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.
Appraisers and assessors spend much of their time researching data and writing reports. However, with the advancement of computers and other technologies, such as wireless Internet, time spent in the office has decreased because research can now be done in less time and at site locations. Records that once required a visit to a courthouse or city hall often can be found online. On-site visits usually occur during daylight hours, and according to the client's schedule. Time spent on-site rather than in the office also depends on the specialty. For example, residential appraisers tend to spend less time on office work than commercial appraisers, who could spend up to several weeks on one property analyzing information and writing reports. Appraisers who work for private institutions generally spend most of their time inside the office, making on-site visits when necessary. Appraisers and assessors usually conduct on-site appraisal work alone.
Assessors and privately employed appraisers usually work a standard 40-hour work week. However, self-employed appraisers, often called “independent fee appraisers,” tend to work more than a standard 40-hour work week, including spending their evenings and weekends writing reports. Approximately 13 percent of appraisers and assessors worked part time in 2008.
The offices of most independent-fee appraisers are relatively small, occupied by either the appraisers alone or by them and a small staff. However, private institutions such as banks and mortgage companies often employ several appraisers within one establishment. The size of offices of assessors depends mostly on the size of the local jurisdiction and the amount of work for which a particular office is responsible.
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.
Certifications Needed (Licensure)
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 (Other qualifications)
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.
Appraisers and Assessors Of Real Estate - What They Do - Page 2