Profiling an Up-and-Coming (New) Appraiser
by Isaac Peck, Editor
For an industry that has long predicted its own demise, it is a pleasant surprise that appraisers have actually been busier than ever—more in demand than ever—over the last two years.
Against this backdrop of increased demand for appraisal services as well as a changing environment for valuations within the industry itself, a brave few who see a future in this industry and seek to join its ranks have stepped forward.
One such appraiser trainee is Sierra Alden.
You could say Alden caught the appraising “bug” from her parents, and not just one, but both of her parents have built their careers in the appraisal profession. Her father, John Dingeman, is the Chief Appraiser at Class Valuation and Whitney “Blair” Dingeman, is now the Vice President of Compliance at Class Valuation.
Both of Sierra’s parents have and do work as independent fee appraisers as well as holding positions for a variety of appraisal firms and AMCs. And while some appraisers will woefully remark: “I’d never let my kids get into this profession”—that clearly wasn’t the case with Alden.
Working RE sat down with Alden to hear more about why she wants to become an appraiser and how she expects the industry to change in the years ahead.
Alden started as an appraiser trainee in 2021 and is now over a year into her trainee process. She says she got into the profession because she recently had her first child, a boy, and was drawn to appraising for the same reason many appraisers are. Realizing that a nine-to-five job wasn’t going to work for her, she wanted something flexible that would allow her to pick her own hours and be partially home when she needed to be.
When she told her parents about her decision, she says they were both very supportive. “I really love appraising. I know I have a leg up in my career because both of my parents are appraisers and I’ve been put in contact with so many leaders in the industry,” says Alden.
What makes appraising special for Alden? “I love that it is never the same. I worked in banking and insurance for a long time and felt like once you learned everything, you knew everything. I really enjoy learning and problem-solving—and there’s so much of that in appraising. Every time I walk into a house or do a report, there’s always a problem I need to solve. There’s also so much learning—because appraising is all about your opinion of value—there are a billion ways to analyze the problem. And there’s so much to learn from other people to make myself better,” Alden observes.
Like many children that follow in their parents’ footsteps, she says she never thought she’d end up as an appraiser. “Both my parents were appraisers and I grew up helping them in the office, helping them set appointments, but I didn’t think it was something that I wanted to do. But the more I saw what they were doing, how they got to be their own boss, how they got to be involved in this career where their opinion was really valued, they did all this research and were specialists in their field, I decided I wanted that for myself too,” reports Alden.
Not only is there flexibility in terms of when her work can be done, but there’s also a diversity of the types of work. “I love that I can go out and do an inspection with my supervisor and get out of the house and then work at my computer and finish a report late at night. I also like all the people I get to meet. I do really enjoy the flexibility as well to include working from my desk when I cannot be out in the field. I also like being able to stop what I’m doing, shut off at night, and work my own schedule–that was really important to me,” says Alden.
Helping other Trainees
As a trainee herself, Alden has gotten involved in helping other trainees as the Co-Chair for the Trainee Committee of the National Association of Appraisers (NAA). “I feel very lucky to have my parents and have all the contacts that I do, so it’s really important to me to help other individuals who want to get into appraising. I got into the profession pretty easily compared to what others have to go through so I want to be able to make it easier for others and share the resources and knowledge that I’ve picked up along the way,” says Alden.
Her motivation for helping other trainees is what led Alden to get involved with the NAA’s Trainee Committee. “Being on the Trainee Committee has been an amazing and rewarding experience–we’re trying to make a community where trainees can get their questions answered, like how they can get their classes, find a supervisor, and more. I realized how many people there are out there trying to become an appraiser and hitting all these roadblocks,” Alden reports.
The result is that the NAA’s Trainee Committee held an event at the Appraisal Summit in November 2021 and had over 80 attendees, with many potential appraisers traveling from out of state, hoping to learn more about the industry or to find their supervisor. In addition to teaching would-be appraisers about the industry, the event also served as a matchmaking service. Sierra excitedly reports that some trainees actually found their supervisor appraisers at the event.
“I got involved with the Trainee Committee and the event because (1) I want to help others and give back in the same way that so many have helped me, and (2) it is clear that something needs to be done for trainees because the appraisal profession is losing appraisers. Appraisers will retire and we need new appraisers to continue the work. My message to other trainees is that this is an amazing industry to get into and don’t let roadblocks deter you. Participate and be patient,” advises Alden.
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With both her parents in the profession, Working RE sat down with John Dingeman, Alden’s father, to see how he feels about his daughter joining the ranks of appraisers. Acknowledging that many appraisers would’ve tried to talk their child out of being an appraiser, Dingeman says he encouraged Alden. “I remember I asked her ‘Why’ when she first told me. And she explained that she had seen how her mom and I loved what we did and were able to raise a family, along with the flexibility we had, and the opportunity of running your own business and how she had done the research on the profession. It was really cool—when she called me she had already signed up for the classes,” reports Dingeman.
“I told her, ‘Great, what can I do to support your journey?’ And I’m really excited to see her learn and grow into an appraiser. She’s so smart and she’s good at it. We try to support her however we can. While she has a primary supervisor, we made her a partner in our company and will accept assignments and work with her on those assignments from start to finish, offering a different perspective and process,” John Dingeman says.
(Pictured left to right: John Dingeman, Sierra Alden, Blair Dingeman)
Future of Profession
If you are going to dedicate yourself to a new profession such as appraising, you would of course want to have an idea about the future of that profession!
Alden acknowledges that a lot of appraisers are worried about the future of the profession but personally believes the appraisal profession will be around for a very long time. “Giving an opinion of value is not something a computer can do; at least not well. As long as you’re willing to adapt with the new technology and the new programs and software that are available to you, I think we will be around for a really long time. A lot of appraisers want it to be the same way that it has always been and I think those people are going to get very frustrated. We have to see that there are a bunch of new technologies and software that are available to us. Scanning programs make it easier than just sketching the whole house,” Alden points out.
As a “new” appraiser who has parents who have been in the profession for decades, Alden says it puts her in an interesting position when it comes to the old adage: that’s the way we’ve always done it. “Every appraiser does things so differently so it’s very hard for me to question specifically what one appraiser is doing. Especially when we’re making adjustments. I really try to ask a lot of questions about why we do things a certain way, and so on. I know there are multiple right ways to do things, but I always want to be able to explain why I do things,” says Alden.
While her parents do not serve as her primary supervisor, they work her on two or three appraisals every month. Alden says she still calls them from time to time with questions or just to discuss particular parts of her appraisals too. She is also actively testing new technologies and has even gotten her appraisal supervisor to adopt some new tools as well.
As far as desktop and hybrid appraisals, Alden says she hasn’t worked with them too much yet, but is looking forward to learning more. “I really love the scanning software that I’ve worked with and I’ve seen a lot of the hybrid appraisals online. I think if done right and if appraisers have enough information, these products have potential. In the past, the issue was that appraisers never had enough information about the house without actually being there. With scanning technology and other tools that are being developed, I think these products will be a good solution for appraisers who don’t want to go into people’s homes; or homeowners who don’t want somebody else in their house. Of course, it may take some time for everyone involved to get comfortable with these other products,” Alden remarks.
Ultimately, Alden says that while the role of the appraiser may change, and the forms may change, and the types of valuation products may evolve over time, she believes that the appraising profession will endure. “I think appraisers that are willing to adapt, embrace new technologies, and continue learning will be around for a long, long time. That’s why I made the decision to become an appraiser today.”
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About the Author
Isaac Peck is the Editor of Working RE magazine and the President of OREP, a leading provider of E&O insurance for real estate professionals. OREP serves over 10,000 appraisers with comprehensive E&O coverage, competitive rates, and 14 hours of CE at no charge for OREP Members (CE not approved in IL, MN, GA). Visit OREP.org to learn more. Reach Isaac at firstname.lastname@example.org or (888) 347-5273. Calif Lic. #4116465.
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