on the side. It is possible as I lived off the ramon noodles and did not buy a large amount of material things for a few years. Maybe because I learned early in life is the reason it worked well with me. There are always things that can happen sickness or what ever else. If you save money and your business will still be there when you get back. You do have to plan ahead for a vacation, but taking a week off is not impossible. I even realized my work was better after vacation with at least 10 days without having to look at an email. I actually started doing this at 18 became a trainee. Been in the business quite a few years now. I am not the greatest social person to attend an event, but do wish more residential appraisers should. Now the past few years our job has become more stressful, but most jobs are. I have known people that have to go in for 10 hour shift have to try prove they are working harder than other making great money, but are in constant fear with layoffs that occur quarterly. We are not in as a hostile environment as some, while our career seems to get harder, there are worse careers out there. I know that regulations and many AMC groups make it difficult but try every once in awhile to view the positive aspects and be thankful for your career. Dustin has gone pretty far to try to bring us together, you don’t have to agree with the man on everything or expect that an office like his is possible for everyone. For me I am horrible at management when it comes to people. Though you can still take things positive from podcasts or reading material. Forgive my spelling as typing on phone from doctors office.

  18. I actually had someone within the Institute tell me that the SRA designation is dead. I hold the SRA designation and have worked very hard over the years to get the best education and produce appraisal reports of the highest quality. So how do you think that comment made me feel? Without SRA membership the Institue would likely go bankrupt. I for one intend to work within the organization to change the attitude towards residential membership and increase public awareness of the value in the SRA designation.

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