Appraisers and assessors of real estate estimate the value of land and the buildings on the land usually before it is sold, mortgaged, taxed, insured, or developed.

Duties

Appraisers and assessors of real estate typically do the following:

  • Verify legal descriptions of real estate properties in public records
  • Inspect new and existing properties, noting unique characteristics
  • Photograph the interior and exterior of properties
  • Use “comparables,” or similar nearby properties, to help determine value
  • Prepare written reports on the property value
  • Prepare and maintain current data on each real estate property 

Appraisers and assessors work in localities that they are familiar with so that they know any environmental or other concerns that may affect the property's value.

Appraisers typically value one property at a time, and they often specialize in a certain type of real estate:

  • Commercial appraisers specialize in property used commercially, such as office buildings, stores, and hotels.
  • Residential appraisers focus on appraising property in which people live, such as single family homes and condominiums, and appraise only those properties that house one to four families.

When estimating a property's value, appraisers note unique characteristics of the property and surrounding area, such as a noisy highway or airport nearby. They also consider the condition of a building's foundation and roof or any renovations that may have been done. In addition to photographing the outside of the building to document its condition, appraisers might also photograph a certain room or feature. After visiting the property, the appraiser estimates the value of the property by considering comparable home sales, lease records, location, view, previous appraisals, and income potential. During the entire process, appraisers record their research, observations, and methods used in calculating the property’s value.

Assessors mostly work for local governments and value properties for property tax assessments. Unlike appraisers, who generally focus on one property at a time, assessors often value an entire neighborhood of homes at once by using mass appraisal techniques and computer-assisted mass appraisal systems.

Assessors must be up to date on tax assessment procedures. Taxpayers sometimes challenge the assessed value because they feel they are being charged too much for property tax. Assessors must be able to defend the accuracy of their property assessments, either to the owner directly or at a public hearing.

Assessors also keep a database of every property in their jurisdiction, identifying the property owner, assessment history, and size of the property, as well as property maps detailing the property distribution of the jurisdiction.

Work Environment: 

Appraisers and assessors of real estate held about 83,700 jobs in 2012. About 27 percent were self-employed. The industries that employed the most appraisers and assessors of real estate in 2012 were as follows:

Activities related to real estate 30%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 29
Credit intermediation and related activities 4
State government, excluding education and hospitals 3
Offices of real estate agents and brokers 1

Although appraisers and assessors of real estate work in offices, they spend a large part of their day conducting site visits. Time spent on site versus in the office depends on the specialty. For example, residential appraisers tend to spend less time on office work than commercial appraisers, who might spend up to several weeks analyzing information and writing reports on one property. Appraisers who work for banks and mortgage companies generally spend most of their time inside the office, making site visits only when necessary.

Work Schedules

Appraisers and assessors of real estate typically work full time during regular business hours. However, self-employed appraisers, often called independent fee appraisers, usually work more than a standard 40-hour workweek, because they must often write reports during evenings and on weekends.

Education and Training: 

The requirements to become a fully qualified appraiser or assessor of real estate are complex and vary by state and, sometimes, by the value or type of property. Currently, most appraisers of residential real property must have at least an associate's degree to obtain the entry-level state license category. Appraisers of more complex residential and commercial real property must have at least a bachelor's degree to obtain licensure. In some localities, appraisers may qualify with a high school diploma. Employers generally require these candidates to take basic appraisal courses, complete on-the-job training through an apprenticeship, and work enough hours to meet the requirements for appraisal licenses or certificates. Beginning January 1, 2015, all certified appraisers will be required to have a bachelor's degree prior to obtaining their appraisal license.

In addition, all assessors must be licensed or certified, but requirements vary by state. Check with your state's licensing board for specific requirements for both assessors and appraisers.

Education

Although requirements vary by state, appraisers of residential real property usually must have at least an associate's degree, and appraisers of more complex residential or commercial property usually must have at least a bachelor's degree. In practice, however, most have a bachelor's degree.

Courses in subjects such as economics, finance, mathematics, computer science, English, and business or real estate law can be useful for prospective appraisers and assessors.

For assessors, most states set education and experience requirements that an assessor must meet in order to practice. A few states have no statewide requirements; instead, each locality sets the standards. In some localities, candidates may qualify with a high school diploma.

Training

Employers generally require candidates to take basic appraisal courses, complete on-the-job training through long-term on-the-job training, and work enough hours to meet the requirements for licenses or certificates. 

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Federal law requires that most appraisers performing appraisals in federally related transactions (federally insured banks and financial institutions) have a state license or certification. There is no such federal requirement for assessors, although some states require certification.

Real property appraisers usually value one property at a time, while assessors value many at once, but both occupations use similar methods and techniques. As a result, assessors and appraisers tend to take the same courses for certification. In addition to passing a statewide examination, candidates must usually complete a set number of on-the-job hours.

The level of certification determines what type of property a person may appraise. The two federally required certifications are:

•  Certified Residential Real Property Appraiser

•  Certified General Real Property Appraiser

Being a Certified Residential Real Property Appraiser is the minimum requirement to appraise a residential property with a loan amount over $250,000 or any other type of property even if the loan amount is less than $250,000. Obtaining this certification requires:

•  Associate’s degree or 21 units of continuing education (as of 2015, a bachelor’s degree)

•  200 hours of appraiser-specific classroom training

•  2,500 hours of work experience over at least 2 years

Being a Certified General Real Property Appraiser permits a person to appraise any property of any type and any value. Obtaining this certification requires:

•  Bachelor’s degree or 30 units of specific college-level education 

•  300 hours of appraiser-specific classroom training

•  3,000 hours of work experience over at least 2½ years

Most states offer a third certification: the Licensed Residential Real Property Appraiser. With this certification, appraisers may appraise noncomplex one-to-four unit residences with a value of less than $1,000,000 and complex one-to-four unit residences with a value of less than $250,000. Obtaining this certification requires:

•  150 qualifying education hours (as of January 2015, 30 semester hours of college-level education)

•  2,000 hours of on-the-job training over at least 1 year

For all of these certifications, candidates must:

•  Have 15 hours of classroom instruction on the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice

•  Pass an exam

In most states, candidates working toward licensure or certification as an appraiser are considered to be trainees. Training programs vary by state, but they usually require candidates to take at least 75 hours of specified appraiser education before applying for a job as a trainee.       

Unlike appraisers, assessors have no federal requirement for certification. In states that mandate certification for assessors, the requirements are usually similar to those for appraisers. Some states also have more than one level of certification. For example, the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) offers the Certified Assessment Evaluator (CAE). This designation covers topics that include property valuation for tax purposes, property tax administration, and property tax policy. As of January 1, 2014, applicants are required to have a bachelor's degree prior to obtaining the designation.

For those states that do not require certification for assessors, the hiring office usually requires the candidate to take basic appraisal courses, complete on-the-job training, and work enough hours to meet the requirements for appraisal licenses or certificates. Many assessors also have a state appraisal license.

Assessors tend to start working in an assessor's office that provides on-the-job training; smaller municipalities are often unable to provide this work experience. An alternate source of experience for aspiring assessors is through a revaluation firm.

Both appraisers and assessors must take continuing education courses to keep the license or certification. Requirements vary by state.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Appraisers and assessors of real estate use many sources of data when valuing a property. As a result, they must carefully research and analyze all data before estimating a value and producing a final written report.

Customer-service skills. Because appraisers must regularly interact with clients, being polite and friendly is important. In addition, these characteristics may help expand future business opportunities.

Math skills. Accurately analyzing real estate data, such as calculating square footage of land and building space, requires workers to have good math skills.

Organizational skills. To successfully accomplish all the tasks related to appraising and assessing a property, appraisers and assessors of real estate need good organizational skills.

Problem-solving skills. Appraisers and assessors of real estate may encounter unexpected problems when appraising or assessing a property's value. The ability to develop and apply an alternative solution is crucial to successfully completing the appraisal and report on time.

Time-management skills. Appraisers and assessors of real estate often work under time constraints, sometimes appraising many properties in a single day. As a result, managing time and meeting deadlines are important.  

Pay: 

The median annual wage for appraisers and assessors of real estate was $49,540 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,850, and the top 10 percent earned more than $91,700.

In May 2012, the median annual wages in the top five industries in which appraisers and assessors worked were as follows:

Credit intermediation and related activities $65,830
State government, excluding schools and hospitals  52,960
Activities related to real estate 49,810
Local government, excluding schools and hospitals 46,320
Offices of real estate agents and brokers 37,070

Appraisers and assessors of real estate typically work full time during regular business hours. However, self-employed appraisers, often called “independent fee appraisers,” usually work more than 40 hours per week, because they often write reports during evenings and on weekends.

Earnings for independent fee appraisers can vary significantly because they are paid fees on the basis of each appraisal.

Job Outlook: 

Employment of appraisers and assessors of real estate is projected to grow 6 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations.

Demand for appraisal services is linked to the real estate market, which can fluctuate in the short term. Over the long term, employment growth will be driven by economic expansion and population increases—factors that generate demand for real property.

Although economic expansion and population increases are expected over the coming decade, employment is projected to slow down due to productivity increases brought about by greater use of mobile technologies, which allow workers to appraise and assess properties more efficiently. In addition, the increased use of automated valuation models to aid in the appraisal of property for mortgages might also increase appraisers’ productivity, reducing demand for additional appraisers for traditional lending practices.

Job Prospects

Overall job opportunities are expected to be highly competitive. Job opportunities should be best in areas with active real estate markets. Although job opportunities for established certified appraisers are expected to be available in these areas, the cyclical nature of the real estate market will directly affect demand for appraisers, especially those who appraise residential properties. In times of recession, fewer people buy or sell real estate, decreasing the demand for appraisals. As a result, job opportunities should be best for those who are able to switch specialties and appraise different types of properties.

For More Information: 

For more information about appraisers of real estate, visit

American Society of Appraisers

Appraisal Institute

For more information about assessors of real estate, visit

International Association of Assessing Officers

For more information about licensure requirements for appraisers and assessors of real estate, visit

The Appraisal Foundation

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014–2015 Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh.

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