Friday, December 8, 2023 | The Latest Buzz for the Appraisal Industry

The Surfing Appraiser

Riding the waves of the appraisal profession can result in a range of outcomes and emotions over time. Appraisers, and surfers, have varying levels of experience, and experiences. Most appraisers have been through some extremely busy seasons that have been very positive. Those same appraisers have gone through droughts, where appraisal orders dried up. 2020 and 2021 were times of great waves for appraisers. It seemed as if appraisal orders would not stop rolling in, and taking time off to rest was barely possible. I can remember checking to make sure that the fax machine and the phone in my office were still working. I was certain that my clients had work for me to do, the only explanation for no work was that the phone line must be down. Admit it, you did the same thing, right?

Surfers have days with huge waves where they cannot paddle hard enough through the seemingly endless waves. After a day of endless waves, a surfer’s arms feel like spaghetti noodles, but their head and heart are in a state of fulfillment. Merriam-Webster defines this exhilarated state of being as “stoked”. The most recent refinance boom, driven by ultra-low interest rates, brought about a sense of stoke to appraisers, and their businesses.

Fast forward to mid-2023: The Federal Reserve turned the Banzai Pipeline into a wading pool. Currently, the tidal wave of appraisal volume looks more like a still, calm lake at sunrise. The surfing appraiser is sitting on the beach, waiting for the next set of waves to roll in. It could be a while before the surf, or the volume of appraisal orders, get that big again. What should the surfing appraiser do now? Where will they find the perfect break? When the beach turns into a desert, the waves go flat, and it seems as if the sun will never shine on our appraisal businesses again-where do we find the stoke? In the mirror.

You built your business into what it has become. Nobody did that for you. You control your destiny and your business. Wondering, worrying and complaining will not bring back the waves of prosperity. Getting back out in the water and paddling around will yield results. Will it be the kowabunga moments of 2021, fueled by 3% rates? Or will it be a little wave of appraisal activity? That, my friends, is entirely up to you.

Let’s be grateful for the times of abundance, and thankful for any ripples of business that we can generate in the current lull. In a normal lending (or surfing) environment, there are periods of activity, and there are the times between. During the breaks in the action, you will see surfers sitting on top of their boards, scanning the distant horizon for the incoming ripples in the ocean. Will that ripple turn into a perfect wave, with a few more behind it? Or will there be an ankle-high ripple that you can still ride, and get a small measure of stoke from?

Appraisers have been blessed to have the independence and autonomy to create whatever they want for themselves. Most workers in America do not have the same opportunities for success and advancement that appraisers have. Look at this lull as a time of opportunity. A time to finally work on and execute a plan for your business. During the refinance boom of the early 2020’s, the majority of appraisers did not have time to come up for air. The waves of work kept them down, and every time they got a chance-they grabbed the next order (or wave) and maximized the opportunity while it was there. Appraisers were busy cranking out appraisal reports. Now appraisers are not busy, but they should be. Do not get out of the water and put your surfboard away. Stay out there, splash around in the calm ocean, there are waves coming.

Those waves may not look like they did before. They could actually turn into the perfect wave, one that requires less effort than it did in the past. One that comes without revision requests, and is not awarded to the fastest warm body within 100 miles. The business tide can turn, but it doesn’t happen overnight and not without hard work and sacrifice. Do some research. See what fits you, your personality and your business. You have heard it all before-there is legal work, expert witness, divorce, estate, probate…the list goes on and on. Is that easy work to get into? No, it is not. It takes vision, time, work and perseverance. You won’t know what fits until you try it on.

In the small Central Valley city of Lemoore, CA; is a place with perfect waves. This place is in the middle of California’s agricultural hub, the source of a bountiful harvest of fruits and vegetables, and hours from the nearest coastline. This place is called Surf Ranch. How in the world did the perfect wave end up in such an unlikely place? Vision, time, hard work and perseverance. Certainly not by wondering and worrying. These wave pools are popping up all over the country. Surfers in Nebraska rejoice-there could be waves in that nearby ranch one day soon.

Opportunity is looking at you every morning when you brush your teeth and look into the mirror at that successful person that was crushing it a couple of years ago. Wake up the surfing appraiser in yourself. Think about the endless possibilities that are available to appraisers. The current environment is merely a lull, time to re-group between the sets. There are natural waves, and there are man-made waves like Surf Ranch. One way or another, they are coming. Collect your thoughts, wax up your board, get in the water, and prepare for the next set of waves.

Timothy Andersen, MAI, MSc., CDEI, MNAA

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