How to Become an Appraiser or Assessor of Real Estate
Assessors and appraisers tend to take the same courses for certification.
The requirements to become a fully qualified appraiser or assessor of real estate are complex and vary by state and, sometimes, by the value or type of property. Most appraisers and assessors of residential or commercial property must have at least a bachelor’s degree to obtain certification. The entry-level state license category typically does not require a bachelor’s degree. Check with your state's licensing board for specific requirements for both assessors and appraisers.
Although requirements may vary by state, certified appraisers and assessors of residential or commercial property usually need at least a bachelor’s degree.
College courses in subjects such as economics, finance, mathematics, computer science, English, and business or real estate law can be useful for prospective appraisers and assessors.
Most states set education and experience requirements that assessors must meet in order to practice. A few states have no statewide requirements; instead, each locality sets the standards. In some localities, candidates may qualify with a high school diploma.
Employers generally require candidates to take basic appraisal courses, complete long-term on-the-job training, and work enough hours to meet the requirements for licenses or certificates.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Federal law requires appraisers to have a state license or certification when working on federally related transactions, such as appraisals for loans made by federally insured banks and financial institutions. The Appraisal Foundation (TAF) offers information on appraisal licensing. There is no such federal requirement for assessors, although some states require certification. For state-specific requirements, applicants should contact their state board.
Real property appraisers usually value one property at a time, while assessors value many at once. However, both occupations use similar methods and techniques. As a result, assessors and appraisers tend to take the same courses for certification. In addition to passing a statewide examination, candidates must usually complete a set number of on-the-job hours.
The credential level determines what type of property a person may appraise. The four federal appraiser classifications are as follows:
• Licensed Trainee Appraiser
• Licensed Residential Appraiser
• Certified Residential Appraiser
• Certified General Appraiser
Many states offer a Licensed Trainee Appraiser credential to candidates working toward licensure or certification. Training programs vary by state, but they usually require candidates to take at least 75 hours of specified appraiser education before applying for a job as a trainee.
Many states offer the Licensed Residential Appraiser. With this license, a qualified person may appraise noncomplex one-to-four unit residences with a value of less than $1 million and complex one-to-four unit residences with a value of less than $250,000. A candidate must have the following qualifications to get this license:
• 30 semester hours of college-level education
• 150 hours of appraiser-qualifying education
• 2,000 hours of on-the-job training completed over at least 1 year
Being a Certified Residential Appraiser is the minimum requirement to appraise a one to four unit residential property with a loan amount over $250,000. A candidate must have the following qualifications to get this certificate:
• Bachelor’s degree
• 200 hours of appraiser-specific qualifying education
• 2,500 hours of work experience completed over at least 2 years
Being a Certified General Appraiser permits a person to appraise real property of any type and any value. A candidate must have the following qualifications to get this certificate:
• Bachelor’s degree
• 300 hours of appraiser-specific qualifying education
• 3,000 hours of work experience completed over at least 2½ years (1,500 hours must be in nonresidential appraisal work)
For all of these credentials, except the Trainee License credential, candidates must have the following qualifications:
• Have 15 hours of instruction on the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice
• Pass an exam
Unlike appraisers, assessors have no federal requirement for certification. In states that mandate certification for assessors, the requirements are usually similar to those for appraisers. For example, the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) offers the Certified Assessment Evaluator (CAE). This designation covers topics that include property valuation for tax purposes, property tax administration, and property tax policy. Applicants are required to have a bachelor's degree prior to obtaining the designation.
For those states that do not require certification for assessors, individual companies often require the candidate to take basic appraisal courses, complete on-the-job training, and meet the work-hours requirements for appraisal licenses or certificates. Many assessors also have a state appraiser license or credential.
Assessors tend to start working in an assessor's office that provides on-the-job training; smaller municipalities are often unable to provide this work experience. An alternate source of experience for aspiring assessors is working for a revaluation firm.
Both appraisers and assessors must take continuing education courses to keep the license or certification. Exact requirements vary by state and certification.
Analytical skills. Appraisers and assessors of real estate use many sources of data when valuing a property. As a result, they must carefully research and analyze all factors before estimating a value and producing a final written report.
Customer-service skills. Because appraisers must regularly interact with clients, being polite and friendly is important. In addition, these characteristics may help expand future business opportunities.
Math skills. Accurately analyzing real estate data includes such steps as calculating square footage of land and building space, so workers must have good math skills.
Organizational skills. To successfully accomplish all the tasks related to appraising and assessing a property, appraisers and assessors of real estate need good organizational skills.
Problem-solving skills. Appraising or assessing a property's value may involve unexpected problems. The ability to develop and apply an alternative solution is crucial to successfully completing the appraisal and report on time.
Time-management skills. Appraisers and assessors of real estate often work under time constraints, sometimes appraising many properties in a single day. As a result, managing time and meeting deadlines are important.