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Turn and Face the Strain… an Appraiser’s Life
by Ashley Wolthuis, Certified Residential
On a rainy, cold November morning I found myself in a run-down part of town, standing in front of a vacant fourplex taking subject photos for an upcoming report. A car came barreling down the street screeching to a stop in front of the subject. A man exited, leaving the engine running and the car door flung open, though I think I noted those facts secondarily to the guns and pepper spray resting on each hip.
He quickly asked if I was the appraiser of the property and informed me that he was a bounty hunter and had reason to believe that a criminal he was seeking was holed-up in one of the units. He asked my permission to observe my entrance into each unit to make sure the building was in fact vacant. I handed him the keys and told him to be my guest; I wasn’t getting paid enough for this job as it was!
After a quick sweep of the building and determining the person he was after was no longer around, he started to make his exit. Before he left I asked him, “By the way, how did you know I was an appraiser?” Usually, when found taking pictures of a house from the street, the first assumption made by the public is not that I’m an appraiser. “Oh,” he stated, “I used to be an appraiser but the pressure got to me.” LOL, right?!?
And that is it, isn’t it? That’s the piece that no one talks about. I’ve read countless articles, listened to endless presentations and viewed Congressional hearings about why the number of appraisers nationwide is decreasing. We’re aging out. There’s too much education required. The amount of work experience is excessive. It’s too difficult to find a mentor. I’ve heard all of these excuses and more, yet never once have I heard any expert ask the real question: why do people leave a profession that they worked so hard to join? Why are appraisers, who have already completed the education and experience requirements, found a mentor, passed the test and have no further hurdles ahead, choosing to give up their licenses? And they aren’t leaving the workforce in general; they are abandoning our profession. Why? Because it is a profession rife with high stress, low fees and an overall lack of support and respect.
Instead of listening to the “experts,” I’ve been listening to the appraisers actually completing the work and what they are saying. How am I expected to complete this type of appraisal assignment with the given limitations placed on me and still be expected to put out quality work? How can I be expected to make a living, support my family and provide credible results when my fees are so vastly reduced and expected turn times so short? What if I make an error? Will I lose my livelihood and ability to support my family because I relied on information provided by someone else, or was too rushed trying to meet unrealistic timelines? Can I afford to accept the low fees being offered? Can I afford not to accept them? Who can I turn to for help? How do I deal with this pressure and is working in this profession worth it any longer?
Time for Change
Those with the loudest voices in the real estate industry are saying that appraisers are to blame for excessive fees and long turn times and that it is our performance, or our poor performance, that has forced them to develop new valuation products to limit or replace the role of the appraiser. They want faster appraisals, cheaper appraisals, or sometimes no appraisal at all. While at the same time, appraisers continue to ask questions such as, “Who is looking out for the public trust?” and, “We have vital insight into the real estate industry; is anyone listening to us?”
The first thing that needs to change is who is being listened to. Our profession is solitary by nature. Most independent appraisers are just that, independent. We have been left at the mercy of other professions and special interests because we are the easiest to intimidate. Without a loud and united voice, we will continue to have others dictate the terms of our own profession.
The lack of support in my day-to-day business was one of the leading causes that convinced me to join my state appraiser coalition. Joining the Utah Coalition of Appraisal Professionals (UTCAP) was one of the best decisions I have made since starting my own appraisal firm. For the first time in the appraisal sphere, I found fellowship among a group of professionals who had many of the same concerns and questions. The pressures associated with modern appraising were growing and I knew changes needed to be made. I also realized that the fastest way to make legislative decisions concerning our profession is at the state level. This is how joining a state coalition can make the biggest impact.
Coalitions that are registered and recognized by the state, with strong memberships, have the ability to advance the corrections and safeguards our profession needs. If you want to see change, you need to start getting involved. In addition to state coalitions, there are several national coalitions that work on behalf of the independent appraiser. Research these coalitions; talk to members; find one or several that appeal to you and join forces with the people in your profession who share your concerns. As a current co-chair of the Board of Governors for the National Association of Appraisers, I work firsthand with state coalitions from across the nation. If you need help contacting your state coalition, or would like to start a recognized coalition in one of the states currently without one, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The stress of our profession can be overwhelming, especially when you feel alone. Having the support of a coalition can be a lifeline in an otherwise solitary career.
About the Author
Ashley Wolthuis is a second generation, Certified Residential Appraiser in Utah. She is also a licensed Real Estate Agent and an Educator licensed through the Utah Division of Real Estate. Wolthuis is the Co-Chair of the Board of Governors for the National Association of Appraisers and the Past-President of the Utah Coalition of Appraisal Professionals (UTCAP).
Richard Hagar, SRA, is an educator, author and owner of a busy appraisal office in the state of Washington. Hagar now offers his legendary adjustments course for CE credit in over
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