Time for an Appraiser Union?
Much talk has occurred lately on a variety of injustices incurred by appraisers through scope-creep, indemnification clauses, decreasing number of appraisers, lawsuit volume increases, and the like. Naturally, there are a whole lotta unhappy appraisers out there. Surely, there are many things to be concerned with, but there is a greater fear that overrides all other issues; the fear that there ain’t a dang thing we can do about it.
The lack of ability to make changes to those things we view as wrong is a debilitating feeling. As small business owners, we are used to getting things done our way. The ability to see a problem and then implement a plan to fix it is in our very natures. On the opposite side of the coin, seeing a series of major issues with our industry, yet having our hands tied as to their solutions, leaves us feeling frustrated, angry, and powerless.
I just returned from a conference of high-power ‘suits’ in the appraisal industry. For 1.5 days, these thought-giants listened to speakers, broke into workshop roundtables, and tossed around ideas on such important issues as appraiser fees, scope-creep, litigation, and more. There were some strong opinions voiced and some great ideas shared. After the conference, I spoke to one of the participants in the hallway (I will keep his name confidential as you would recognize him, and I do not have permission to share his words). During our brief meeting, I told him how impressed I was with the caliber of individuals and the great ideas that had come forth. I then asked what happens now. Who now has the power to begin implementing these great solutions? His answer was only slightly disheartening. To paraphrase, he said, “Well, no one really. We are more of a think-tank. Our purpose is to discuss problems in the appraisal world and come up with possible solutions. It may be that some of the people in that room have contacts in government and other institutions and might catch the ear of those that can implement changes, but that is all.” Oh, boy. Now, don’t misunderstand. I think it is great that these types of brains come together periodically to have these kinds of collaborating conferences. I am simply disheartened by the fact that they really have no power to make any of the changes they spent hours hammering out in the end.
Furthermore, it is not just the intellectuals with all of the good ideas. As The Appraiser Coach, I spend a good deal of time interacting with appraisers across the country, and they are concerned with the same problems that you and I are. Furthermore, the solutions I hear from Mr. Appraiser in Columbus, OH or Ms. Trainee in San Diego, CA are sometimes better than the ones I hear from the experts in the many conferences I attend each year. The problem? Well, it is the same on all levels of our profession; we have no power in the big scheme of things to make any meaningful changes.
Is it time for an appraiser union? Now, before I go any further, I should outline my general philosophies in regard to unions. There has been a lot of bad press lately on the topic of unions. Rightfully so. I believe the majority of private unions (and ALL public unions) are corrupt at their core. Union bosses are in bed with politicians, union membership is forced in non-right-to-work states, and union dues are often funneled directly into legislation that directly benefit some while harming the rights of others. However, private and voluntary unions have their place. There is power in a large group of like-minded individuals gathering together to fight for a common cause. That is the American way. Our Founders depended upon it, and our country was established on that very foundation. It is protected even in the First Amendment. Yet, words carry emotion, and since the word ‘union’ has a generally bad connotation in today’s society, I will refrain from using it throughout the remainder of this paper. Instead, let’s use the word ‘coalition.’
Is it time for a national appraiser coalition? I think so. Now, some will argue that such an organization already exists. Though I would agree there are many good and helpful appraiser groups, none rise to the level that I am advocating here. There are national groups who do some of what is necessary, and there are local and regional groups who do most of what will be required to turn this ship around. The problem is; there is no group(s) big enough to make a national splash who is/are actively doing all that must be done to really cause the wheels of change to begin turning.
What I am promoting is something similar to the size and scale (ratio-wise) of the National Realtors Association TM. Now, I realize there are many more members of NAR than there are total appraisers in the U.S. (many of us are even members by nature of our affiliation with local realtor boards). I also realize the NAR has a lot of problems (beginning with their obvious disdain for appraisers), but I am not advocating we copy them. I am simply pointing them out as a model of what we might consider in forming our own coalition. We need a group with strong leadership, clear goals, connection to Washington and state governing bodies (the right way), and one which benefits appraisers in such a way that nearly all of us will not be compelled – but desirous to join and pay our dues with pleasure.
I imagine a powerful organization who meets with its members, listens to its members, and has the ability to make changes that actually affect the lives of its members. If we have concerns about fair pay for service provided, we should be able to express those concerns and not feel that our cries are falling on deaf ears. I foresee a group who has the resources and media time to educate and inform the common man on what an appraiser is and what an appraiser is not. I see an organization with the kind of clout to cause movers and shakers to take notice when they speak. I HAVE A DREAM that some day… (sorry, got a little carried away there).
The fact is, we can (and should) do much better than we are currently doing. This coalition could come about in one of several ways. It is possible (with the right leaders) to begin from scratch and develop such a society from the ground up. This is not likely, however, as it is difficult to gain membership without traction, and it is hard to gain traction without membership (the old catch-22). It is more probable that this type of problem-solving society will rise from either a current organization (by making major changes to their foundational structure) or the voluntary combining of two or more contemporary organizations (by one or both of them humbling themselves and realizing the power in unity).
This paper is not intended to have all of the solutions. Rather, it is an attempt to begin the process of discussion. Why are we not having these discussions? It seems to me that, if we put as much energy into pushing for organizing such a coalition as we do complaining about what is wrong with our current industry, we might see something come together for our good as a whole.
So, where are the leaders ready to step up and cause it to happen? When will the heads of current appraiser societies begin talks with their peers? Who is willing to make the first move? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?