I Am Not “JUST” a Residential Appraiser

Rachel Massey, SRA
Latest posts by Rachel Massey, SRA (see all)

I Am Not "JUST" a Residential AppraiserI am not “JUST” a residential appraiser!

There is no doubt that moving to obtaining a certified general appraisal license opens doors to varied and interesting work. If it is in one’s capacity to obtain this level, it is a great idea. That said, the idea of being “just” a residential appraiser has got to stop. A good professional residential appraiser who studies the market, knows how to analyze and solve a problem, and can communicate effectively and succinctly, is a very valuable appraiser at that!

As professional residential appraisers, we constantly work at honing skills. We work at becoming better appraisers every day, realizing that learning never ceases if one is open to it. As professional residential appraisers, we exceed minimum qualifications and minimum education requirements. Many of us have earned designations that take significant study and testing. Many of us spend a lot of time, money, and resources honing our skills and trying to improve every day. We work with most people’s largest single assets, and we are aware of that. We must be aware of nuances in buyer preferences, and how they change and evolve.  We must be very aware of what is happening in our markets and pay close attention to changes as they start to occur.

Homeowners hire us because they have a real need. They need to have someone who is independent, impartial, and objective help answer questions they have. They need someone who knows the market, knows how to analyze segments of the market, and who can present their findings in a way that makes sense and is usable, regardless of the opinion of value. Homeowners hire us to answer questions as varied as “what will this proposed addition add in terms of value” or “what will my value be after I split off five acres from my seven-acre tract of land” or “will it be cost effective for me to complete the list of improvements recommended by my REALTOR prior to listing my house for sale”? There is a myriad of reasons a homeowner would want to hire us directly to answer questions.

Attorneys hire us to answer questions as well. They might need to know what the value of a property was as of the date of a marriage in 1992, and what the current value is. They may need to hire us to address what a property would be worth if there was no construction defect, as well as with the defect indicated. They need someone who is not only independent, impartial and objective, but someone who is knowledgeable about retrospective valuation, or understands construction properly, and can complete a report based on both the as if value, and as is value.

As residential appraisers, we often come under extreme pressure. Pressure to ignore issues with a property, pressure to turn in assignments too quickly and to cut corners, pressure to meet sales prices that are too high, pressure to appraise lower than market value to accommodate some interest or another. For someone who is proud of their work ethic and quality, and is independent, impartial, objective and knowledgeable about the work they do and how to support it, we will never be “just” a residential appraiser. We will forever be standing up for doing our work the right way and not bending to pressures. This is the mark of a professional. This is the mark of someone who takes the profession seriously and understands how important our work is.

For those of us who treat being a residential appraiser seriously, and as a significant responsibility, we will never be “just” a residential appraiser. Think about that next time the word “just” crosses your mind. We must change this narrative from within. Be professional, be the best you can be. Be proud of being a residential appraiser. I know I am!

Image credit flickr - Eugene Peretz
Rachel Massey, SRA

Rachel Massey, SRA

SRA, AI-RRS, in the real estate field in the Ann Arbor area since 1984, 1st in sales, & full time appraiser since 1989. She has a Bachelor's degree from Siena Heights University with a real estate concentration, & is an AQB Certified USPAP instructor. Rachel was one of the original members of the Michigan Council of Real Estate Appraisers & has a passion for helping other appraisers through writing, teaching & with peer review. Visit her blog here. She has expertise in lake appraisal, Relocation appraisal work & other residential work in Washtenaw County and surrounding communities. Rachel Massey on e-AppraisersDirectory

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31 Responses

  1. Avatar Hooligan says:

    Excellent article by a superb appraiser. Thank you!

  2. Well stated.  I enjoyed your article!!

  3. Avatar Senior Appraiser says:

    Good comments, but I really wish they would take the word “Residential” out of the license and replace it with say Senior (Certified Senior Appraiser). Because if an appraiser takes additional learning and does what Rachel is describing, that appraiser can competently complete appraisals on commercial properties that are within the limits of the license. Having “Residential” is stereotyping that individual and limits the assignments they are offered. 

    • Avatar Wayne Courtney says:

      There is no need to take the word “Residential” out of the license. Just take the additional educational courses, gain the experience hours and pass the exam. You will then have the general certification. That door is open to any appraiser that wants it.

  4. Avatar Dan says:

    Let’s take that to a more logical end. Why have different license levels at all? Why not issue appraiser licenses, and let appraisers find their specialties in their markets and niches as USPAP’s competency provisions require?  Just like attorneys who specialize in different fields, who all have a license to practice law, appraisers should be able to do the same without all the politics of the present parameters. Some licensed appraisers are more skilled at rural properties and small commercial valuations than many generals yet the license tag implies something different. Many licensed and certified residentials have trained to perform quite complex valuations, regardless of their title.Just issue the license to the professional, after attaining the requirements to get one, and let the appraiser show in the report how he/she is skilled and competent to complete each assignment. This would solve a ton of entry issues we face today.  

    • Dan, some licensees are all that you describe. On the whole, they are supposed to be somewhat more limited than a certified or general certified appraiser. One (a license) is a permission to practice. The other is a certification of competency (to a point) by a state.

      For residential land for 1-4 units or property overall 1-4 units under a million and non complex they may be every bit as competent as a certified appraiser-but there is no assurance of that being the case, hence the limits. As far as Im concerned anytime one can pass the test for a given level that should be enough by itself….otherwise those tests are a meaningless waste of time for all..

      • Avatar Dan says:

        Respectfully, there are no assurances of a general being competent in many assignments either.  Trust me, I’ve reviewed appraisals from Licensed, Certified Residential Appraisers, and Certified General Appraisers and it ALL comes down to the competency requirements that are shown in USPAP.  Every appraiser should expose their competency for any assignment.  Just because an appraiser is licensed, doesn’t mean they are not competent to perform many complex assignments.  Just because an appraiser is a certified general doesn’t equate competency either.  You and I both know that.

        The first point you make about licensed being a permission, and certified being a competency, is simply not credible.  For that matter, NO LICENSED APPRAISER can become licensed without experience with a certified appraiser.  Whatever competency the certified appraiser has, will be exposed to the licensed appraiser during those experience years.   And the test between the licensed appraiser and certified residential is almost identical.

        I say again – Just like attorneys, we need a license to practice.  From there, the organizations that train will become more needful than they are today.  They could train appraisers in the different areas of professional expertise needed for any facet of appraisal, and provide designations revealing the competency of the appraiser.  Seems very straight forward to me, and would solve all the nonsense we have today.

        • Dan true re generals and licensees. The difference is that a certified appraiser is supposed to be able to handle more complex assignments and licensees are legally limited (in FRTs anyway). Competency requirements apply equally to us all.

          PS-the tests are nowhere similar unless you are saying that the second half day of testing covers nothing more than licensees get on their tests? Lot of certifieds that HAVE upgraded will disagree with you.

          Lets not conflate deserved respect for parity of experience and training across the board.

          • Avatar Dan says:

            Lots of certifieds who upgraded from license (including me) would rightly fire back at you.  There’s very little difference in the two tests.

            I think you, as most certified generals, only have an argument to protect that all mighty CG license.  In truth, from decades of finance and appraisals, most of us know better.  Many CR and CG holders remain from the days when no degree was required.

            I say again – If this works for attorneys, CPA’s, and medical doctors, then it should work for appraisers.  Issue the license, after requirements are met, and then let the AI, NAIFA, ASA, Guild, or others award designations for those who excel in the various specialties such as personal, machinery, residential, commercial, industrial, business, gems, etc.

            Too many sacred cows to make a meaningful change.  I read several CG’s who wanted the entry into the profession as licensed or CR to be reduced, but they were ready to fight when the same was said about their licenses.  It would be more sensible.  My opinion.

            • Dan, That’s hogwash… and I suspect you know it. I’m a non degreed carry over from ‘the old days’. I’ll match my appraisal knowledge, skills and ability against most of my peers. Similarly I also know a few personally that are simply in a different league completely.

              Dan if the tests are so similar, then TAKE it and pass it! The problem with many, if not most CRs or licensees is that they simply have no foundation (at all) in commercial real estate appraisal (nor are they required or expected to).

              By the way, I am one of those advocates for certification with no degree. The way you describe (peer organization certifications & designations) are what we had before FIRREA. It was proven to not be enough; nor was it uniform across the country.

              Adding a degree in Animal Husbandry, Marine Biology or Basket Weaving Among Indigenous People of the Atacama Desert does nothing to make  a person a better real estate appraiser in the USA. Worst trainee  ever had was a Professional Engineer (PE) & professor. Best I ever had was a housewife with husband, two kids and an open mind wanting to learn.

              As for the non real estate disciplines they have NO BUSINESS being included with real estate licensees subject to FIRREA and the vagaries of TAF. They aren’t required to have licenses under FIRREA and Im fed up with other disciplines influencing the actions of and policies of TAF regarding REAL ESTATE. Neither FIRREA nor TAF were established to promote or preserve them.

              It was also not set up to pursue IVS or to have non U.S. Citizens serving on it’s boards.

              The only sacred cows I recognize are the ones that require all of us to obey the laws and follow USPAP when applicable. I’d also be ok with making USPAP mandatory for ALL appraisals in America – but that’s just me and not something I’m advocating.

              • Avatar Dan says:

                I’m not referring to Mike Ford. That last response almost sounds like you are taking this personally, and that’s just not the intent of my post. And, for the record, my farming grandfather would point out that hogwash is very important for the pig which is about to become table bacon. But I digress.

                I’m not sure what you meant by just taking a test and passing it to become a CG. Nobody can just take a test and become a certified general. Not since the days you and I became certified anyway.

                No – I’m speaking about the future.  In the recent past, I feel as though I’m watching the episode of Dr. Seuss’ “The Sneetches”  trying to figure out which appraisers have stars on their bellies versus those who don’t.   I think that’s the whole point of the original author’s post out here.  She is not only a certified residential appraiser.  She has attained expertise and abilities far beyond what most have accomplished.  

                My point remains – What other professions have different levels of license?  Try to think of some. Attorneys don’t.  CPA’s don’t.  Yet there are scores of expertise, disciplines, and business models that branch out from their licenses.  Appraisers should be no different. Blow away this nonsense of becoming a Sneetch with a star versus one without.  Have rigid requirements of education and experience to become an appraiser, and then let the organizations be the ones to become the specialist designators.  Let the competency provisions of USPAP (Including the personal property standard) become that which it was intended for in every assignment.  Today, a licensed or certified residential appraiser probably cannot handle the valuation of a hospital.  If that person gets their CG tomorrow, they probably still are unable.  Why?  Is it because of the license level?  Nope – It’s the competency.  Again, my opinion.  Good discussion.

                • Dan, Points taken. Personal or not, my background fits the circumstances you infer produce inadequately trained appraisers. Regardless let me ‘open my mind’ a bit to see if Dr. Seuss changes it.

                  Disagree with final analogy. Attorneys have different levels of expertise and specialties.

                  Admittedly they all start with being a Member of their State Bar which functions completely differently than our state regulatory agencies do. A family law attorney is not necessarily a litigator. There are huge differences between associate attorneys and partners in the firm. Barring criminal actions, they are subject only to the sanctions of their peers.

                  CPAs do not start out as CPAs. They start out as book keepers and accountants. The former is unregulated and the latter may or may not be until they try to become “Certified”. It is only after they become certified that they are subject to oversight by their State Accountancy Boards. AICPA does little to enforce those who stray from standards.

                  A license is only a permission to practice. Certification is a statement by a state agency that the person certified has demonstrated by credible experience, relevant education and advanced testing that their presumed expertise goes beyond that required for permission to practice.

                  I like the hospital analogy. When I was looking for work with the federal government back in 2009 I applied with HUD Office of Insured Health Care Facilities (now merely OHF) and was rated highly qualified at the GS14 level. Yet I had never appraised an (operating) acute care hospital. Sure, I had done sub acute care and the whole gamut of SNF, ARF, and CCF’s but never a full blown hospital in operation at the time of appraisal. (I had done a tiny foreclosed one with a mentor way back in the ’90s for RTC).. How did I get rated at that grade?

                  I did my homework. I became ‘competent’ albeit lightly experienced. ANY certified general appraiser knows how to do the same thing IF they want to.

                  I appreciate the discussion and our different views. I just disagree re ability of professional associations to effectively enforce standards compliance. Not AI; not ASA, and not AGA. All any of us can do is offer guidance and encouragement. Meaningful enforcement loses members (as AI learned long ago).

                  Thank you for taking the time to put this discussion back on an objective track. Just one final question – are sneeches ‘innies’ or ‘outies’?

                  • Avatar Dan says:

                    Dr. Seuss was a wise man.

                    Respectfully – Thank you Mike for making my point. It is not the license that made you able to do the hospital assignment. It was the competency. You had to become competent to appraise the hospital by “doing your homework.” I looked very hard – No mention of competency because of that bachelors degree in knitting or the fistful of additional QE courses to become the CG. It wasn’t your level of licensure, it was the competency. You needed experience and information above having a license which you had to get. That writes exactly into my opinion about all this.

                    And to be very clear – I believe you would be just as wise and able today if you had an Appraiser’s License, with all those initials after your name you are so proud of, revealing your ongoing tenacity to become the expert you are. If we were starting again today, as we did in the 80’s, I’m not sure either of us would qualify for the CG under these rules we are discussing. Yet here we are, and we are what we are because of our experience – not because of our license/certification. I fully believe you are well qualified because of your work, not because of the level of your license.

                    By the way – There is only one license to practice law. And one CPA license. One license, yet a varied group of businesses and expertise that branches from having the one license. Yes, there are many steps to get there, but ultimately one license. I’ve got many of those in my family. Just like all the examples you made, appraisers start out as trainees and associates under other appraisers. Same as the other professionals.

                    We will agree to disagree. But have a great week. On to other topics of interest.

              • Avatar Pam says:

                Hi Mike,

                I’m a housewife with a husband and 3 kids wanted to learn. How does one go about about finding a supervisor in their area to train them. I can’t find one! Any suggestions?

                • Pam, I don’t know what area you are in so I don’t know the appraiser ‘landscape’ there. One way to start is to go to ASC.gov and look up the national appraiser directory by county and license levels. See how many people there are in your area.

                  In order to get credit for hours, you’d need a certified appraiser (Which is a giant pain – BOTH you and supervisor need to keep separate work logs). You COULD offer to maintain both logs (IF that is permitted). Supervisor may also have to take a class in order to supervise. Needs a reason to do that. Better chance of that happening now with all the lenders claiming bifurcated hybrids are the answer (NOT proposing you do those – just saying third party inspection – such as a qualified trainee has again become acceptable to some).

                  If credit is not an issue, then a competent licensed appraiser could work. If you are a member of the American Guild of Appraisers, you also have access to anyone on the National Appraiser Peer Review Committee to help you get through some of the fundamental steps as well as advanced issues.

                  Taking one or two of the Appraisal Institute OR ASA’s basic principles courses shows prospective trainers that you are serious about your business.

                  Just a side note, as proud as you are of your family, I wouldn’t lead off with husband and three kids unless those kids are ages where they mostly take care of themselves. BEST trainee I ever had, had five kids and she made it all work, but the fear most people will have is that the demands of caring for your family will not leave you enough time to make THEIR business a high priority of yours.

                  Running a ‘successful’ household can be legitimate work experience – focus on the organizational and management skills there rather than numbers of kids – let them ask if they are interested. The best part of that is you are an unbiased consumer and possible homeowner that can relate to family housing needs more than someone like myself is able to. Best of luck to you!

                  More info an AGA can be found at http://www.appraisersguild.org Jan Bellas is who you’d want to speak with.

        • Avatar Eric says:

          I have been a “licensed” appraiser for more than 20 years. I did not have the required “educational level” nor the money to upgrade to the certified residential when those new requirements came about. In my state, a licensed appraiser cannot appraise anything other than non-complex 1-4 family residential less than $1MM. Based on my experience for the past 20+ years, I am more than capable of appraising any type of residential property. On the other hand, the owner of the firm where I worked, an MAI, AI-GRS with multiple other designations has absolutely no business appraising even a cookie cutter SFR. I’ve seen his/her residential work and it is atrocious! Just my 2 cents.

          • Hi Eric…couple thoughts here. First of all, I agree that most MAI’s I’ve run into haven’t got a clue when it comes to appraising SFRs. Unless they too trained in a mixed service (full service appraisal) firm during their formative years. Everything becomes a price per sf adjustment which works fine for C&I but not so much with SFRs where lump sums tend to become too variable in price per sf conversions.

            As a general certified I have to always remind myself which hat I am wearing when I appraise back and forth between C&I or residential. I still consult with an old friend from IRS that is an MAI. He’s great at high rise hotels and special use income property but on sfrs in my old area he frequently still double checks with me. While there are times the different skills of C&I work help us in sfr’s, usually it’s best to try to more closely follow real sfr buyers and sellers actions.

            Second item – call Jan Bellas at AGA (301) 377-0099. Apparently the kinks are worked out of the free online two year college course (AA degree) and the course providers are figuring out how to give life experience as well for long term appraisers.

            (Go to my old C&R fee schedule for an idea of the various grade level equivalents and then check the federal civil service classification requirements (KSAs) for the differences between clerical appraisal staff; managerial and executive directorate skills and experience for calculating your own life experience. It’s well worth it. Email her at janbellas@appraisersguild.org or get in touch with me (714) 366 9404. AFTER 10AM pacific for me please!

  5. Excellent article Rachel. Always enjoy reading your articles. Being a professional licensed real estate appraiser takes a lot of skill and education despite what TAF thinks. I have more respect for “just a residential licensee” that does their job right than I do for an AR or AG that doesn’t. Over the years, many licensees have either taught me lessons, or reminded me of those I’ve forgotten. I am in your debt, one and all. Thank you. For those of us that have become certified, let’s not get too cocky – there are a lot of licensees that know just as much about appraising as we do.

  6. Avatar Caterina Platt says:

    I love this article. The thing we need to get better at is getting this information out to the public. Just as doctors, lawyers, teachers, chefs, musicians and auto mechanics come in all flavors and skill levels, so do appraisers.

  7. Avatar Jo Ann Meyer Stratton, IFA, SRA says:

    Excellent article! As someone that has been in the appraisal field for over fifty years in four states, I am still learning, still searching for additional knowledge, always on the lookout for what would improve my skills. I am a certified residential appraiser and although I completed commercial assignments early in my career, I have had no desire to complete any type of commercial assignments. I am in a rural area out in the middle of the Arizona desert, 75-100 miles from anywhere else. I have also appraised in the sixth largest metropolitan area where there are cookie cutters. Residential appraising in my area is more challenging at times then a complex commercial assignment in down town Phoenix. And a lot more fun!! So certified residential suits me just fine.

  8. Troll Alert: This comment/commenter was flagged as suspicious!

    Nice article. Good comments before Dan and Mike turned it i to a p*55ing contest. Sort of refreshing to read people generally emoting positivity about their appraisal jobs. Personally, I regret wasting the best years of my life pursuing moving up the ranks within the appraisal field. It’s not a profession because appraisers are not treated like professionals. Thats why I took a job at FNMAE. 80% of intended users want fast and cheap. Factor in the middle-men, and appraisers work harder than ever for less than ever.

    FNMA needs a cash infusion again, so we don’t care about the quality of appraisals because the FNMA staff is paid regardless. Personally, I don’t give a 5h1* if Timothy gets a bonus, or our CFO’s. My Dept. is paid and bad appraisals behoove the need for my Dept.’s Services. BUT, and to the author’s point, I believe appraisers develop a wide scope of knowledge and skills. Get out while you can, if you want. Our Fannie Waivers and AVMs are the future. Thank you for helping us build our CU database. It’s great. We’d share CU data if we were concerned about quality of work, but until our US Treasury cash infusion requests are denied, we’ll keep the CU data in our back pocket as a punitive tool to use against our appraiser worker bees come next housing price correction.

    • Baggins Baggins says:

      You’ve just motivated me to renew efforts to advocate for winding down GSE’s. Checks and balances matter. Speak for yourself, I will never give up on the principals of liberty, equality, fairness, and government accountability. Working for the government in the financial sector is like throwing in the towel and just dropping dead on the spot. Chilling to even think about it. Enjoy your day job.

      • Troll Alert: This comment/commenter was flagged as suspicious!

        Baggins, 4 Words for you, “Too Big to Fail”.

        Look at the scope and reach of our offices (Washington, DC, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Pasadena, and Philadelphia). Think about it, how can the Private Sector do what we do? A small smattering of Credit Unions, Regional Banks, Private Investors, et, and the the Big Boys (Chase, Wells, BoA -who would need bailouts too). Chilling Effects would be worse bc we are arguably more scrutinized. 😉

        David vs Goliath? Cant happen. We’re here to stay, and Im only being honest for your benefit. Residential Valuation is being squeezed out if you haven’t noticed.

        Requiring us to sell CU and proprietary data to the public for our cash infusuion requests might be a fair concession, fyi. But it wouldnt happen. We’re too big and well connected.

        With all due respect, keep your head up, and remember Jesus loves you!

        • Baggins Baggins says:

          I’m just having fun hassling you because from an outsiders point of view, too big to function properly. I think you’ve confused the proper slogan. Liberty, too big to fail. The interests of major lenders and other monolithic corporations take a very very distant back seat to the principals of sovereignty and liberty. We The People… The free market sorts these challenges out, if simply allowed to operate without government interference. You know, 100 years ago before parity pricing set in, before we uncoupled from the gold standard, before farmers in this country were crushed, there was a vital free market and many thousands more local lending and credit union outlets. They did just fine because they dealt with sound money. Fix the money, correct the system. It’s been over a hundred years, the century of total warfare, insolvency, fiat, all of that. With faith, anything is possible.


        • Avatar Darren B says:

          Troll Alert: This comment/commenter was flagged as suspicious!

          Deemed Suspicious? Perhaps my honesty and candid nature struck a nerve. My apologies if so. Suspicious, no. Honest, yes.

          • Darren,

            comments are flagged as suspicious when commenters mask their IP address, use different email addresses/identities when commenting, or pose as another person. If you are the VP Director of Valuation at Fannie Mae, why aren’t you using your FNMA’s email address, why not use FNMA’s IP address, why are you using different email addresses, and different IP addresses from Liberia, Canada and Illinois, every time you are commenting?

            If you are Darren Beatty at Fannie Mae, please send us an email from your Fannie Mae’s email address so we can verify your identity. Once we are able to communicate with you via your FNMA’s email address, we will remove the alert message.

            And no, you didn’t strike a nerve, just raised an eyebrow 😉

    • ROFL

      When baiting a hook…even an online one, the trick is to make the ‘fish’ believe you are actually what you are trying to appear to be.

  9. Agree completely! Residential appraisal is a speciality, and practitioners should be accorded the respect they deserve.


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I Am Not “JUST” a Residential Appraiser

by Rachel Massey, SRA time to read: 3 min