What is the Difference Between Licensed and Certified Residential Appraiser?

Residential Appraiser

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The two terms “Licensed Residential Appraiser” and “Certified Residential Appraiser” sound similar. It seems that both appraisal licenses are focusing on the residential property market. If you are thinking of pursuing a career in the appraisal field, you need to know their distinctions to decide which license to obtain. 

The difference between a licensed and certified residential appraiser is that a certified residential appraiser is authorized to appraise property with up to 4 dwelling units, regardless of its value or complexity. In contrast, a Licensed Residential Appraisers may only appraise non-complex 1-4 residential units with a transaction value of less than $1,000,000 and complex 1-4 residential units having a value of less than $250,000.

To prepare for this article, I have done some research from numerous credible sources such as The Appraisal Foundation and The Appraisal Institution.

This post will compare the requirement differences to become a licensed residential appraiser and certified residential appraiser, their exam level of difficulties, demand, and outlook of each appraisal license.

I hope these findings can help you better understand the distinction between the licensed and certified residential appraiser license.

Summary of Differences Between a Licensed Residential Appraiser and a Certified Residential Appraiser

Licensed Residential AppraiserCertified Residential Appraiser
Scope of Worknon-complex 1-4 residential units with a transaction value of less than $1,000,000; complex 1-4 residential units having a value of less than $250,000.Property with up to 4 dwelling units, regardless of its value or complexity.
Appraisal Education150 hours of qualifying education200 hours of qualifying education
Work Experience1,000 hours in no fewer than six (6) months1,500 hours in no fewer than twelve (12) months
Examination4 hours; 125 questions4 hours; 125 questions
College Level Education None requiredFulfill 1 of 6 options of college level education

The Certified Residential Appraiser License Requires more Appraisal Education

The Certified Residential Appraiser License Requires more Appraisal Education

To become a licensed residential appraiser, you only need to complete 150 hours of appraisal courses from an approved education provider.

On the other hand, to obtain the certified residential appraiser license, you must complete 210 hours of classes.

However, you would have completed most of the required courses when getting the licensed residential appraiser license. Therefore, to upgrade it into a certified residential appraiser license, you just need to complete three additional courses, with a total of 60 hours.

In addition to the courses you have taken when becoming an Appraiser Trainee, here are the ones you must complete to be a Licensed or Certified Residential Appraiser.

Appraisal EducationLicensed Residential AppraiserCertified Residential Appraiser
Residential Market Analysis and Highest & Best Use1515
Residential Site Valuation and Cost Approach1515
Residential Sales Comparison and Income Approaches3030
Residential Report Writing and Case Studies1515
Real Estate Finance, Statistics, and Valuation Modeling15
Advanced Residential Applications and Case Studies/ Part 115
Advanced Residential Report Writing (elective) / Part 230
Total Hours150210

Interested in becoming a real estate appraiser? Here is an Education Resources Page which could be helpful to you in getting the appraiser license.

You need more Work Experience Hours to Become a Certified Residential Appraiser

Residential Appraiser Work Experience

Each level of appraiser license has its work experience requirements. You could obtain them by working on appraisal assignments. In many states, you would need to record the details into a regulatory-approved log sheet.

To become a licensed residential appraiser, you need 1,000 work hours in no less than six months. On the other hand, to become a certified residential appraiser, you must accumulate 1,500 hours in no fewer than twelve months.

Keep in mind that there is a minimum period to obtain work experience. I guess the rationale is the Appraisal Licensing Board needs to ensure the work experience is gained within a reasonable amount of time.

For instance, in theory, you can accumulate the required 1500 work hours within 62.5 days. But this would mean you’ll be working 24/7, which is impossible for anyone to accomplish.

So just take that into account when you are completing the required work hours.

The College-Level Education Requirement is Different

Licensed residential appraiser and certified residential appraiser college-level education requirement differences

You do not need to have a college-level degree to become a licensed residential appraiser. But to be a certified residential appraiser, it is mandatory that you complete one of the six options of college-level degree requirements. 

Here are the six options of College Level Education for Certified Residential:

1) Bachelor’s Degree or higher in any field of study

2) Associates Degree or higher in a field of study:

  • Accounting
  • Business Administration
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Real Estate

3) Complete 30 semester hours of college-level courses. They must cover each of the following specific topic areas and hours

  • Algebra, Geometry, or Higher Math(3 hours)
  • Business Law or Real Estate Law (3 hours)
  • Computer Science (3 hours)
  • English Composition (3 hours)
  • Macroeconomics (3 hours)
  • Microeconomics (3 hours)
  • Statistics (3 hours)
  • Two elective courses in any of the above topics, or in Accounting, Geography, Agricultural Economics, Business Management, or Real Estate (3 hours each)

4) Complete at least 30 semester hours of College Level Examination Program®(CLEP®) examinations 

5) Any combination of Option #3 and Option #4 that includes all of the topics in Option #3

6) No college-level education required.

You have read it right! Actually, there is a way to waive the college-level degree requirement.

You just need to work as a Licensed Residential Appraiser for at least five years. Also, given that there had been no disciplinary action toward your appraisal license. Then you have completed option#6 of the college-level education requirement.

I really like this route. Some licensed resident appraisers may not have a college-level degree. Therefore, to upgrade in becoming a certified residential appraiser, the first five options would require them to go back to school.

I found this requirement ineffective, as many of the mandatory college courses are not related to appraisal. It makes no sense to me why studying non-related subjects is more important than gaining actual appraisal field experience.

With option 6, you can bypass this problem with your years of hard work in the appraisal field.

Which Residential Appraiser Exam is Easier?

Both the Licensed and Certified Residential Appraiser exams are 4 hours long and with 125 questions. The result will be a scaled score range from 0 to 110. Their required passing score is 75.

Although one might think that the passing rate should be higher for the Licensed Residential Appraiser Exam, since the materials covered should be less and easier, it is not the case. 

National Uniform Licensing and Certification Examination Pass Rates (2015 – 2019)

If you look at the above graph, the Certified Residential Appraiser Exam’s passing rate has been higher than the Licensed Residential throughout the years. 

But I guess that makes sense. After all, you only need to take an extra 60 hours of appraisal courses. The majority of materials have already been covered when you were getting the Licensed Residential Appraiser license. 

Besides, you would have a more thorough understanding since you have plenty of experience to apply the appraisal knowledge when you are out on the field. 

The Scope of Work is Broader with a Certified Residential Appraiser License 

This is the major difference between licensed and certified residential appraiser. If you are only holding a licensed residential appraiser license, then you are restricted to appraising: 

  • non-complex 1-4 residential units with a transaction value of less than $1,000,000; 
  • complex 1-4 residential units having a value of less than $250,000.

Whereas, there is no such value restriction for a certified residential appraiser. This applies even when it is a complex property with up to 4 dwelling units.

New Houses Prices 2019

As you could see, a HUGE percentage of new houses is over $250,000. Although I could find data on the proportion that is complex properties, you could be losing out lots of appraisal assignments by staying with the Licensed Residential Appraiser license.

Furthermore, the data is just showing the market for new houses. There would be business opportunities for appraising existing homes too.

On a separate note, at the time that I’m writing this post, there is an upcoming proposed change. It allows Licensed Residential Appraiser to work on complex one-to-four residential units with a transaction value of less than $400,000. This change may take effect on Jan 1, 2021.

Anyhow, my argument stays the same. Why do you have such a restriction when you could be free to appraise all residential units with the certified residential appraiser license?

Here’s a Snippet of What Jamie Owen Thinks About Being a Real Estate Appraiser!

“The more you learn, the more you will enjoy being an appraiser.” – Jamie Owen, Certified Residential Real Estate Appraiser at Aspen Appraisal Services

Here’s an exclusive interview with Jamie. He shared with us his journey and valuable experience in the appraisal industry. You’ll also learn what it is like to be a real estate appraiser nowadays. 

Which Residential Appraiser License has a Higher Demand from the Market?

Proportions of Licensed and Certified Appraisers 2018

I think the best way to find out is by observing at which license appraisers are holding. After all, it is reasonable to assume everyone would want the best for their appraisal business.

As you could see from the pie chart, more than half of the appraisers hold the Certified Residential license.

On the other hand, Licensed Residential holders represent only a small portion of 7.9% of the overall appraisers. When I reviewed the figures from Appraisal Institute, the number of Licensed appraisers has been in a downward trend since 2014.

I have also heard from the appraiser community that many lenders no longer accept assignments completed by a licensed appraiser, which may further push more people to go to the certified route.

As a matter of fact, some states do not even have the licensed residential appraiser option, such as Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming.

Final Thoughts about being a Licensed or Certified Residential Appraiser

As you probably know by now, I would strongly suggest anyone to consider pursuing the certified residential license whenever possible. But does it mean there is no place for being a licensed residential appraiser? Of course not!

In fact, I think this is a good stepping stone for appraisers who have not fulfilled all the requirements to obtain the certified residential license. Being a licensed residential appraiser is especially helpful to those who do not have the required college-level education.

By the way, I wrote this post based on the Appraisal Qualification Board (AQB) guideline. But every state could impose an additional requirement for their appraisal license applicants. You may click here to find out the steps to become a real estate appraiser in your state.

Disclaimer: The information in this post is for general information only, and not intend to provide any advice. They are subjected to change without any notice, and not guaranteed to be error-free. Some of the posts on RealEstateCareerHQ.com may contain views and opinions from the interviewees. They do not reflect our view or position.


  • The Appraisal Foundation
    • The Real Property Appraiser Qualification Criteria (source)
    • National Uniform Licensing and Certification Examination Pass Rates 2015-2019 (source)
    • Real Property Appraiser Qualification Criteria (source)
    • How to Become a Real Property Appraiser (source)
  • The Appraisal Institute
    • U.S Valuation Profession Fact Sheet Q1- 2019 (source)
    • Qualifying Education: Licensed or Certified Residential Appraiser (source)
  • Pearson Vue National Appraiser Examination Candidate Handbook (source)
  • Census Bureau – New Houses Sold by Sales Price: United States (source)

Jacob Coleman

Jacob is a content writer and a real estate investor. He has experience working with different real estate professionals throughout the years. (i.e., appraisers, real estate agents, property managers, home inspectors.) In order to build a career you love, Jacob believes not only you need a thorough understanding about the profession, but you also have to find out what type of jobs could match your personality, lifestyle and expectation.

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