Friday, 20 May 2022 | The Latest Buzz for the Appraisal Industry

Things to Love (and Hate) About Appraising

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?

Measuring stuff

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.

Changing rules 

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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Responses

  1. I appraise in the rural midwest where we deal more with farmers with manure on their boots, nothing quite as fancy as a surfer or a rapper. But I will say I have had some of the most interesting conversations with homeowners and have heard some pretty surprising life stories (and let’s face it, some you’d rather forget…). I would agree I like that about this job. I also love the houses. I have always loved old houses and it’s fun to see the insides of them, especially the one you’ve driven by a 1000 times and wondered “What does that look like on the inside?” However, in the dead of winter, on a sunny day with 40 mph winds and -15 temp with -45 wind chill when the sunlight glaring off the snow prevents your laser from accurately reading and the wind keeps blowing your tape measure off the side of the house, but Fannie Mae says you need to measure to the inch…you kinda pray for a nice rectangular house and not the old farmhouse with 3 bay windows and an addition in 1950, 1970 and 2004. And in a small town where everyone knows everyone, you’re not always the most popular kid on the block. But then I remember my days working in the county assessor’s office and smile… This is still better than that!

  2. Three quick responses: I’ve heard a dozen times if I’ve heard once about appraisers saying nearly nothing during a walk-through, which sounds anti-social. I’m not into chatting it up over coffee with a homeowner, but I am happy to answer their questions or let them know how much I like their kitchen or bath, or tell them they were lucky to inherit those expensive plantation shutters. Second, about measuring, I actually take each home measure-by-tape as a challenge. And because of that, I am probably better and faster than most. And the sun never stops me. 😉 And finally, rule changes? Back in the mid 1990s Fannie Mae required interior room measurement by the appraiser. After a few months of that privacy invasion, I balked and refused to do it. That was pre-laser, of course. Miraculously, the requirement was done away with just weeks later. How about that?! Perhaps I wasn’t the only bloke objecting. Fannie Mae and your own state appraiser overseer should both be looked at with squinty eyes.

    1. Although I only referenced digital measuring tapes, I actually use a measuring wheel or standard 100 ft tape on all assignments. The digital tape is mostly used as a way to confirm my measurements for accuracy.

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