By John Dudley
Getting a *useful & accurate* real estate appraisal requires a level of experience and gravitas that is running short in recent years. The average real estate appraiser is in his late 40's, early 50's, and has more than a decade of experience. But new trainees take a long time to get enough practical experience to get out on their own, and many elect to stay and work for a senior appraiser, since it's a steady source of referrals in a tough business.
LOCALITY AND SEASONED EXPERIENCE ARE EVERYTHING
The impact on you, the homeowner, attorney, investor, or accountant, is fewer qualified appraisals and appraisal firms to choose from. This doesn't get better (it gets worse) with the explosion of 'appraisal management companies' which often hire the least experienced appraisers, and certainly employ the lowest paid ones. On top of that, each county is different, and the understanding and experience needed to provide an accurate estimate of value goes up, the wider the travel area.
PURPOSE OF THE APPRAISAL MATTERS AS MUCH AS EXPERIENCE
The level of expertise in a given aspect of appraisal work is as important as overall expertise. Again, this all drives demand for the most seasoned, experienced, and locally invested appraisers, which are of course the scarcest, even among a relatively seasoned cadre of professionals.
RELY ON SOME BASIC EARMARKS
Look at the memberships, education, and certifications of the appraiser, as well as years of experience *in the region*. An SRA designation is a particularly high bar set by the Appraisal Institute, the main globably body of appraisers (equivalent to the Association of Realtors for real estate agents).
TRACK THE INITIAL PROCESS
Then develop a *relationship* with that appraisal company as your go-to. In the case of investors, accountants, and attorneys, field test your appraiser by ordering your next appraisal and tracking the experience, being sure to provide a positive testimonial if they meet or exceed your expectations. Track turnaround time, responsiveness, and sophistication and detail of the report.
RELY THEREFORE ON THE REPORT
As you do this, you can rely on the value being the value, plus or minus a tiny amount, because you've seen a broad range of the appraiser's work and have taken stock in their overall trade.
Your investment or subject property, regardless of location or purpose, is too valuable to mess around with. Zoom in on total experience, appraisal type experience, and local knowledge.