How To Become A Real Estate Appraiser


Becoming a real estate appraiser is tough, as it should be. Our entire banking sector is counting on appraisers to make sure they are not overexposed. Requirements differ slightly from state to state, but the national requirements take precedence over everything. In this complete article, we will cover everything you need to know to get not only your appraisal license, but the answers to the most frequently asked questions in this industry as well.

Step 1 – Identify a Mentor

Do not, I repeat, do not spend money on education until you have an employer in the pipeline. I have seen so many people drop $1,000 on education, and then they could not find anyone to work for. Don’t make this mistake. First, find a mentor who will agree to train you, and then spend money on education.

Step 2 – Get Educated

After finding a mentor, you need to get a basic education. This will consist of:

  • Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP[BS1] ) (15 hours)
  • Basic Appraisal Principles (30 hours)
  • Basic Appraisal Procedures (30 hours)

I will not be making any recommendations right now because of all the nasty e-mails I will get from providers. I would suggest, however, that you take classes in person as opposed to online, as the connections you make in these classes can help you advance in your career.

Step 3 –Get Your Experience

In 2018, everything changed. The Appraiser Qualifications Board (AQB) revisited the number of experience/work hours as follows:

Classification Number of hours Minimum period
Licensed Residential 1,000 6 months
Certified Residential 1,500 12 months
Certified General 3,000* 18 months

*Certified General Hours did not change.

Step 4 – Pass Your Exam and Get Your License

I remember this like it was yesterday. You’re going to be so nervous when the day comes to take this exam. Here is what I would suggest in the days before your test comes:

  1. Get plenty of sleep (7-8 hours)
  2. Drink plenty of water
  3. Review Appraisal Test Prep Materials
  4. Talk to your mentor for advice

By the time you take your exam, you will have been appraising for at least a year and have lots of mentorship and education under your belt. You will be fine. Just put the work in.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Real Estate Appraiser?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already seriously considering this as a career. Becoming a certified real estate appraiser does not happen overnight, as you might guess. It takes many grueling hours to obtain your state required experience and to pass all your mandatory classes.

We surveyed a real estate appraisers group on Facebook to find out the average time it took them from start to finish to become a real estate appraiser. We had over three hundred residential and commercial real estate appraisers respond. The results can be seen below. Keep in mind, some of these appraisers received their license under different licensing rules than you will have to follow.

Time it takes to become an appraiser

Before the AQB changed things up in 2018, it was REALLY hard to get your license. Those regulations were loosened, and now you can obtain the following licenses in these time frames:

  • Licensed Trainee Appraiser – Pretty much immediately after coursework (varies from state to state)
  • Licensed Residential Appraiser – The new criteria reduced the total number of hours to 1,000 hours of experience to be completed in no less than six months.
  • Certified Residential Appraiser – 1,500 hours of experience to be completed in no less than twelve months.
  • Certified General Appraiser – 3,000 hours of experience (at least 1,500 hours required to be non-residential work) to be completed in no less than eighteen months.

How are Appraisers Paid?

As a trainee appraiser, you may get lucky enough to get a small salary while you are learning the ropes. For a licensed appraiser, you will eat what you kill. If you work for an established company, you will get a certain percentage of what you bill out. Depending on your negotiating skills, this is normally between 30% – 60%, and is largely dependent on your skillset and speed as an appraiser. The more appraisals you complete, the more money you make. Your only ceiling is how many hours you want to work per day.

How to Find a Mentor

Finding a mentor can be one of the most difficult parts of becoming a real estate appraiser. I mean, think about it! You are going to walk into someone’s office and ask them to train their future competition? It’s a difficult conversation! I was told “no” over ten times before finally I convinced someone to take a chance on me.

Unfortunately, like everything else in life, it will come down to money. The cheaper you are willing to work, the better your chances are of finding a mentor to spend his time training you. I locked up my mentor during the 2008 economy crash. He paid me 20% of what I billed out, which came out to less than $15,000 my first year. Tough to chew on as a recent college grad, but it’s the reality of this business.

The best advice I can give you is to find out where all the appraisers’ offices are and plot them on a map. Call and/or visit each one and sell yourself. You can find a list of appraisers near you on  the Appraisal Institute website as well as googling your state’s real estate appraiser board and getting a list.

Average Age of Real Estate Appraisers

This is where things get crazy if you are a young person thinking about entering this career. The vast majority of appraisers are getting close to retirement age, with the average age of a real estate appraiser 58.5 years old as of December, 2019. This could present a huge opportunity for younger people who are entering the field, as supply and demand will push appraisal fees higher as those older appraisers leave the field.

Survey of Appraiser’s Age

Is Real Estate Appraiser a Good Career?

I have written this section a few times and then deleted it to start over. This isn’t an easy question to answer, and it really depends on you as a person. If you define a “good career” as making a lot of money for working hard, then I would tell you “absolutely”. You can make a lot of money as a real estate appraiser, and choosing this profession is what led me to an early retirement.

However, this career is demanding. You will sacrifice time with your family, be stressed out as you are constantly meeting deadlines, and dealing with reviewers who don’t know anything about real estate (not joking).

My advice would be to use this career to understand how to invest in real estate, save a lot of money and then use your knowledge to make money investing.

Can You be a Real Estate Appraiser and an Agent?

Yes, a real estate appraiser can be a real estate agent.

I am actually taken aback by how many people ask me this question. Normally, it is real estate agents who aren’t making any sales, or vice versa, you have appraisers who are looking for a side hustle to make some extra money.

As an appraiser, you just need to make sure you are not wearing your appraisal hat while you are wearing your realtor hat. You can get yourself in trouble with the real estate board if you do not separate the two jobs.

How Much Do Appraisers Make?

The average real estate appraiser makes $63,350 [BS2] per year, although what you make depends on how much you work, since appraisers are paid per appraisal. We cover this topic extensively on our blog. You can find all the details here on a real estate appraiser salary.

Do You Need a Degree to be a Real Estate Appraiser?

In the past, you needed a college degree to be an appraiser. However, with the aging appraiser population, the AQB loosened requirements to get more people into the industry. Now, they accept College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams, certain college courses, and even an associate’s degree. For exact details on college class requirements, read this.

Final Thoughts ― How to Become an Appraiser

To fulfill this dream of yours, you need to complete your training requirements and find a mentor to help you though the process. After you get certified, you are free to appraise any house for anyone. If you reach your general certification, you can appraise any property in the entire United States. To learn exact details about licensing requirements in your state, visit your state’s licensing board.

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