|> The Appraiser Coach|
Women in the Appraisal Industry:
Interview with Kathy Walsh
by Kendra Budd, Editor
It’s no secret that the real estate appraising profession is a male dominated field. In fact, men make up 66.5% of the industry, while women only make up 33.5%. Seeking out, including, and learning from those of the opposite gender can help eliminate biases making your business less likely to face a discrimination claim. Not only that, but it gives women an opportunity to work in a field they might otherwise not consider.
Kathy Walsh, SRA, AI-RRS, ASA is one of these women appraisers who wasn’t discouraged by the male dominated field. Walsh is also the owner and founder of My Appraisal Office LLC, a woman-owned and operated business since 2010 and includes 10 appraisers and two office staff.
We were able to sit down with Mrs. Walsh to gain a better understanding of what it’s like to be a woman in the appraising profession.
Here’s what we learned.
Q: How did you start appraising? What drew you to the field?
Walsh: I had a technical background, working at a “shared processing” company in Canada, which is where I’m originally from. I moved to the United States and became a full-time mom with three kids. As they got older, I found I had more time on my hands and was looking for something fulfilling, but not full-time, and that had some flexibility. I had heard about appraising from another mom I met, who was working with Beeken Appraisal, a local firm. Looking back, I wish I had known about this profession much, much earlier. As it turned out, they needed help with admin backup coverage, so they hired me on a very part-time basis. The work included setting up and reviewing reports. I was also recruited to work for a larger firm. They needed full time coverage, so I set up a job share with a friend. I discovered that the methods that were being used were fairly dated, so I introduced new technology to the process and soon was helping other firms to decentralize and implement new systems and processes to become more efficient. At one point I wasn’t sure which way I would go, either provide tech support or become an appraiser. Appraising won out and I started attending Community College, taking the classes in lieu of a degree as well as the qualifying education for my appraiser license. It was difficult to get a supervisor and after renewing my first two-year trainee license with no hours, I finally convinced Dave Beeken to teach me. I think he wanted to make sure I followed through with all that education prior to taking me on. It was interesting to be in my 50s, in school and taking algebra. But I got through.
Q: What was it that inspired you to start your own business? How did you get started?
Walsh: I think it was mostly because Dave Beeken was retiring but it was also because I wanted to create a company that provided office management for other small offices and still provide tech support for other firms. I had some great tools and ideas for how to do things differently. Once I set up the company and hired an office manager, the next step was to expand. I was approached by a friend of my daughter. She was interested in real estate and the analytics and wanted me to train her as an appraiser. I remembered how hard it had been for me to enter the profession, so I agreed. My husband had retired after 30 years with IBM, so he became a certified appraiser working with me in a tech support role. We had a great time working together and I continued to train new appraisers. I have always encouraged the trainees to join the Appraisal Institute and to take classes beyond what is required so they can continue learning new things. Extra tools in the toolbox, as they say.
Building your own company isn’t easy—I realized I needed more credentials, so I joined the Appraisal Institute and started meeting people while I worked on my SRA designation. Once I achieved that, I felt more confident, but I needed some more seasoned people to join our team to provide experience and help us keep up with the demand. Using some of my tech background, I had worked out a process where we could not only use our tablets while out in the field at an inspection, but we could all work from our homes, including the admin role. I also developed integrated spreadsheets for easier, faster data manipulation. I started sharing the process with the appraisers that I knew. People are generally excited when you show them that they can save time and be more productive, making their jobs easier. My team expanded and continues to expand. I also found that it is a great fit when you can move your office manager into a trainee position. They come to the table with all that background knowledge about the process and the software. They do really well as appraisers.
Q: Your business comprises of mostly women. How did that come to be? Was it always your intention to make a female dominated appraisal business?
Walsh: It really just evolved to what it is today. Most of us are connected in some way, whether through our social networks or through the Appraisal Institute. I think being a woman-owned business is attractive to other women. We are good at communicating, we support each other and share knowledge (including the stories). The women on my team have similar qualities; they are accomplished professionals, and really nice people. I think men can have a hard time with a woman in a leadership role. I am open to men joining the team, it just hasn’t happened.
We have a really good dynamic on our team. What you often find in the appraising industry is that there’s sort of a guarded independence, with very little communication between appraisers. This is also what makes it a challenge to enter the industry, with seasoned appraisers often being resistant to sharing their knowledge or taking on a trainee. We collaborate a lot on our team. If I, or anyone on the team, is working on a challenge with a report, we have several people available who have different experiences and backgrounds that are willing to share and help. It makes working through challenges easier when you have someone to compare notes with and get insight from. We’re just a different kind of appraising company, that happens to be all women.
Q: We’ve been talking about the appraisal industry being such a male dominated field. Why do you think that is? What are some of the barriers in the appraisal industry that women have to face that maybe men don’t have to?
Walsh: There has been an “old boys” network in this profession, and it was difficult to get into the field at first, but I think that is changing as younger people move up. In my experience, you need to put yourself out there and get involved. Join an organization like The Appraisal Institute, or The Appraisers’ Coalition of Washington and let people get to know who you are. Once people knew I was involved [in the profession], that’s when things started to take a turn for me. My first volunteer position with The Appraisal Institute was hospitality, and I ended up teaching a technology class for the Fall Conference, that’s a lot of visibility. Belonging to The Appraisal Institute helped me expand not only my client base but I have gained so many friends. I have served three terms as a Director for the Seattle Chapter and am currently the Treasurer for The Appraisers’ Coalition of Washington. There are opportunities available if you take those steps to show up and speak up.
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Q: On the topic of “showing up,” why do you think there’s a lack of female appraisers?
Walsh: I don’t think we have successfully marketed the profession to women. There are so many women who are very educated and even over-qualified. They are often “stay-at-home moms” that need a position with a great deal of flexibility. Often, they can work with minimal income and get through those lean trainee years. Being an appraiser is a perfect career for these women. You can work as much or as little as you need to. You can schedule around family activities and achieve that work/life balance. Women bring a great deal to the appraisal profession. They have been running a home and usually have already been involved with real estate, so they know a bit about the market and the process. I also think we have a slightly different perspective and insight when it comes to homes. If we could get the word out to women who need a part time or second career, I think we would have greater success in attracting them to the profession.
It is up to us as women to promote other women, like what you are doing today with this interview. One of the appraisers on my team has over three decades of experience and was the President of the Seattle Chapter of the Appraisal Institute as well as the President of the Appraisers’ Coalition of Washington multiple times. Those are huge achievements that should be recognized and promoted. When she joined our team, we were all excited to learn from her. What a great role model.
Q: What are some of the next steps for you and your business?
Walsh: Well, not only do we do appraisals for individuals and lenders, but we are also now collaborating with other residential and commercial firms.
We recently participated in submitting a proposal as a subcontractor with a local commercial firm, and were selected by the City of Seattle’s Department of Transportation for on-call appraisal services. We won the business, in part, due to our woman-owned status. Through this relationship, we also secured multiple orders for another city that needed residential appraisals. As lender work softens, we are looking at other avenues of appraising.
We’re working really hard on marketing right now. For a long time, we became pretty complacent because we had so much more business before this slowdown, and we really didn’t need to market ourselves. I was lucky that my office manager has a background in marketing, so I’ve transitioned her over to lead that effort and brought somebody else onto the team to handle operations. We’ve rebranded and updated all our materials. We increased our social media presence and are gaining additional private appraisal work as we become more visible. The next step is updating our website.
By participating in leadership positions in the appraiser community, we maintain access to the newest information available regarding updates and changes to requirements; we also leverage these organizations as a great resource for networking with other appraisers and firms. I have been lucky to make some really good friends in both.
Q: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you or your business?
Walsh: The profession as a whole is struggling to attract new appraisers. The PAREA program is a new way of educating appraisers and hopefully will be successful. In the meantime, appraisers and appraisal firms need to look at the trainee situation as a really great opportunity. There are some incredibly smart people out there, but there’s a problem with trainees and their prospective supervisors. People who have experience have the perception that trainees will take their business away once they’re trained, while trainees approach potential mentors saying, “I just need hours, just give me hours and then I will go.” This is a problem. From a supervisor’s point of view, I’m going to invest a huge amount of time and money in your growth. I’m going to give you all the tools and procedures that I’ve developed, and help you to be a successful appraiser, so stay with me and be part of our team. It is a give and take. We can make each other successful when we come together.
About the Author
Kendra Budd is the Editor of Working RE Magazine and the Marketing Coordinator for OREP, a leading provider of appraiser E&O insurance—trusted by over 10,000 appraisers. She graduated with a BA in Theatre and English from Western Washington University, and with an MFA in Creative Writing from Full Sail University. She is currently based in Seattle, WA.
OREP Insurance Services, LLC. Calif. License #0K99465