I wrote this article for Ann O’Rourke’s Appraisal Today November 2018 paid newsletter. You should sign up (link)
Are you a member of an appraisal organization? If not, why not? There are many good reasons to join one or more.
Many of us are sole proprietors working out of our homes. We work long hours in our caves and lack the coworkers found in a more typical corporate setting. We don’t have bosses to offer guidance and don’t have peers to consult with on difficult problems. Or coworkers to take to lunch. An appraisal organization can help fill these professional voids.
Do you know any of the other appraisers who cover your markets? Appraisal organizations that offer regular meetings for members to network give you the opportunity to meet other local appraisers. Learn who your peers are so you can understand your place in the local appraisal market. Build a referral network to trade leads. I would rather refer an inquiry to someone I know and trust than to a stranger.
Develop Relationships with Other Appraisers
Develop relationships so you can share advice and data. A good friend, Rich, covered my primary market area. Before he was hired as a state investigator, we would trade emails and calls frequently about appraisal problems. He was a great sounding board when I was stuck and helped me solve issues. I met Rich at our local appraiser organization, the Real Estate Appraisers Association (REAA).
Appraisal organizations are great places to meet mentors and find those folks who can help you develop your career. My friend Rich introduced me to a friend whose father was a top litigation appraiser in the region. That led me to a six-month full-time gig and ongoing mentoring relationship. I’ve met many other top appraisers through REAA and know several folks who I can reach out to when I’m stuck.
Mentoring goes two ways. I teach classes in data analysis and Microsoft Excel for REAA and other organizations. I’m happy to share what I’ve learned from others with no expectations. But if you are willing to share, you will find others will be willing to help you with advice and referrals.
Stay on Top of Market Trends in Your Area
Meeting other appraisers on a regular basis can help you stay on top of local market trends and industry news. Has only your workflow slowed down or are your peers also getting fewer orders? Who are the best clients to work with? Which clients are slow to pay? Which clients have lots of stipulations? Have prices in your market topped out or are prices still increasing? These are all questions you can discuss with your peers at a local appraiser gathering.
Price fixing is something to be aware of. WorkingRE has a useful article that you should read (link).
Don’t price fix.
Licensing laws require that appraisers complete continuing education on an ongoing basis. I find that I learn much more in a live setting than with remote learning. The best way to learn about upcoming classes in your area is through your local appraiser organization. Membership in an appraiser organization can reduce your class cost significantly. And if you’re a member of the appraiser organization, you can have a say in what education is offered.
The only way to become a designated appraiser is through an appraiser organization such as the Appraisal Institute (AI), American Society of Appraisers (ASA), International Right of Way Association (IRWA), or National Appraiser Association (NAA). I am designated through the NAA today and am a candidate for designation with the Appraisal Institute. As mortgage lending shrinks, competition for non-lender work will increase. Gaining a designation will increase your skills and recognition of ability, making you more marketable in the future.
Strength in Numbers and Advocacy
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) boasts of 1.2 Million members. Recent estimates of the total number of practicing appraisers ranges from 75,000 to 80,000. The Appraisal Institute, the largest US appraiser organization, has approximately 18,000 members. Appraisers are badly outnumbered and out-financed in the real estate industry. We need strong organizations who can advocate for us. A recent example includes the request from TriStar Bank to waive the requirement for independent appraisals. A national effort, led by most of the appraisal organizations in the country, led to the Appraisal Subcommittee to deny the request (link). North Dakota has made a similar request (link). These are attacks on the appraisal industry that, if unchecked, will shrink our industry. Your membership helps the fight to undermine all appraisers.
Ever wonder why NAR is so successful? The Realtors all contribute significantly to efforts to keep their industry strong. We should too.
The REAA Model
I am the president of the Sacramento chapter of the Real Estate Appraisers Association (REAA) and have been a board member since 2012. We are an organization of real estate appraisers in California founded in 2000 in Sacramento. We focus on appraiser education. We have grown to five chapters with local control governed by a corporate board. Our larger chapters meet once a month for networking and continuing education. In most meetings, we offer two-hour classes of continuing education approved by our state board. Smaller chapters meet every other month and offer either two two-hour classes or one four-hour class. Two to three times per year we offer half day or full day classes. We also offer USPAP renewal and Laws and Regulations every other year. We typically offer 25+ hours of continuing education at each chapter per year.
REAA is 100% volunteer and keeps fees as low as possible. We charge $150 per year for membership fees and anywhere between free to $45 for 2 hour continuing education classes. My chapter holds meetings at a social club with full kitchen and full bar (the Sacramento Dante Club) for $30 for two hours CE including dinner. We have networking for an hour in the bar and over dinner for another 30 minutes before meetings.
Most of my chapter’s members are residential appraisers so our class topics are strongly residential. Below is a list of some of the classes offered by us in the past two years.
- Determining Appraisal Adjustments (7 hours CE)
- Identifying and Evaluating External and Functional Obsolescence (2 hours CE)
- Appraising Small Acreage Residential Acreage Properties (2 hours CE)
- Diminution in Value and Stigmatized Properties (2 hours CE)
- Casualty Loss and Post Disaster Valuations (3 hours CE)
- Appraising Proposed Construction (2 hours CE)
- Current Regulator Issues with Jim Martin, chief of the California Bureau of Real Estate Appraisers, and Greg Harding, representing the Appraisal Foundation (2 hours CE)
- Appraising Homes with Accessory Dwellings (2 hours CE)
- Time Adjustments for Residential Appraisers (4 hours CE)
- Expert Witness (2 hours CE)
Instructors have included nationally known experts George Dell, MAI, SRA, Denis DeSaix, MAI, SRA, Richard Hagar, SRA, Ryan Lundquist, and Steve Smith, MAI, SRA.
REAA offers a place for appraisers to teach without making a large business commitment. REAA serves as the education provider and handles logistics for most classes so someone interested in teaching can focus on developing a class. You don’t need to become an education provider with the state nor handle the administrative details such as record keeping, marketing, order processing, billing, and creation of class certificates.
REAA does not have a designation program but is on the board of governors for the National Association of Appraisers (NAA). Our NAA membership offers our members a designation plus an affiliation with a strong national advocate for appraisers.
What are the advantages to this model? We meet frequently which offers great opportunities for networking. Continuing education for our membership is simple and cost-effective. With our frequent meeting model, we can offer a wide range of education for members. Those members interested in teaching can do so in a simple, supported environment.
Be a Leader and Reap the Benefits
I joined REAA because I felt isolated working by myself. I was concerned that I didn’t have a good way to stay on top of my local markets. I started to attend meetings and quickly realized that by volunteering, I could have a say in classes offered. I joined the education committee and was able to request classes that I wanted to fill in gaps in my training.
I’m proficient with Microsoft Excel and have been able to use it to determine and support market trends and adjustments. REAA gave me the ideal place to develop these skills into a class that I could share with other appraisers. I’ve expanded that initial class into several offerings and have taught in Portland, OR and Washington State in addition to our other chapters. I would not have had these opportunities without REAA.
Another real benefit of volunteering with REAA is the opportunity to meet some of the best appraisers in the country. If I ever get into legal trouble, I can call Richard Hagar for advice. George Dell was kind enough to review my time adjustments class presentation and offered feedback. Denis DeSaix has helped me with highest and best use several times. It’s unlikely that I would have these connections if I wasn’t a volunteer with REAA.
REAA has also served as an outlet for my leadership skills. I’m a sole proprietor with little interest in having employees. However, by volunteering with REAA, I can serve in a leadership position with significantly lower commitment.
As president of my chapter, everyone in the chapter knows me. I’m one of the of few serving my market so I get a significant number of referrals from other members. When I get requests that I need to refer out, I frequently start with current and past board members.
The main reason I volunteer is to pay forward the help I received from those who helped me in my career. Mentors like Lee Bartholomew, Barry Cleverdon, George Dell, Denis DeSaix, and Steve Smith have helped me immensely over the years. Thank you.
Bonus-Join Your Local Realtor Board
One of the best things for my career was to join my local Realtor board. I am the only appraiser affiliate with two Realtor boards in my area and it has paid dividends in my ability to appraise. By being a member of a Realtor board, I can join the open house tour. I see the inside of many properties in my markets so I have a much better understanding of properties when I need to use them as comparables in appraisals. I focus on unusual, complex properties as much as possible because odds are good I’ll need to use them for a longer period of time than typical conforming homes.
I attend most marketing meetings for one board and will speak up whenever appraisal issues are discussed. For example, I frequently provide feedback regarding FHA inspection issues. I am recognized as the local appraisal expert because I’m willing to put in the time helping Realtors with their questions. Also, Realtors are much more likely to talk to me when I make my verification calls. This leads directly to referrals from Realtors for private party work and is important to my business plan.
Which Group is Right for You?
I strongly recommend joining a local organization that meets monthly or bi-monthly. This way you can build relationships with other appraisers, learn about local trends, etc. Also, consider joining an organization with a history of advocating for appraisers in a way you agree with.
Or start your own group. The Tri-County Appraisers Forum (TCAF) is a local group that has been meeting every month at Denny’s for almost 30 years. A friend of mine, Glen Wilson, has served as moderator for a long time. He has a topic for discussion and everyone else brings their current problems and questions. Everyone pays for their own meal. No continuing education but a great way to connect and share problems and learning. With no real cost.
Or you can get organized and form a group that offers continuing education. If you go this route, you’ll need a core group of people willing to serve as organizers. Then a larger organization like REAA to see if they want to expand their chapters-REAA plans on expanding in California. Additional issues to solve include meeting location, finances, who will instruct, and marketing. Please contact me if you want advice with starting your own group.
I hope this discussion has encouraged you to join an appraisal organization. If you’re already a member of an organization, consider volunteering to increase you benefit.
Links to Appraiser Groups
Websites for specific groups mentioned in this article:
- The Real Estate Appraisers Association (REAA)
- Appraisal Institute (AI)
- American Society of Appraisers (ASA)
- International Right of Way Association (IRWA)
- National Appraiser Association (NAA)
The National Association of Appraisers maintains a directory of state appraiser organizations here.
The Appraisal Foundation Sponsoring Organizations is a good directory of national appraisal associations and can be found here.