How to Become a Real Estate Appraiser
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More than 6.5 million existing homes sold in 2020, according to the National Association of Realtors. And more homeowners refinanced mortgages than in any other year since 2003. Buying, selling, and refinancing property relies on real estate and financial pros. Real estate appraisers possess the knowledge and experience to tell aspiring homeowners and mortgage lenders just what their property is worth.
On average, real estate appraisers and assessors made $65,630 in 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That's nearly $10,000 more than the national average salary. Appraisers don't need to follow a traditional higher education path. Instead, their roles require real estate training on the job and in the classroom.
Keep reading to learn what it takes to become a real estate appraiser.
Steps to Becoming a Real Estate Appraiser
Becoming an appraiser takes "three Es," per Lisa Dismaris, The Appraisal Foundation's vice president of appraisal issues, on an episode of the foundation's Appraisal Talk podcast:
Here's a step-by-step path for achieving each:
The Appraisal Qualifications Board (AQB) sets national minimum requirements for how to become a real estate appraiser. However, each state imposes its own additional qualifications. For example, some states require you to possess a trainee license to begin training as an appraiser. Others do not.
Always follow the rules set by your state's regulatory agency.
While you're looking into your state's requirements to become a real estate appraiser, it's a good time to reflect on what a college degree could get you.
You do not need a degree to become a licensed home appraiser. But if you want to become a certified home appraiser, you need at least an associate degree. And, if you plan to become a certified general appraiser — who can appraise both homes and commercial properties — you'll need a bachelor's degree.
Later in your career, you might consider a real estate master's degree, which can help you advance to upper levels of management at real estate investment companies.
If your state requires you to possess a trainee license, then you must complete at least 75 hours of real estate appraiser classes before gaining experience in the field.
You can find classes to become an appraiser at community colleges, private real estate schools, and online. To find a training program, start by finding your state's approved list of course providers. Your trainee classes may cost less than $1,000. A trainee license may run you a couple of hundred dollars if your state requires one.
Once you finish your trainee courses, you must complete at least 1,000 hours of supervised work before you can apply to become a licensed home appraiser.
After completing your initial training, it's time to get a professional credential. You can become:
- Licensed in residential appraisal.
- Certified in residential appraisal.
- Or certified in both residential and commercial appraisal.
The AQB has different minimum requirements for each of these titles. You can find the details for each in the career paths section of this article.
For any of these credentials, you must complete coursework and work under the supervision of an approved appraisal supervisor. The process may take six to 18 months to complete and can cost $1,000 to $6,000 or more.
Once you've completed the necessary education and supervised experience, you're ready to sit for the National Uniform Licensing and Certification Examination.
Testing fees for the exam vary, costing around $100-$200. You can find sample questions and FAQs on The Appraisal Foundation's website.
Importantly, consult your state's approval agency for information about:
- Approved testing sites.
- What to bring on testing day.
- Additional state-specific application and registration fees, costing $200-$400.
Your license or certification will eventually expire. To keep it active, enroll in continuing education classes. You can find these classes at the same in-person and online institutions where you completed your initial training.
What Does a Real Estate Appraiser Do?
Real estate appraisers, also called real property appraisers, evaluate homes, land, and commercial properties. Appraisers inspect properties and collect data from comparable buildings to offer an informed estimate of what that property is worth on the market.
Career Paths for Real Estate Appraisers
Your first role in real estate appraisal will be as a supervised trainee or apprentice. You will need to spend at least six months in your apprenticeship. You’ll get paid for their work, but not as much as licensed and certified appraisers. Appraiser trainees' average base salary is about $37,590, according to Payscale.
Once you've put in a minimum of 1,000 hours of supervised experience within six months and you've participated in at least 150 hours of approved education, you can take the exam to become a licensed residential appraiser.
Alternatively, you could become a certified residential appraiser. Certified residential appraisers are allowed to appraise more expensive properties than licensed appraisers.
To become a certified home appraiser, you need to have a degree or 30 hours of qualifying college-level credits. You need to log 1,500 hours of supervised experience over twelve months and 200 hours of education.
Certified general appraisers are allowed to appraise both residential and commercial properties. This title comes with higher requirements. You must:
- Complete at least 3,000 hours of supervised experience appraising residential and commercial spaces.
- Participate in at least 300 hours of real estate appraiser education.
- Hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited school.
FAQs on Becoming a Real Estate Appraiser
To become a real estate appraiser, you must:
- Complete real estate-specific education
- Work at least 1,000 hours under supervision
- Pass a licensing and certification exam
These are the minimum requirements, and your state might require more education or experience. In addition, if you want to appraise both homes and commercial properties, you may need a college degree.
Real estate appraisers and assessors earned average salaries of $65,630 in 2020, according to the BLS. The highest-paid real estate appraisers and assessors worked for the federal government and credit intermediation services (e.g., mortgage lenders).
The time it takes to become a real estate appraiser depends on how long it takes you to complete your state’s requirements.
At a minimum, becoming an appraiser takes:
- 75 hours in trainee education
- Six months to a year to become certified or licensed in residential appraisal
- 1.5 years or more to become certified in residential and commercial appraisal
Expect to spend $1,000 to $6,000 or more on your coursework to become licensed or certified. You will also have to cover the cost of:
- Your exam fee: $100-$200
- State licensing, application, and or registration fees: $200-$400
- Continuing education throughout your career: Varies depending on the course provider, running around $100-$300 for a short course.
You can take real estate appraiser classes online to fulfill the education requirements for becoming an appraiser. However, you must also train on the job under an approved supervisor.
In the future, that may change. The AQB recently adopted the Practical Applications of Real Estate Appraisal (PAREA), a virtual simulation of real-world appraisal experiences. Eventually, PAREA could replace today's requirements for in-person supervision.
Real Estate Appraiser Training Programs
Let's say you're ready to start training as a real estate appraiser. The first place you should look is your state's regulatory agency website. There, your state should list its approved course providers. /p>
Approved real estate appraiser education programs cover topics that help you understand the regulations and theories behind appraisal. As you advance through the profession, educational topics will expand./p>
Here are examples of what you'll learn at each level of the profession:
Trainee or Apprentice
As a trainee or apprentice, you’ll learn:
- The fundamentals of real estate appraisal, financing, and concepts
- Appraisal processes and procedures
- Standards of practice
Licensed Residential Appraiser
Before becoming licensed, you must complete coursework that covers the following topics:
- Market analysis
- Site valuation
- Sales comparison
- Writing reports
Certified Residential Appraiser
To become a Certified Residential Appraiser, you'll take the above courses and a few more, including:
- Advanced report writing
- Finance, statistics, and valuation modeling
Certified General Appraiser
Certified General Appraisers learn the above topics for residential properties. They also study commercial appraisal methods, for example, how to estimate the income a commercial space could potentially generate.
Continuing Education Throughout Your Career
As housing trends and policies change, you can stay up to date by taking continuing education courses, which may cover:
- Environmentally friendly buildings
- New policies and best practices
Related Career Options for Real Estate Appraisers
If you're drawn to analyzing data and making financial projections, consider careers in banking and finance. Roles like auditors, brokers, loan officers, and financial analysts put their keen accounting skills to use in real estate and other sectors.
Like appraisers, home inspectors evaluate properties. However, home inspectors are more concerned with the building itself than the market. Consider becoming an inspector if you love learning about home architecture and excel at finding and communicating potential hazards.
Entrepreneurs evaluate the market for business opportunities. Their job also involves networking, fundraising, and marketing their business idea. If you're interested in real estate, you could start an entrepreneurial venture working as an independent appraiser or bring your own real estate startup idea to life.
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