How to Become a Real Estate Appraiser in California?


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So are you looking for a career as a real estate appraiser in California? Good for you!

To become a real estate appraiser in California, you need to fulfill the requirements on the education and appraisal-related work experience for each specific license.

You are also required to register at the Bureau of Real Estate Appraisers (BREA). This is the entity which issues the licenses and regulates the real estate appraiser industry.

California has the largest population in the United States with nearly 40 million people. With such a massive population, you could imagine there would be lots of activities related to buying and selling of real estate property, foreclosures, divorce, and settling estate. All these transactions could involve the needs of appraisal reports.

As a professional real estate appraiser, your responsibility is to assess the market value of properties with different approved methods.

There are four levels of appraisers in California,

  • Appraiser Trainee (AT)
  • Residential Appraiser (AL)
  • Certified Residential Appraiser (AR)
  • Certified General Appraiser (AG)

When we reviewed the Active Appraiser Credentials Summary Report (as of Dec 2018) displayed on the Appraisal Subcommittee website, there are a total of 9734 appraisers in California. The breakdown is as follow:

  • # of Certified General Appraisers 3063
  • # of Certified Residential Appraisers 5489
  • # of Licensed Residential Appraisers 1182

The estimated population density per appraiser in California is 4062 people.

Due to the shortage of appraisers, as of 2018, the BREA has eased the requirements for different licensing levels. We’ll also be covering the update in this post.

How to Become a Trainee Appraiser in California?

Becoming a Trainee Appraiser is the first step for most people who wish to enter the real estate appraiser industry. With this license, you will work alongside with a certified appraiser as your supervisor.

Having a qualified mentor is crucial to your career development. The trainer must be a Certified Residential/General appraiser. This supervisory appraiser should teach you different appraisal techniques, how to obtain information about a property, how to analyze them in coming up with an unbiased market value of the property.

Daily tasks could involve researching properties, working on reports, or even site inspection together with the supervisor.

The best way to learn is to walk through each and every step in the appraisal process, observe closely to how your supervisor appraises properties, and always raise up your questions or concerns.

4 Steps to Become a Trainee Appraiser in California

Step 1: Meet the Basic Requirement:

  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • Have a valid Social Security Number
  • No prior related experience is needed

Step 2: Complete the Pre-License Education

You’ll need to complete 150 hours of real estate appraisal related education from an approved course provider. Prior to getting a Trainee Appraiser, you are also required to complete the following:

  • Supervisory/Trainee Appraiser course
  • State and federal law course

Keep in mind BREA will not accept courses that were taken more than 5 years before the application.

Study tip: Whenever possible, I prefer to take online courses. You can study at your own pace at the convenient of your home, library, or wherever there is internet access. Here’s an article review of an online school that I like.

Step 3: Register as a Trainee Appraiser with BREA

Now you’ve fulfilled the pre-licensing education requirement. It’s time to get your license as a Trainee Appraiser.

Here are the details of the registration process.

Step 4: Find a Certified Appraiser to be Your Supervisor

In California, you could have more than one supervisor, but they need to be Certified Appraisers.

To make sure trainee appraisers can get the help and attention they need, a supervisory appraiser cannot supervise more than three trainee appraisers at any given time.

Some people are concerned that they might not be able to find a mentor. But at the time we are writing this post, we do see there are job openings for Appraiser Trainee from different companies and even from the government. You could check at the end of this post to see if there are any job openings for Trainee Appraiser.

Here are some industry affiliations for your reference:

Here’s a list of real estate professional groups on our resource page. Remember to check it out!

Alternatively, you could ask around friends, family or realtors in your neighborhood to see if they know any trustworthy appraiser who would like to take on a trainee.

Not sure how to find a mentor? Don’t worry, here are 10 practical tips in finding one.

Other Helpful Tips for a Trainee Appraiser in California

1) Keep Logs of Your Working Hours

These logs are mandatory to upgrade your appraiser license to Residential/Certified Residential/Certified General in the future.

You should use the “Log of Appraisal Experience Form #REA 3004” to record your appraising work.  On this form, you are required to fill out information such as the category of experience, property address, type of property, complex assignment, description of work, number of hours, and others.

On the first column of the log chart, you would see the “Category of Experience.” Rather than writing the full description of the experience, you simply put down the Category #.

  • Category #1- Fee and Staff Appraisal
  • Category #2- Ad Valorem Tax Appraisal
  • Category #3- Review Appraisal
  • Category #4- Appraisal Analysis
  • Category #5- Real Estate Consulting
  • Category #6- Highest and Best Use Analysis
  • Category #7- Feasibility Analysis and Study
  • Category #8- Teaching of Appraisal Courses
  • Category #9- Setting Forth Opinions of Value of Real Property for Tax Purposes
  • Category #10- Assisting in the Preparation of Appraisals
  • Category #11- Real Estate Valuation Experience as a Real Estate Lending Officer or Real Estate Broker

There is a specific definition for the work to constitute in falling under a certain category.

Also, there are rules which restrict the number of hours in a specific category to be counted. For instance, Category #10 Assisting in the Preparation of Appraisals, is limited to a maximum of 400 hours towards the appraising experience.

You could find out more details in the BREA handbook, and I will post the link in the reference section at the end of the post.

Here’s a sample on how to maintain a log.

You and your supervisor must keep separate logs and sign all the pieces.

Furthermore, the appraising experience must be gained from real business purpose, not mock appraisal experience. You can also obtain the working experience through case studies and practicum courses. However, the AQB Course Approval Program would have to approve them and cannot be counted toward more than 50% of the required working experience.

2) Earning Discussion with Supervisor

As a Trainee Appraiser, although you need to work under the direct supervision of a Certified Appraiser, it doesn’t necessarily require you to be an employee of the supervisory appraiser.

In fact, when we were reading from an online forum for California appraisers, many expressed they did not get paid when working as a trainee.

Therefore, you should have an earning conversation with your supervisor beforehand.

Before you sign up to work with a trainee, make sure this relationship would be a good fit. Here is a list of things you should discuss with your potential supervisor

How to Become a Residential Appraiser in California?

Being a Residential Appraiser (AL) could be the next step to advance your appraising career.

As a Residential Appraiser, you can appraise for any non-complex residential properties with 1-4 units, but given the transactional value is no more than $1,000,000.

For non-residential property, the limit of transactional value is up to $250,000.

To give you an idea of the work involved as a Residential Appraiser, there is a job opening from a firm in the San Francisco County, which specializes in providing and analyzing real estate properties. Some of the duties of being their Residential Appraiser include:

  • Gathering, verifying and analyzing data on residential properties, which includes inspecting the interior and exterior of the buildings in person 
  • Analysis of market sales data and evaluating the architectural quality
  • Confirm the intended use of the property
  • Come up with a fair market value. The methods to be used must be from generally accepted appraisal practice concepts as outlined in USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice).
  • When clients have doubt on the valuation, you are required to justify your work by providing additional documentation or narrative explanation in a timely fashion.

5 Steps to Become a Residential Appraiser in California

Step 1: Meet the Basic Requirement:

  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • Have a valid Social Security Number
  • No college-level education is require

Step 2: Complete the Required Hours of Working Experience

You must have at least 2000 hours of acceptable appraisal experience where they need to be acquired for over a 12 months period.

Step 3: Fulfill the Education Requirement

You’ll need to complete 150 hours of qualifying appraisal education from an approved course provider.

You should have completed some of the courses when becoming an Appraiser Trainee. Therefore, you only need to take another 75 hours of classes.

(Read: Complete review of the Top 5 appraisal schools.)

Step 4: Register with BREA to Become a Residential Appraiser

Now you’ve fulfilled the education and working requirement. It’s time to start registering as a Residential Appraiser.

If the Licensing Board in your state has the online submission available, then I would strongly encourage you to use that option. Not only this is the quickest and most convenient way, but less paper mailing is also good for the environment. 

Here are the steps on how to apply for the license.

Step 5: Pass the Residential Appraiser Exam

The purpose is to test your appraisal knowledge, especially the subjects that are covered in the pre-licensing courses. Doing multiple sets of practice questions is an excellent way to prepare for the exam and also boost your confidence. 

The Residential Appraiser Exam is a 4 hours exam, which comprised of 125 questions. Only 110 questions will be scored, the other 15 are pretest questions.

To increase your chance in passing the exam on the first time, make sure to check out our exam hacks. In there, not only you will find the content of the exam, but also 10 effective tips on how to prepare for it.

How to Become a Certified Residential Appraiser in California?

A Residential Appraiser has some limitations in the transaction value of the properties that can be appraised.

With the Certified Residential Appraiser (AR) designation, it would waive some of the limitations and provide you with more business opportunity in the appraisal industry.

As a Certified Residential Appraiser, you can appraise for family properties with 1 to 4 residential units regardless of the transaction value or complexity. You can also assess for a non-residential property with a transaction value no more than $250,000.

Plus, it is not mandatory to become a Residential Appraiser before being Certified. You could begin working toward this designation even when you are still a Trainee Appraiser.

6 Steps to Become a Certified Residential Appraiser in California

Step 1: Meet the Basic Requirement

  • At least 18 years old
  • Have a valid social security number
  • Fulfill one of the following 6 college-level education requirement:
    • Route #1: Hold an associate’s degree in either Accounting, Business Administration, Economics, Finance, or Real Estate; OR
    • Route #2: Hold a bachelor’s degree in any field of study
    • Route #3: Complete 3 hours of each of the following college-level courses with a total of 30 semester hours
      • Algebra, Geometry, or Higher Math
      • Computer Science
      • English Composition
      • Finance
      • Macroeconomics
      • Microeconomics
      • Real Estate Law or Business Law
      • Statistics
      • 2 elective courses (3 hours each) in any of the above subjects or in Accounting, Agricultural Economics, Business Management, Geography, or Real Estate;
    • Route #4: Complete 30 hours of College Level Examination Program® (CLEP®) examinations that cover each of the subjects in Route #3
    • Route #5: Any combinations of Route #3 and Route #4 which consists all the topics mentioned above
    • Route #6: If you have been a Licensed Residential Appraiser for 5 years or more, while your license is in good standing, then the college-level requirements can be waived.

Step 2: Complete the Required Hours of Working Experience

You must have at least 2500 hours of acceptable appraisal experience where they need to be acquired for over a 30-months period.

Step 3: Fulfill the Education Requirement

You’ll need to complete 200 hours of qualifying appraisal education from an approved course provider.

Since you should have completed some of the courses from your previous license(s),

  • if you are upgrading from a Trainee Appraiser License, then you’ll need to take an additional 125 hours of courses
  • if you are upgrading from a Residential Appraiser License, then you’ll need to take an additional 75 hours of courses

Here’s a chart with the courses requirement.

Step 5: Register with BREA to Become a Certified Residential Appraiser

Now you’ve completed the appraisal experience and education requirement. You should submit the application to be a Certified Residential Appraiser.

The Licensing Board in some states may require you to apply within a specific period after you complete the pre-licensing education. Therefore, don’t wait till it expires! 

Step 6: Pass the Certified Residential Appraiser Exam

The Certified Residential Appraiser Exam is a 4 hours exam, which comprised of 125 questions. Only 110 questions will be scored, the other 15 are pretest questions.

Cramming for the exam is ineffective. Instead, you should study for 45 to 60 minutes, then take a break. Concentration tends to wander if you study for too long. If possible, focus on studying only one to two topics per day. But be really good at it. 

How to Become a Certified General Appraiser in California?

The Certified General Appraiser designation is the highest one you could get in this appraisal industry. You will be granted the authority to assess all types of real estate with no limitation on the transaction value or complexity.

It opens the door to huge opportunity as you could appraise a wide range of properties – for instance, farmland, office building, hotel, retail malls.

Here are some samples of job opening:

At the time I’m writing this post, I see there is there is a job opening where a commercial real estate development company is looking for a commercial appraiser. The primary responsibility is to provide the valuation of real estate property in securing business loans.

Another one is a nationwide premier financial services firm who is looking for an Appraiser Manager. Their Appraisal Review Department is responsible for determining the real property valuation, doing appraisal review and providing consultation to the bank.

The type of properties would involve commercial, office, industrial and retail properties, senior housing, multifamily housing, residential subdivisions, undeveloped land, and special-use properties.

Want to know more about the career as a commercial real estate appraiser? Here’s just the right guide for you.

You should keep in mind…

The greater appraising authority you have, the more responsible and careful you should be. Investors rely on your appraisal works in making an informed investment decision. It is your job to perform detailed research and provide your clients with a fair appraised value.

Therefore, the amount of appraisal education and working experience become a Certified General Appraiser is the greatest among all the levels of licensing.

5 Steps to Become a Certified General Appraiser in California

Step 1: Meet the Basic Requirement:

  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • Have a valid Social Security Number
  • Hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited college or university

Step 2: Complete the Required Hours of Working Experience

You must have at least 3000 hours of acceptable appraisal experience where they need to be acquired for over a 30-months period. Of which 1,500 hours must be for non-residential properties.

Step 3: Fulfill the Education Requirement

You’ll need to complete 300 hours of qualifying appraisal education from an approved course provider.

Since you should have completed some of the courses from your previous license(s),

  • if you are upgrading from a Trainee Appraiser License, then you’ll need to take an additional 225 hours of courses
  • if you are upgrading from a Residential Appraiser License, then you’ll need to take an additional 150 hours of courses
  • if you are upgrading from a Certified Residential Appraiser License, then you’ll need to take an additional 100 hours of courses

Here’s a table with the courses requirement.

Step 4: Register with BREA to Become a Certified General Appraiser

Before you can write the exam, you need to submit an application to register with BREA first. Later in this post, I’ll go over the documents and fees needed for the registration process. But if you want, you may click here and jump to that section.

Step 5: Pass the Certified General Appraiser Exam

The Residential Appraiser Exam is a 6 hours exam, which comprised of 125 questions. Only 110 questions will be scored, the other 15 are pretest questions.

Get enough sleep the night before the exam and have a good meal before it. Managing your stress level during the test is another key to passing it.  

Here is the exam registration process and the procedures to be taken after the exam.

Courses Requirement for CA Appraiser License

The Appraiser Qualifications Board (AQB) requires the core curriculum to include:

 Trainee AppraiserResidential AppraiserCertified Residential AppraiserCertified General Appraiser
Basic Appraisal Principles30 hours30 hours30 hours30 hours
Basic Appraisal Procedures30 hours30 hours30 hours30 hours
Residential Market Analysis and Highest & Best Use 15 hours15 hours15 hours
Residential Appraisal Site Valuation and Cost Approach 15 hours15 hours15 hours
Residential Sales Comparison and Income Approaches 30 hours30 hours30 hours
Residential Report Writing and Case Studies 15 hours15 hours15 hours
National USPAP Course or Equivalent15 hours 15 hours 15 hours 15 hours
Statistics, Modeling and Finance15 hours15 hours
Advanced Residential Applications and Case Studies15 hours
Appraisal Subject Matter Electives 20 hours
General Appraiser Market Analysis and Highest & Best Use 30 hours
General Appraiser Sales Comparison Approach 30 hours
General Appraiser Site Valuation and Cost Approach 30 hours
General Appraiser Income Approach 60 hours
General Appraiser Report Writing and Case Studies 30 hours
Appraisal Subject Matter Electives 30 hours
Total150 hours150 hours200 hours300 hours

Plus, if you are applying to be an appraiser in California for the first time, then you also need to complete the 4 hours Federal and State Laws Regulation course.

I included some details which could be helpful to your studying on our education resources page. Be sure to check it out.

Registration at the Bureau of Real Estate Appraisers (BREA)

To do so, you’ll need to complete the “Initial License Application” Form #REA 3001. This form is applicable to all level of licenses. Here is the link to download the form.

In addition to the application, you’ll also need to provide:

  • Fees: ($555 for Trainee; $635 for Residential; $710 for Certified Residential; $710 for Certified General)
    • The payment could be made with a cheque, money order or even a credit card. Here’s their credit card payment form.
  • Supporting legal documents
  • Evidence which shows you have completed the required hours of Board-approved appraisal courses. (i.e., Offical transcripts, course completion certificates). You are required to fill out the Basic Education Attachment (REA 3002) for that.

Since the application to become a Residential Appraiser, Certified Residential/General Appraisal requires proof of your working experience, you will need to provide all the Experience Log Summary (Form #REA 3003) and the Log of Appraisal Experience (Form# REA 3004).

Then simply mail the entire package to the Bureau of Real Estate Appraisers. Their mailing address is on the first page of the application.

BREA will also need your fingerprints via Live Scan to perform a background check. Here are more details about this process.

Here’s how you register for the CA Appraiser Exams

After you mail the application to BREA, their staff would determine your eligibility. If you do qualify, they will send you a letter with instructions to schedule for an exam writing.

In the letter, it will include the Applied Measurement Professionals (AMP) identification number, which is essential when you are reserving a seat to write the exam.

The exam fee is $85. You could find more details California Real Estate Appraisers Program Candidate Handbook.

Once you pass the exam, you would need to submit the following:

  • Application for Issuance of License (Form# REA 3008)
  • Score result of the examination
  • Work samples which the BREA has requested

Of course, if there are any outstanding balance of fees, you’ll need to provide the payment as well.

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

What is the Continuing Education Requirement to renew the CA Appraiser License?

real estate career studying

In California, all appraisers are required to renew their license every two years. This is in regardless of the level of license you are holding.

However, you could have up to 4 years to fulfill the 56 hours of continuing education requirements. To have your license maintaining in good standing, you are required to take:

  • 7 hours of National Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) update course every 2 years.
  • 4 hours of Federal and State Laws course every 2 years
  • Then the rest of the required Appraiser Continuing Education (ACE) within every 4 years.

To give you a better idea, the continuing education courses should include the following topics,

  • Ad Valorem Taxation
  • Arbitration-Dispute Resolution
  • Practice of Real Estate Appraisal
  • Development Cost Estimating
  • Ethics and Standards of Practice (USPAP)
  • Land use Planning-Zoning
  • Property Management-Leasing-Timesharing
  • Property Development-Partial Interests
  • Real estate law-Easements-Legal Interests
  • Real Estate Litigation-Damages-Condemnation
  • Real Estate Financing and Investment
  • Real Estate Appraisal Computer Applications
  • Real Estate Securities and Syndication
  • Real Property Appraisals-Personal Property-Business Valuation
  • Seller Concession Impact on Value
  • Energy Efficient-Green Building Appraisals

By the way, the courses taken to upgrade a license can also be counted toward the continuing education requirement.

Once you complete the courses, always keep a good filing of the completion certificates. You would need to provide a copy of them to the BREA upon license renewal. (Photocopies are fine)

Career tip: Since you’ll need to take the CE courses, don’t waste your money by taking random classes. Choose the one that could really sharpen your appraisal skills, where you could apply what you learn into the field. Here is an article review of the 10 CE courses that I like.

How Much Do Appraisers in California Earn?

The income gap among appraisers in California is big. Your earning potential really comes down to the licensing level, the type of properties you are specialized in appraising, your experience and the number of appraisal orders you can complete.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2018), the average annual income of real estate appraisers in California is $84,130. The starting annual salary is around $43,470 ($20.90/hour), and could go up to $125,750 ($60.46/hour) for top producers.

Based on the figures on Salary.com, appraiser who focus their practice on commercial real estate tends to make more than those who only assess for residential properties.

The average annual income of appraisers who focus their practice in the residential real estate is $57,693. The range generally is between $47,547 and $66,658

Whereas, an appraiser who focus on assessing the value of commercial real estate has an average annual income of $107,508. The range is mostly between$92,471 and $123,327.

Can real estate appraisers earn six-figures income annually? Here’s an article that talks about the different factors that could affect an appraiser’s earning.

Career Tips for Real Estate Appraiser in California

Tip#1: Obtaining Appraisal Experience Without a License

Unlike other states, a person can actually start obtaining some of the working experience before they get their license. This is given the entire appraisal process is working under the supervision of a Certified Appraiser.

For instance, even when you are unlicensed, you can provide “significant real property appraisal assistance” to a licensed appraiser. It requires you to perform at least 75% of the professional appraisal work, and the appraisal conforms to USPAP, while your name can be identified in the report. In this case, your experience may be qualified under Category #10 (Assistance in the Preparation of Appraisals), up to a maximum of 400 hours.

Keep in mind that Unlicensed Individuals in California are not allowed to sign appraisals in federally related transactions, even if co-signed by a licensed California appraiser.

Tip#2: Confirm the Courses meet the AQB requirements

The last thing you want to happen is to find out the course you took was actually ineligible to fulfill the licensing education criteria. Therefore, before you enroll in a course, make sure it does meet the AQB requirements.

  • The course must consists of at least 15 classroom hours  (Note: a classroom hour is required to have at least 50 minutes within a one-hour period that actually focus on presenting the course content).
  • It must include a course-related closed-book final examination
  • It is required to cover at least one of the specific subtopics required by the AQB.

Keep in mind that credit is only recognized for the portion that covers required modules.

Tip#3: Work with Reputable Appraisal Management Companies (AMC)

When you first start off working as a fee-only appraiser, you might think it is the best to take whatever appraisal orders that comes along. However, some appraisers said there were times an AMC fail to pay for their appraisal works.

Therefore, before you accept an order, check out the review of the AMC. Ask around your colleagues or peers in the industry.

Not sure what is an Appraisal Management Company (AMC)? Here’s another article you might find it helpful.

Current Appraiser Jobs Opportunity Available in California

[Note: The list of Appraiser Jobs Opportunity is coming soon. Please stay tune]

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. For full and exact details, please contact the Bureau of Real Estate Appraisers (BREA).

Reference:

  • Bureau of Real Estate Appraisers (BREA)- Licensing Handook (Source)
  • The Appraisal Foundation- National Uniform Licensing and Certification Examinations (Source)
  • Appraisal Subcommittee- Active Appraiser Credentials Summary Report (Source)
  • salary.com- Salary for Appraiser (Commercial Real Estate) in California (Source)
  • salary.com- Salary for Appraiser (Residential Real Estate) in California- (Source)
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics – Appraisers and Assessors of Real Estate (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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