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Getting Started - Advice for New Appraisers

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Head Surfer

Staff member
Jan 4, 2002
Professional Status
Retired Appraiser
The following is a reprint of a post made by forum member Doug Smith on 8/24/2000 giving advice to new appraisers. It is a classic and should be helpful to any new appraiser or anyone considering becoming an appraiser:

Bare Bones Start up list

In the first year of starting out, you might find the following list helpful. It represents one person's opinion and is not meant to be inclusive or complete but instead is presented to stimulate thinking about the challenge of the profession and the reality of the entry barriers that exist.

Keep your day job!

Set goals and priorities. Within one month have a written business plan and revise it constantly. Decide on organization entity whether it be a, partnership, sole proprietorship, corporation, or LLC. Go to your local economic development agency and work with them on the process starting your own business. Remember that appraising is a profession, and as such so say it is an art. Running an appraisal business is definately a science and requires the application of common but basic business knowledge more easily available but equally important to your future success. Create a budget that includes education, textbooks, travel, software and office equipment. Purchase only when you are able and purchase from a prioritized list. Start with the basics and build.

Find a mentor. A mentor does not have to be an appraiser but can be a banker, real estate professional person of a business analyst. Do not fall into the trap of concluding that established appraisers do not want to train their competition. As an appraiser "wannabee," not all established appraisers want to help you or even spend time talking with you. There are many shortsighted individuals who feel that new appraisers have to pay their dues and undergo the trials of "survival of the fittest." There are also, however, many who have a larger view of the industry who step forward as mentors and counselors in an effort to improve the professionalism of the industry and encourage high standards. There are two kinds of persons in this industry. The first group makes it their practice to offer appraisal services, "Fast-Cheap or Good" with the client only able to pick two out of three. The others do excellent work, charge for excellent work, and promote the profession in word and work product. Gravitate to appraisers who do excellent work and not to those who offer, "fast, cheap or good, you get two out of three."

The foundations of the art of appraising are skill, knowledge and attitude. If you start out with the right attitude, a will to succeed and an open mind, you will meet and work with mentors who will give you a leg up and help with your skills and knowledge.

Part of honing your attitude toward customer service is to learn early on a fundamental and profoundly troublesome aspect of the appraisal profession. The appraisal profession is most certainly a service enterprise where reliability, accuracy, timeliness and analytical competency is prized and rewarded. While these qualities may insure customer satisfaction, there is the reality in this profession that the conclusions of value appraisers prepare do not always please the clients. Therefore, appraising is unlike other service professions where customer satisfaction implies customer happiness. In our results, appraisers are met with conflicting signals and those who cannot deal with this conflict react in unproductive ways inhibiting ultimate success and inner happiness.

How can a person prepare himself or herself for this eventuality? Awareness is certainly the first step. There is a tendency for individuals to seek consistency from the responses of customers and clients. When an appraiser presents an excellent work product but the client expresses disappointment with the conclusions, the result is an inconsistency between attitude and behavior. The appraiser most likely will attempt to eliminate this inconsistency. In the case of discrepancy between attitudes and behavior, it is most likely that the attitude will change to accommodate the behavior. In the appraisal profession, it is important to believe to the very core that the appraiser's professional goal is to discover the truth. In the face of pressure to "make value" or reduce the tax liability, an appraiser must maintain an attitude that presenting excellent work and discovering the truth is the only alternative. The appraiser who "lets the chips fall where they may" will soon find client disappointment is fleeting. The appraiser will be pleasantly surprised to find that when the same client who was so disappointed with the conclusion wants a "true" answer, they will call upon that appraiser for more assignments. Prepare for this inconsistency of conflicting responses from your clients. Sharpen your skills, knowledge and attitude but above all know that of the three, attitude is the most important.

Network, network, and network. Make up your mind from day one that your ultimate success will depend on effective communication with your appraisal colleagues, real estate professionals, city, county and state employees and a wide range of clients and those who can refer clients to you. You are in a service business. Make service your number one priority and monitor how well you do by checking with those for whom you provide services for a "report card" and do something with the results. Keep a complete list of all those with whom you come in contact and refer to it often. Be there when someone needs help or an answer to a question even if it is not "billable." Do not overlook those who are in the same boat with you when you attend classes etc.

Obtain all the information from the State Appraisal Board, learn, and understand the process. Attend meetings

Apply for State Independent Contractor Status and make that part of your resume packet when looking for appraisers with whom to work. Consider State Worker's Comp. It is cheap disability insurance.

Join an appraisal organization as an affiliate member, then upgrade.

Start on your education process. making sure you follow a budget.

Get on the Internet, develop a web site and use the Internet every day. The Internet should be second nature to you.

Order catalogs and software demos and study them. Ask others, about their purchases. Research, verify and buy prudently. Find a Computer mentor to insure you are buying the most up-to-date equipment. There is no staying power in this industry. Your equipment will probably be obsolete in 12 months or less. Your software will need upgrade at least yearly.

Attend realtor open houses when offered and get to know realtors and if they will let you, practice measuring and making notes about houses. Check back to see if you remembered to list all the items. Get used to drawing a house accurately by hand. If you cannot do it by hand, you will never be able to use the software to do the drawing for you.

These are first year equipment essentials

Copy of USPAP-Learn it and refer to it often
Copy of HUD FHA Guide Handbook 4150 and current revisions
Copy of the 48 Page Selling Guide (I can e-mail it to you.)
Textbooks as you can afford them. Start with Henry Harrison on URAR
Set up designated work area
Tape measure (100 feet and 25 feet) Check out the Tape measure Sokkia/Eslon with the Hook at Selby's
Architects ruler
Wire rack to keep files in process and work log by the telephone to keep track of calls and jobs.
Set up file system and have files folders available to set up work.
Compass-get used to refering by compass direction
Flash Light
Folding stepladder
Electronic interior tape measure
Tape anchors or stakes
Section Template
Day Planner and work log (see state requirements)
Expense account books and bookkeeping program
Telephone logbook, business card index and telephone number Rolodex system.
Adopt a file system with cross-index cards on day one and stay with it. Use paper file boxes until you can
afford real cabinets.
Business Cards
Yellow Page listing
Basic stationery

Zoning maps and regulations
Flood maps
Forest service maps
Map software program
As you appraise, build your collection of Topo maps or buy
The new Delorme set for your state.

Census Tract Maps-I recommend Land View Software from Census bureau.
Learn how to obtain information from County Clerk & Recorder, Appraiser and Treasurer. Visit planning

Subscribe to the Marshall and Swift Valuation Residential Book and study it. Understand how costs are put together and absorb everything about life expectancy and depreciation. Think about how it applies locally. Talk to contractors, builders and building supply house estimators. Ask them how M/S relates to local costs.

First Year equipment

Computer (The best you can afford)
Basic word processing program spread sheet and data base program. Know how to use them. Take a NAIFA course and you can buy software at academic rates at a fraction of the Cost. Example WordPerfect- $19.00.

Back up program or system.
Digital Camera
Inkjet or laser Printer
Color Printer
Zip drive or other suitable means to transfer large files
Fax machine
Telephone answering machine, answering service or telephones company answering service. Call about rates and get the best plan for LD calls. An extra telephone line for a fax is only $5.00 per month. It is a fact that if you rely on an answering machine etc, you will lose the customers you seeks. When the customer calls, they want you, a real person. Learn and believe in call forwarding. Look into all purpose machines and used equipment.

Copier-start with basic or used and better still learn to use the reproduction capabilities of your scanner.
Time is money
Appraisal software and mapping program.
Call waiting, call forwarding
Cell telephone

Set up with Fed-Ex, Airborne and UPS and do not forget the Post Office.

Use Foundation of Real Estate Appraisers for E&O insurance. They have a 10-month payment plan and will fax you your certificate upon completion of your application.

Finally, set down your aims, goals and business plan into an easily stated mission statement and follow it each day. Involve those in your family and those you care about. Work on a clear picture of what you want life to be about, home, family, car, church and community and keep this visualization with you at all times. Make it happen for you. At minimum, your mission statement should contain the following:

1. Do excellent work and always have someone check your work before you present it to the client. (Doing excellent work includes adhering to high ethical and professional standards set by USPAP; your professional organization plus adhering to all state and federal laws without exception.)

2. Seek value within supportable brackets.

3. Be reliable by verifying all your input and when you are not sure go back and check.

4. Deliver what you promise and never promise what you cannot deliver. Be of service and demonstrate your commitment to good service at all times.

5. "For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise."

Good luck.

Doug Smith in Soutwest Montana
E-mail me anytime
[email protected]
And check out my web site http://www.appraisalservicesmt.com


Freshman Member
Jan 17, 2002
Hi Wayne!

Thank you for re-posting this excellent post on getting started in the appraisal business. :D Lots of very useful information and good advice contained therein. I printed it out so I can refer to it easily.

While I'm on the subject, thank you for making this board happen. It has been (and will continue to be) an invaluable source of insider insights and information for me and others. Your new format is very cool and I think reluctant users will eventually come around.


Shelby in CA 8)


Freshman Member
Jan 17, 2002
...and thanks of course to Doug Smith in Southwest Montana for his Bare Bones Start up list!! :D

Shelby in CA 8)


The only thing I would add is to recommend that you accumulate a library of information. I have two subs that are so cheap they never buy any books or keep current even in this site. I have loaned them books they ruefully admit they haven't read.

Folks....you cannot just guess at it. Books like "Appraising the Tough Ones" by Frank Harrison ought to be REQUIRED reading. Before you tackle a farm how about "The Appraisal of Rural Property" Sec. addition from Appraisal Institute. There are tons of FREE info to print out from government agencies. There are few years I do not spend 200- 300 bucks for BOOKS. Budget for them. The tracts and textbooks you get with CE are inadequate. AND especially,...READ that stinking USPAP no matter it is the driest epistle you could ever imagine. Your career or even your freedom might depend upon it some day.

Terrel Shields


Freshman Member
Jan 17, 2002
Hi Terrel,

Thanks for the excellent advice! I'm working on the basics now, preparing for the state exam, but I have a growing list of books to buy and read once I get beyond the exam hurdle.

Appraisal strikes me as the kind of profession in which you can either try to get away with knowing the minimum :? or really do your homework, keep up your education and be the best professional you can be. I intend to be the latter. Thanks!

Shelby in CA 8)


Elite Member
Gold Supporting Member
Jan 31, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser

I recently took the Appraising the Tough Ones 15 hour class. Frankly I thought it was a waste of time and rarely hit on "real world" appraising. Too much theory and terminlogy, few case studies that one could use. Just my 2 cents, maybe I had a bad instructor.

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