A real estate appraiser is someone who estimates the value land and the buildings on that land, before it is sold, mortgaged, taxed, insured or developed.
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Appraisers work in localities that they are familiar with so that they know any environmental or other concerns that may affect the property's value. They typically value one property at a time, and they often specialize in a certain type of real estate like commercial or residential.
Real estate appraisers typically do the following:
When estimating a property’s value, appraisers note unique characteristics of the property and surrounding area, such as a noisy highway nearby. They also consider the condition of a building’s foundation and roof or any renovations that may have been done. In addition to photographing the outside of the building to document its condition, appraisers might also photograph a certain room or feature. After visiting the property, the appraiser estimates the value of the property by considering things such as comparable home sales, lease records, location, view, previous appraisals, and income potential. During the entire process, appraisers meticulously record their research, observations, and methods used in calculating the property's value.
The requirements to become a fully qualified appraiser are complex and vary by jurisdiction and, sometimes, by the value or type of property. In general, most appraisers of residential real estate must have at least an associate’s degree, while appraisers of commercial real property must have at least a bachelor’s degree. In some localities, appraisers may qualify with a high school diploma. Employers generally require these candidates to take basic appraisal courses, complete on-the-job training through an apprenticeship, and work enough hours to meet the requirements for appraisal licenses or certificates.
Courses in subjects such as economics, finance, mathematics, computer science, English, and business or real estate law can be very useful for prospective appraisers and assessors.
Appraisers of real estate use many sources of data when valuing real estate. As a result, they must carefully research and analyze all data before producing a final written report. Because appraisers must regularly interact with clients, being polite and friendly is important. In addition, these characteristics may help expand future business opportunities. To successfully accomplish all the tasks related to appraising a property, appraisers of real estate need good organizational skills. They often work under time constraints, sometimes appraising many properties in a single day. As a result, managing time and meeting deadlines are important. They also may encounter unexpected problems when appraising or assessing a property’s value. The ability to develop and apply an alternative solution is crucial to successfully completing the report on time.
Although appraisers of real estate work in offices, they spend a large part of their day in the field, conducting site visits. Most work full time during regular business hours. Time spent in the field versus in the office depends on the specialty. Residential appraisers tend to spend less time on office work than commercial appraisers, who might spend up to several weeks analyzing information and writing reports on one property. Appraisers who work for banks and mortgage companies generally spend most of their time inside the office, making site visits when necessary. Real estate appraisers typically work full time during regular business hours. However, self-employed appraisers, often called “independent fee appraisers,” usually work more than a standard 40-hour workweek, including writing reports during evenings and on weekends.
The median annual wage of real estate appraisers was $48,500 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $25,920, and the top 10% earned more than $90,650.