Is there a career with more inherent paradoxes than real estate appraising? It’s a highly social profession – and yet it’s solitary. Every appraisal decision we come to requires lots of verified data – but also our intuition and opinions. Our calendar fills up with orders when the real estate market heats up. But when the market nosedives, lenders need to reassess their portfolios – so, again, our calendar fills up with orders.
To be a real estate appraiser is to live with these strange contradictions every day. And here’s another one: There are things you’ll love – and absolutely despise – about this profession. Here are a few examples of both, at least from my standpoint, starting with things I love.
Meeting new people
This is my favorite thing about being an appraiser. I love talking to people, learning about their homes, but also about their jobs and lives. I’ve appraised properties for a professional surfer, a jeweler, a mortgage executive, a famous rapper, single people living alone, married couples with five kids in the house—you name it. And most of these people are eager to chat.
How many other professions let you spend quality time with such a wide cross-section of humanity?
Sorry, I just realized something. Measuring—not meeting new people—is my favorite part of this job. I love to measure homes. Heck, I love to measure any property, and I’m forever grateful to the appraisal profession for introducing me to laser measuring devices.
Sometimes I measure structures just for fun. If you see me in the street, measuring the walls of an office building or public utility, chances are I’m not actually getting paid to appraise that property. I just really want to know its dimensions.
And the more unusual the property, the better. A rectangular single-family residence? Boring. (I’ll still enjoy the measurement process, though.) Give me a mansion with an exterior that changes angles 10 times—and has a circular guest house.
As I said, there’s a lot to appreciate about this career. But as I also warned, you won’t love everything about being an appraiser. Here are my admittedly subjective thoughts about what’s not to like.
A few years ago, appraisers could work directly for mortgage companies without any issue. Then… well, you know what happened… and now we can’t. A few years ago, the standard 1004 residential appraisal form was a handful of pages. Now, if my math is correct, it’s about 10,780 pages (front and back).
The rules governing the appraisal industry can swing wildly and often. And that can be frustrating.
In fact, here’s a rule change that Fannie Mae just introduced. According to a new Desktop Underwriting standard, for transactions that meet certain conditions—a purchase, not owner-occupied, and LTV of 90% or less—the appraiser doesn’t need to visit and inspect the property. But…
Fannie Mae also says the appraiser must include a sketch of the property with all measurements and interior walls. And keeping up with new directives like this can be a major negative for this job.
But hey, it also means I’ll need to do measurements on these residences. And if I can figure out how the heck to do that without inspecting the property, I guess that’ll put this one back in the positive column.
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