The (or at Least “A”) Reason We Are Not Hiring Trainees

I just returned home from a meeting with my church congregation.  I sat next to a man whom I have known for just a short period of time.  However, I know him to be a good man, honest, and hard working.  “You mentioned you work in the appraisal field, right?” he asked.  “Are you looking to hire anyone?  I used to be a trainee many years ago, and I enjoyed that kind of work.”  Upon further inquiry, I discovered he had been unemployed for over a month. 

It is a question I actually get quite often.  In fact, I have an entire folder full of resumes from appraiser trainee hopefuls.  Unfortunately, I had to tell my friend and so many others that I have a lot of work for them to do, but I cannot hire them. 

Appraiser publications across the nation are lamenting the fact that we have lost 20-30% of the professionals in the industry in just a few, short years.  Furthermore, a large percentage of those still left are within only a short number of years from retirement.  What’s more, these jobs are not being replaced.  Why?  

In the ‘old days,’ (I say that tongue-in-cheek as it has only been a few years), hiring a trainee and raising them up through the ranks could be a viable and profitable option—if it were done correctly.  For those appraisal business owners who were actually turning down business, a trainee could be a valuable asset in just a short period of time.  Anymore, the incentive has been erased. 

I have trained many appraisers over the past ten years.  I like trainees.  They are innocent, moldable, and teachable.  Within a relatively short period of time, they can go from knowing next to nothing about real estate appraisal to inspecting properties and being trusted with a large portion of the technical side of things.  The motivation for a business owner was the extra volume they could take on and mutually benefit each other.  However, that enticement only exists if an appraisal business owner could allow a trainee to do that work without a supervisor constantly looming over their shoulder.  If a Certified Residential Appraiser could send a Trainee to inspect one property/comps while he/she inspected another property/comps and then they meet back at the office and work on the write-ups together, more work could be done in less time.  The Trainee gets paid for his effort, and the Supervisor makes more money on that one appraisal than is being paid out for the help.  Win-win!

Of course, there are the ‘little’ issues of trust and credibility.  Was the inspection done in a professional and thorough manner?  Was the appraisal and report completed accurately and by adhering to all laws and quality standards?  Who determined that?  Naturally, the fact that the Supervisor was required to co-sign the report (and also accept ultimate responsibility for its quality) should be a motivating factor in making sure the work was completed with integrity and excellence. 

Well, that was then.  Now, our clients (AMCs and Lenders) have made it next to impossible to take on a new recruit.  Most of the engagement letters I receive have the following little statement attached, “The Certified Appraiser must physically inspect the property, all comparables, and complete the appraisal report.  The use of Trainees for this assignment is not allowed.”  So, let me get this straight:  I can hire and train a new appraiser, but they cannot do anything to help my business grow until they are fully Certified.  Gee, sign me up!

Where does this idea even come from?  It is not USPAP.  It is not the ASB.  It is not State Appraisal Boards.  As far as I know, it is not even Fannie or Freddy who are requiring these stricter guidelines.  These are coming directly from the lender.  Why?  I wish I knew, but our clients are shooting themselves in the foot with these regulations.  If there is no motivation to hire a new appraiser, there will be no new appraisers hired.  With so many leaving our industry, our numbers will naturally drop.  Now, as appraisers, we know a little something of supply and demand.  Fees are naturally going to rise as the number of appraisers dwindles.  If lenders and AMCs are all about saving money (which I assume they are if they are in business), they had better consider making some changes to these policies—and soon.  It should not be hard to do as USPAP (as well as other regulations) still requires that the Supervisor be fully in control of the appraisal process—thus providing some indemnification for the lenders. 

Just this week, I was contemplating opening a new area.  I am near having the geographic competency to cover this new area.  There is more than enough work and my clients desire my presence there.   My biggest problem is that I am busy enough in my current areas already so as not to have the ability to make this happen.  As of today, I have a perspective employee who could help me cover that area.  In the end, I had to tell my friend to head back to the unemployment line as my clients won’t allow me the freedom to hire him. 

I call on AMCs and Lenders everywhere to think this thing to the end of the row.  Allow us to do our job.  By doing so, you are also allowing us to be accountable for the job we are doing.  In the end, you are only helping yourself by increasing the number of good appraisers entering the profession which can be called upon in the near future to serve you in your purposes.

Now, go create some value!   

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Dustin Harris is a multi-business owner, but he has found most of his success as a self-employed, residential real estate appraiser. He has been appraising for nearly two decades. He is the owner and President of Appraisal Precision and Consulting Group, Inc., and is a popular author, speaker and consultant. He owns and operates The Appraiser Coach (www.theappraisercoach.com) where he personally advises and mentors other appraisers helping them to also run successful appraisal companies and increase their net worth.  He is also the Founder and President of Your Appraisal Office (www.yourappraisaloffice.com) which implements some of the systems he has developed to help lower costs and free up time for real estate business owners.   He and his wife reside in Idaho with their four children.

36 Comments on “The (or at Least “A”) Reason We Are Not Hiring Trainees”

  1. As a result of all data mentioned above, Real Estate Appraisal will be a wonderful retirement job. As the number of appraisers decline and the real estate market improves, fees will rise, more work will be available and I will be able to cherry pick the jobs I want to do. 15 to 20 reports a month will be plenty to suppliment social security, investments, etc and still leave time for fishing,golf and gardening. Sounds good to me. I have spent 35 years in this business and spent way too much time worrying about trainees having enough work, and not doing something that would get me sued or repremanded. I do my own work now and enjoy it more than ever. I think the pendulem is swinging back in our direction and as a great preacher once said, for the lenders, “The chickens are commin home to roost”. For me it will be Redfish, Speckled Trout, Black Bass, Catfish, Birdies and Eagles. Peace.

  2. Great article Dustin! It’s high time to make it known what can ultimately make the system run smoother! We’re on your side and working hard to help appraisers get more local full fee work. Our system is a work in progress but we’ll get there together!

  3. Hi Dustin, thanks for another great article! I wanted to take a minute to share my story, and see if anyone has any advice for me…

    Almost 2 years ago, my sister-in-law, who has worked as an appraiser for many years, approached me to see if I’d be interested in becoming a real estate appraiser.

    I jumped at the idea for many reasons, and began the long “trainee road.”

    I took the required classes, passed the required exams, and then began working with her to obtain the required experience hours.

    For the last year, I’ve worked 2 jobs-my regular job for pay, and for my sister-in-law, for free, so that I could obtain the 2000 required experience hours.

    I never expected my sister-in-law to pay me, since, as you point out, she has had to accompany me on every appraisal. I have saved her no time. She, in fact, has done me a huge favor by taking me under her wings and teaching me.

    It has been a long year. Most of the time I work 7 days a week, but that was ok, because I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    My sister-in-law never had any intention of hiring me after the 2000 hours. We thought that I’d start my own business.

    I will have my 2000 hours at the end of April, so I recently began gathering the info for all the AMCs I would apply to…that’s when I discovered that, even after I am licensed, AMCS will not take you on until you have 2-3 years experience AFTER becoming licensed.

    So, even though I’ve worked as a trainee for over a year, having a license is still not enough. Unless I can find an appraisal firm willing to hire me, I’m stuck!

    The crazy thing is, and I hope I have this right…if I work for an existing appraisal firm, then the AMCs will accept my work…but if I start my own business, they won’t. That doesn’t make any sense to me?

    I am the first to admit that I should have researched this long ago. But when I started this path, I was so caught up in making sure I was meeting the state licensing requirements, that I didn’t look beyond that step.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated

    1. I don’t think it is unreasonable to work two years to get your license then be required to work a few years before being able to set up your own appraisal shop – there is a lot to learn.

      All professions do that – you are competing against people like me with 25 years of experience. At this point you don’t know what you don’t know.

      So go out and get more experience with an appraisal company before setting off on your own.

  4. Dustin, Good article. You nailed the issue, just hope the mortgage lending world picks up on it. I’ve been giving a lot of consideration to training another appraiser. Done correctly, everyone learns and benefits. Like you, I’ve been in this business for 20 years and couldn’t be more discouraged than I am now. Fees haven’t changed hardly at all since I started appraising in 1992, but the requirements and compliance expectations have become so cumbersome, it takes entirely too long to complete a quality report. Hence, my volume/income has dropped significantly. Its more difficult to be lucrative. Once more, my fees top my market and I don’t work for a single AMC. I don’t need to be baby sat.

  5. I think this is one of the most significant info for me. And i’m glad reading your article. But want to remark on few general things, The website style is wonderful, the articles is really nice : D. Good job, cheers

    1. Wtf? Do you even speak English? How do you write an appraisal with such poor English skills??

  6. This article helps to understand that unless appraisers are actually allowed to develop an appraisal based on their professional ability and be able to best perform an appraisal assignment without outside interference as well as being dictated to on how they go about doing appraisal assignments ,won’t take on trainees with all the additional liability and restrictions or the time away frrom their business to add a trainee. The appraiser’s has all of the responsibility and liability for an appraisal report completed under their signature, They must be permitted to use what resources available to grow their business. Initally ,no retrictions were applied to the trainees,now the requirements have become to restrictive to bring new qualified licensed/certified appraisers into the industry.

  7. Pingback: Three Ways to Reverse the Mass Exodus of Appraisers | The Appraiser Coach

  8. Pingback: Appraisers Blogs » Three Ways to Reverse the Mass Exodus of Appraisers

    1. Would a non-paid internship be an option for a trainee that could afford to not get paid in exchange for shadowing and learning from the Supervisor to get the hours needed to become Certified?

  9. I rarely comment on these types of things. So let me begin by sayin that it is a privilege to be able to speak freely on a blog when so many other around the world are being censored.

    I wonder if the AMCS realizes that they are destroying their own house. And if they are aware of this (because I doubt that they missed this). I was going to begin the process of getting taking the courses, taking the exams, and seeking the training. Now i am not so sure that I will go this route. It seems a shame to destroy such a vital industry. Or maybe they are going to replace the inspectors with drones…

  10. I have been investigating what it takes to become a Licenses Appraiser.

    So let me get this straight. From what I can tell I need.

    1) A College Degree Okay I have one.
    2) I need the couple of trainee classes. Don’t have it but no big deal to attain.
    3) I need a mentor to train me for 3500 hours in no less than 2 years time. Even though they can’t profit from me and will not likely want to pay me anything if much at all. Note to complete that number of hours in 2 years is a full time job. So you work full time for FREE for 2 years.
    4) Then I need 200 more hours of classroom time and another 15 for Federal class and take all the exams and pay associated fees. After which I STILL can not open my own business because of the AMC rules about experience. So I would have to find a job with a company to work for several more years before I could go off on my own.

    So lets see.. 4 years for the degree at least plus 2 as a trainee plus another 3 most likely as an employee for a appraisal company and then I can open my own business and do appraisals.

    Total = 9-10 years minimum education and training before I can have my own operation. Only 3 of which might I make some money the rest all cost me money.

    10 freaking years to learn to value a property and look at other properties for comps? Who are we kidding here you could become a MD and open your own practice in the same amount of time! That is totally ridiculous not only in length of time and training but also in making enough pay to survive the training years.

    Think I will stick with what I have now. A lone engineering degree. I was only working doing paper work and signing off on batches of pharmaceuticals worth 100’s of thousands in my last job. I can see how this would be much more complicated and regulated than manufacturing Pharmaceuticals (Rolling Eyes) and why I would need so much more training and education to access the value on a property. None of these requirements were performed by the people who now have 20+ years experience when they started. Perhaps they have been doing it wrong all this time?

    1. Yes that’s correct. I am a trainee, and I’m ready for my certification test. It is 6 hours long and so unbelievably hard, I have no words for it. The degree is needed only after January 2015, but yes work for free for 2 years and 3500 hours. Fun right.? The best part is that even after certification, most AMC’s want the appraiser to be certified for 5 years. So what’s the point? I don’t get it. My road has been hard, and I’m done, just need to pass the test. But where do I work after certification?? Sit around for another 5 years?? Good luck to us, right??

      1. After a long journey of obtaining my trainee license I came to realize that NO management company is hiring, NO appraisal firm is hiring, No supervisor is willing to take in a trainee!! Everywhere and everyone wants experience and have no time to take in a trainee after countless hours of search and calls. This was the most ungrateful industry I came across and wasted my time, money and energy.

    2. Man oh man, I just changed my mind about becoming an appraiser. I was willing to take the courses and exams and I was even ok with working for free for the first 2 years. But the rest hardly seems worth it. I was a licensed real estate agent a few years back and the funny part is, we had software to do our own appraisals when giving a potential seller a market analysis on their home. The figures we came up with always matched the “Professional Appraisal”. The market tells us the value, not all of these ridiculous rules and requirements. I just learned about the part where the supervisor has to go to every single job with you. How could I ask a working professional to do that for me?!? Very discouraging. 🙁

        1. Misheel – Wait, an appraisal is NOT a value opinion? Why look at comps then? Of course it’s a value opinion. I am NOT an appraiser so everyone feel free to pounce & tell my why I’m wrong, but an appraisal is just a SLIGHTLY more scientific approach to determining value than Jo Schmo & Jo Realtor deciding how much they like a house, what kind of shape it’s in compared to others, how much others have sold for and then deciding how much they are willing to pay for it. Appraisals, especially residential, are often inaccurate, for many reasons. Often because an appraiser who doesn’t know the area well makes determinations based on past experience & assumptions. In very “hot” residential markets appraisers don’t really keep up well with changing values. In my opinion & experience Jackie is 100% right “the market tells us the value.” Appraisals are simply a small check & balance that reassures lenders that the buyers & agent are not completely out of the ballpark. This is evidenced by the fact that an appraisal below purchase price can be easily tossed away and ignored by having more $ to put down if a buyer REALLY wants that particular property, or REALLY believes the appraisal is inaccurate for that market (although why wouldn’t they use it to argue for a lower price, but that’s beside the point). When you think about it appraisals are almost destined/designed to be inaccurate – it’s a backward looking valuation of a forward looking asset purchase. Purchasers are much more concerned with where the market is going vs. where it’s been.

  11. Wow, thanks for the very informative blog. I have a B.S in E.E and have a full time real estate investment company. I thought about adding this to my resume so I can learn more about details that I might miss when looking at properties. As an investor I see about 2 dozen houses a week and want to move up to commercial property. So, this just made sense to me. However, after reading this and all the comments… yeah… no thanks! I’d be a great assistant, right hand person, or partner but I’m not working free full time hours for several years.
    One question though, Is that 2-3 years a minimum requirement or is it the maximum time allotted to achieve those hours?

  12. Hello. I took the course, and passed the test. I have the trainee appraiser license. I need to complete my hours to get fully licensed. I have a full time job at the moment and wouldn’t be able to quit to work this. I can work for free for as long as it takes to get licensed, but I’m having a hard time finding someone that will sign my paperwork. I can offer to give them a ride to the appraisal location and just watch. Thanks in advance.

  13. I am a bit confused. I have passed the tests to become an apprentice and have spoken with a local appraiser who SEEMS willing to train me for the 2 years. He is a bit reluctant to get the ball rolling…should I offer to work for free? And what income level should I expect after becoming licensed? Thanks in advance for your feedback.

  14. Thank you so much for the information. I lost my engineering job of 31 years due to downsizing. I did the job having a B.S. in Psychology. I am taking a real estate course and was also planning to take the courses necessary for real estate appraisal. Now, I know that I will not waste my time and money pursuing this profession. It is a disappointment since I thought that I would like to do this type of work. It seems as though no matter what you want to do, companies continue to make it nearly impossible for people of the middle class to make ends meet.

  15. Thanks for the great incite. I want to become a real estate appraiser but the details in the article and comments are major causes for concern to me. I see this article was published back in 2012. So my question to you Dustin would be has anything changed in the last four years that would help aid this or has the AMCS made it worse for real estate appraisers to bring on trainees?

  16. I completed my course to Kaplan college to become a real estate appraiser in 2007 and ran into some life events that for vented me from going and taking my state exam until 2010, after which I found out that I needed to have an associate’s and place to move forward so I spent the last two and a half years getting my associate’s degree in business management graduated cumlaude and I’m still having problems trying to find an intern position so that I can move forward and become a certified real estate appraiser

  17. This article is old, I am a student majoring in real estate and the market for appraisal trainees is not what it used to be! There are tons of firms hiring recent grads.

  18. Hi

    I just got my education certificate as appraiser, and i am looking to work as intern at any company in Las Vegas, NV. So far, I could not find a company to hire me. I have been working as a Real Estate Agent in the city for about 12 years and I like to get into appraisal field. Please give me your idea how to find a company and get hired in Vegas.

  19. I’m in the training process right now with a guy with 25 years experience. Seems to be a over regulated business by the intermediaries asking for more details in the reports while fees have stagnated for past 15 years. I guess there continues to be appraisers willing to work for less which drives down the fees for the industry. For all the training, time and effort there are easier ways to make a living…like programming or cutting hair.

  20. It seem’s as though most people getting into the business think that a single-family home is the only type of property that ever needs to be appraised. There is a LOT to learn in this business. I started working for an MAI back in 2001 and was making at $8.75/hour; however, by year 5 I was making 70k a year and putting myself through college. Once I finished college (after 12 years of working for someone else) I started my own business, have two trainees, and now make well over $100k a year and anticipate that to double in the next 5 years. Both of my trainees earn a decent wage and I attend all inspections with them. This is a hard job and they deserve good pay. I do have to admit that 90% of my work is non-lending….government agencies, attorney’s and property owners are my main source of business.

    Persistence is key! It is not impossible; however, I feel that people need to open there mind to the new technologies that are available to both the appraiser trainee and the business owner. Also, do not pigeon hole yourself into thinking residential work is all there is to do. I think of residential appraisal as a stepping stone to the big leagues and many people that do residential appraisal should attempt to get into commercial as they progress in their career. There is much more money in commercial appraisal. It does take a lot longer to learn enough to be on your own but you can make good money while you are learning. It is possible to make more than $200,000 a year as an owner of a diverse firm that does a variety of work…..what industry can you really earn that kind of money and not put in at least 10 years of hard work and education?

  21. I am currently.enrolled in appraiser school
    I have a BA in business administrative and a mortgages lending background.
    I am motivated to do this and feel that this system is undeniable.
    I’m required to be a trainee but that requirement is our of my control.
    I live in Louisiana and there is definitely a problem with this.

  22. My company hires trainees with experience. They can go on inspections independently if they’ve met the minimums for state law or the client permits it. Our supervisor/general appraiser will inspect separately. We’re a fairly small commercial appraisal company with a national presence and our trainees are paid with fee splits (very good fees) and we are struggling to find people in different regions. We do multifamily, retail, offices, industrial, etc. Our local appraisers will travel (paid) but it would be great if we could find appraisers familiar with regional markets. We are pushing our fees higher & higher because our current appraisers have so many jobs on their plate . Lenders want reports in 2 or 3 weeks & then come back a few weeks after delivery to have us make revisions. So it’s not a small amount of work. But it is very busy right now.

    1. Hi Linda,

      Where are you currently located? I am an appraiser trainee as of January and I am currently working assisting an appraiser who just got certified. We are looking for more work and have completed sign in with all the AMCs. We are located in Kendall County, IL. I was curious what company you work for so I could look into this.

      Thank you so much,

      Shari

  23. Thank you, I’ve recently been searching for info about this subject for a while
    and yours is the greatest I’ve found out till
    now. But, what about the bottom line? Are you positive
    about the source?

  24. I have been considering taking my appraisal courses and understand the many changes the industry has had in the last decade. Granted I have been in the lending and real estate industry for over 22 years. Do you foresee lenders easing up on the engagement letters not allowing the trainee to do some of the work. I was about to pay for my course at the appraisal institute.

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