Is This Appraisal Thing Actually a Profession?

Is real estate appraisal an industry or a profession?  Which term describes us?  Which term should describe us, as well as what we do?  

It is clear we provide our clients with a service, which is one of the hallmarks of a profession.  However, one of the components of one definition of industry is the production of a product.  We produce products, too; they are appraisals (really, they are, by definition, appraisal reports).  So, real estate appraisers provide both a service (the appraisal which, by definition, is a process, thus an intangible), as well as a report (even an oral report), which is a tangible product.  Therefore, is real estate appraisal a profession or an industry?

It is my personal opinion that real estate appraisal is a profession.  Here’s why.  Part of the definition of a profession requires the practitioner to master the knowledge of some department of learning or science.  This applies directly to real estate appraisal since there is a body of knowledge we must learn, then master, to provide our services competently.  Failure to learn, then master, that body of knowledge puts the individual appraiser at the mercy of those appraisers who have learned and mastered that body of knowledge.

Let’s consider Webster’s 1829 Dictionary definition of a profession:   

“Profession: open declaration, public avowal, or acknowledgement of one’s sentiments or belief; as professions of friendship or sincerity…[or] the business which one professes to understand and to follow for subsistence; calling; vocation; employment, as the learnéd professions.”    

Now, from the same source, let’s consider the definition of an industry, to compare it with the definition of profession:

“Industry: Habitual diligence in any employment, either bodily or mental; steady attention to business” (ibid).  

So this definition really means what we would call today industrious.   

Therefore, based on these two definitions, I conclude that real estate appraisal is a profession although, frankly, appraisers must be industrious, too.  So many of us are self-employed, thus have no choice but to be “…habitually diligent in [our] employment…”. 

Yes, there are those who will take exception to this conclusion for may reasons.  That is OK, since one of the ways we learn is to hear, and then reconcile, conflicting opinions.  How do you see yourself? Are you in an industry or a profession?

For more information on this subject, please download and listen to The Appraiser Coach Podcast Episode: 192 Appraisal Industry or Profession?

1 thought on “Is This Appraisal Thing Actually a Profession?”

  1. I thought the days of thinking this might be a profession were long gone. We’re still serving this kool-aid? We are no more of a profession than a farmer is that grows, for example, beans. The farmer may be independent and he may be fully in charge of what he does and how he does it – but he is beholden to a commodity market. He can only sell his beans for the published prices which the big buyers in his market dictate – yes, dictate – to him. And if you care to analyze farmer’s profitability over the years, it is not impressive. There may be advantages to being a bean farmer – which I don’t know. But I do know they don’t have to acquire special training and pay for ongoing education and license fees to remain bean farmers. Appraisers are very much like bean farmers in that we will compete with other appraisers based on three things – quality, price, and speed. Unless we’re working with AMCs, which in that case quality will be eliminated. Add in the factor that AMCs and lenders have virtually no quality standards to adhere to and this so-called profession quickly becomes a race to the bottom to see who can provide the fastest times and the lowest fees. Someone, somewhere, may call that a profession – but I sure don’t. I have almost 20 years of experience, and although my workload per appraisal has tripled over that time period, my pay has gone down, dollar for dollar. When you factor in inflation, it has really sunk like a rock. And all the while I have, of course, no benefits of any kind – and even less loyalty from my customers.

    IF, however, you use this so-called profession to learn while you earn, you can graduate to a real profession at some point in the future and leave this sorry mess behind.

    I get upset when I read articles that promote appraising as a profession. Every single person in the real estate business, from agents to loan officers to underwriters make more money, work less, and get more respect overall in the business.

    Tell the truth. I have learned skills and I have been lied to year after year after year by almost everyone in the business, saying things are going to get better this year. 20 years is a CAREER – and they haven’t even STABILIZED, much less improved. And they never will.

    Disclaimer: Like being a movie star, a very very small percentage of appraisers will actually be successful. However, the odds of being lied to, cheated (Chase/AppraisalLoft/Coester etc), given little or no respect, and having no hope of getting a pay raise EVER, are at least 20 times greater.

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