Appraisers and assessors of real estate estimate the value of real property whenever it is sold, mortgaged, taxed, insured, or developed. They work in localities they are familiar with, so they have knowledge of any environmental or other concerns that may affect the value of a property. They note any unique characteristics of the property and of the surrounding area, such as a specific architectural style of a building or a major highway located next to the parcel. They also take into account additional aspects of a property such as the condition of the foundation and roof of a building or any renovations that may have been done. They might take pictures to document a certain room or feature, in addition to photographing the exterior of the building. After visiting the property, the appraiser or assessor will estimate the value of the property by taking into consideration such things as comparable home sales, lease records, location, view, previous appraisals, and income potential. During the entire process, appraisers and assessors keep a meticulous record of their research, observations, and methods used in calculating the property valuation.
Appraisers have independent clients and typically focus on valuing one property at a time. They often specialize in a certain type of real estate. For example, commercial appraisers specialize in property used for commercial purposes, such as stores or hotels. Residential appraisers focus on appraising homes or other residences and only provide appraisals for those that house 1 to 4 families. Other appraisers have a general practice and are willing to appraise the value of any type of real property.
Assessors predominately work for local governments and are responsible for valuing properties for property tax assessment purposes. Unlike appraisers, who generally focus on one property at a time, assessors often value entire neighborhoods using mass appraisal techniques and computer-assisted mass appraisal systems to value all the homes in a local neighborhood at once. Although they do not usually focus on a single property, they may use single property methods if the property owner challenges the assessment. Revaluations of assessed properties are performed cyclically on a schedule established by State statute or local practice Depending on the size of the jurisdiction and the number of staff in an assessor's office, a mass appraisal firm or a revaluation firm may do much of the work of valuing the properties in the jurisdiction. These results are then officially certified by the assessor.
When properties are reassessed, assessors issue notices to property owners indicating the new assessment. Assessors must be current on tax assessment procedures and must be able to defend the accuracy of their property assessments, either to the owner directly or at a public hearing, since assessors are responsible for dealing with taxpayers who want to contest their assigned property assessments. Assessors also keep a database of every parcel in their jurisdiction, labeling the property owner, assessment history, and size of the property, as well as property maps of the jurisdiction detailing the property distribution of the jurisdiction.
Property appraisers and assessors held about 78,700 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of property appraisers and assessors were as follows:
- Local government, excluding education and hospitals - 30%
- Self-employed workers - 27%
- Real estate - 25%
- Finance and insurance - 8%
Although property appraisers and assessors work in offices, they may spend a large part of their time conducting site visits. Time spent away from the office depends on the specialty. For example, residential appraisers work in offices less often than do commercial appraisers, who might spend several weeks analyzing information and writing reports about a single property. Appraisers employed by banks and mortgage companies generally work in an office, making site visits only when necessary.
Most property appraisers and assessors work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Self-employed appraisers, often called independent fee appraisers, may work more than 40 hours per week.
Education & Training Required
Many practicing appraisers and assessors have at least a bachelor's degree. Coursework in related subjects such as economics, finance, mathematics, computer science, English, and business or real estate law can be very useful for prospective appraisers and assessors.
Federal law mandates that most appraisers hold State certification. Requirements for these certifications vary by State, but there are certain minimum standards that appraisers must meet. Most appraisers of residential real property must have at least an associate degree, while appraisers of commercial real property are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree.
Unlike appraisers, there are no federally mandated education and training requirements for assessors. In most States, the State assessor board sets education and experience requirements that must be met to obtain a certificate to practice as an assessor. A few States have no Statewide requirements, with standards instead set by each locality.
In States that mandate certification for assessors, the requirements are usually similar to those for appraisers. Some States also have more than one level of certification. All candidates must attend State-approved schools and facilities and take basic appraisal courses. Although appraisers generally value one property at a time while assessors value many at once, both occupations use similar methods and techniques. As a result, assessors and appraisers tend to take the same basic courses. In addition to passing a Statewide examination, candidates are usually required to have a set number of on-the-job hours that must be completed. For those States not requiring certificates for assessors, the hiring office usually will require the candidate to take basic appraisal courses, complete on-the-job training, and accrue a sufficient number of work hours to meet the requirements for obtaining appraisal licenses or certificates. Many assessors also possess a State appraisal license.
Assessors tend to start out in an assessor's office that is willing to provide on-the-job training; smaller municipalities are often unable to provide this experience. An alternate source of experience for aspiring assessors is through a revaluation firm.
Being a Certified Residential Real Property Appraiser is the minimum qualification for valuing any residential property with a loan amount exceeding $250,000 and for valuing any other type of real property with a loan value of less than $250,000. Candidates for this certification must have at least an associate degree or in lieu of the degree, 21 units of specified college-level education. In addition, this certification requires 200 hours of appraiser-specific classroom training and 2,500 hours of work experience accrued over at least 2 years.
Certified General Real Property Appraisers have no restrictions on the types or values of real property for which they can give valuations. Candidates for this certification must have at least a bachelor’s degree, or in lieu of the degree, 30 units of specified college-level education. In addition to a degree, this certification requires 300 hours of appraiser-specific classroom training and 3,000 hours of work experience accrued over at least 30 months. At least half of these hours must be in nonresidential appraisal work.
In addition to the Federally required Certified Residential and Certified General Real Property Appraiser classifications, most States also have the Licensed Residential Real Property Appraiser classification. Holders of this license are permitted to appraise noncomplex one-to-four residential units having a transaction value of less than $1,000,000, and complex one-to-four residential units having a transaction value of less than $250,000. For the Licensed Residential Appraiser classification, candidates must obtain 150 qualifying education hours and at least 2,000 hours of on-the-job training obtained over a period of no less than 1 year. In addition, all candidates must pass an examination.
In many States, those working on their appraiser requirements for licensure or certification are classified as a “trainee.” Training programs vary by State but usually require at least 75 hours of specified appraisal education before one can apply for a trainee position. The number of additional courses trainees must take depends on the State requirements and the kind of license they wish to obtain.
Across all levels of certification and licensure, 15 hours of classroom education must be devoted to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), which are set forth by the Appraisal Standards Board (ASB) of the Appraisal Foundation. Additionally, the Licensed Residential, Certified Residential, and the General Real Property Appraiser designations each have an associated examination that must be passed before these credentials are awarded.
For both appraisers and assessors, continuing education is necessary to maintain a license or certification. The minimum continuing education requirement for appraisers is 14 hours per year. Appraisers must also complete a 7-hour National USPAP Update Course every 2 years. Some States have further requirements. Continuing education may be obtained in any State-approved school or facility, as well as in recognized seminars and conferences held by associations or related organizations. Assessors also must fulfill a continuing education requirement in most States, but the amount varies by State.
Other Skills Required
Appraisers and assessors must possess good analytical skills, mathematical skills, and the ability to pay attention to detail. They also must be able to work alone as well as with other people. Because they work with the public, appraisers and assessors must be polite and have the ability to listen and thoroughly answer any questions from clients about their work.
How to Advance
Many appraisers and assessors choose to become a designated member of a regional or nationally recognized appraiser or assessor association. Designations are a way for appraisers or assessors to establish themselves in the profession, and are recognizable credentials to show employers and potential clients a higher level of education and experience. Obtaining a designation usually requires 5 to 10 years of training and experience, which is more than the minimum licensing requirements. Many appraisal associations have a membership category specifically for trainees, who then can receive full membership after licensure. Since States differ greatly on the requirements to become an assessor, licensure is not necessarily required for membership or designations; however, the imposed designation qualifications tend to be very stringent.
Advancement within the occupation comes with experience. The higher the level of appraiser licensure, for example, the higher the fees an independent fee appraiser may charge. Staying in one particular region or focusing on one type of appraising specialty also will help to establish one's business, reputation, and expertise. Assessors often have a career progression within their office, starting as a trainee and eventually ending up appointed or elected as a senior appraiser or supervisor.
Employment of property appraisers and assessors is projected to grow 4 percent from 2020 to 2030, slower than the average for all occupations.
Despite limited employment growth, about 6,300 openings for property appraisers and assessors are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Demand for appraisal services is linked to the real estate market, which can fluctuate in the short term. Over the long term, employment growth will be driven by economic expansion and population increases—factors that generate demand for property.
Greater use of mobile technology, which enables workers to appraise and assess properties more efficiently, will increase productivity. In addition, the increased use of automated valuation models to aid in the appraisal of property for mortgages might also increase productivity.
The median annual wage for property appraisers and assessors was $61,340 in May 2021. 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 percent earned less than $35,520, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $120,790.
In May 2021, the median annual wages for property appraisers and assessors in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
- Finance and insurance - $76,800
- Real estate - $62,860
- Local government, excluding education and hospitals - $60,040
Earnings for independent fee appraisers can vary significantly because they are paid fees on the basis of each appraisal.
Most property appraisers and assessors work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Self-employed appraisers, often called independent fee appraisers, may be especially likely to work more than 40 hours per week.