Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate

Appraisers and assessors of real estate work as paid employees or independent free appraisers who assign estimates of monetary value to land parcels, properties, and buildings. To evaluate a property’s worth, appraisers and assessors take into account a wide variety of factors, including location, condition, surrounding property values, architecture, income and development potential, renovations and retrofits, nearby amenities and services, desirability, and property history and records, keeping detailed documentation of their methods and conclusions.

Appraisers and assessors differ only in the purpose of their evaluations and number of properties they handle at any given time. Appraisers generally handle one property at a time and may specialize in residential or commercial real estate. Assessors usually work for local government agencies and evaluate property for tax value purposes. Assessors often handle several properties, neighborhoods, or districts at once, keeping database records and maps of jurisdictions. Additionally, because assessors may be challenged by individual homeowners, they sometimes must reassess property or defend their assessments in public hearings.

Appraisers and assessors of real estate work variable hours in real estate firms and government, private, and home offices, dividing time between computer research and site visits. Commercial appraisers and assessors might work longer research hours, while those doing residential appraisals might spend more time on-site. Self-employed appraisers tend to work longer hours in order to maintain a large enough client base to run a profitable business.

Education, Training, and Essential Skills

Federal and state laws require licensing or certification for most appraisers and assessors, though each state’s law varies, and requirements may differ depending on the type of property being evaluated. State licensing usually requires an associate’s degree for residential appraisers and at least a bachelor’s degree for commercial appraisers. Federal law does not dictate any minimum education or licensing for assessors, but state laws or localities may do so.

Education and licensing for appraisers and assessors are complex and extremely variable. Appraisers and assessors of real estate generally must work toward one or more of the following licenses, certifications, or designations: Certified Residential Real Property Appraiser, Certified General Real Property Appraiser, and Licensed Residential Real Property Appraiser. All licenses and certifications include 15 classroom hours on the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).
Individuals seeking a career path as an appraiser or assessor should research the requirements of the state in which they wish to practice. Both job descriptions require basic appraisal courses, some college coursework, and a number of qualifying experience hours before candidates can take licensing or certification exams. Some individuals work toward an appraiser’s and assessor’s license by starting in an assessor’s office that provides on-the-job training, while others participate in state trainee programs.

Regardless of their specific college degree or specific job title, appraisers and assessors of real estate should have strong communication, computing, analytical, and mathematical skills.

Advancement and Professional Development Opportunities

Professional development and advancement are inextricably linked for appraisers and assessors. Continuing education is required for regular renewal of licensure, and the higher the license rating, the higher the fee an independent appraiser may charge. Additionally, regional and national associations offer recognized designations to bolster a member’s credentials with potential clients and employers. Most appraisers and assessors advance through promotion from lower-level positions and by remaining in a particular geographical region or specialty to accumulate significant experience.

Outlook and Income

Job opportunities for appraisers and assessors of real estate are projected to increase by only 5% over the next decade because of the economic recession’s slowing effect on real estate sales. Demand and job opportunities will be strongest for professionals with significant experience working in regions with stronger real estate markets, like major metropolitan areas. Those hardest hit will be residential appraisers and those wishing to enter the career field, as competition will be keen for a smaller number of trainee positions. Assessor opportunities should remain steady, as tax assessment is less influenced by economic swings.

The median annual salary for appraisers and assessors of real estate is about $47,000, with the highest median at $89,000 and the lowest at $26,000. Government positions averaged $43,000 annually. Independent free appraisers earn on a per-appraisal basis and vary considerably.