How to Become a Real Estate Appraiser? (An Exclusive Interview with Jamie Owen)


Real Estate Appraiser Interview with Jamie Owen

(**) Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning our website, JCHQ Publishing will get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through the links, but at no additional cost to you.

Whenever I talk about the real estate career, most people would immediately think of the sales profession. Although there is nothing wrong with that, I know that the real estate industry has a lot more different career choices. 

I always find it very fascinating to be able to make money by providing an opinion about the valuation of a property. So I want to find out more about the real estate appraisal profession. That’s the reason why I bring in Jamie Owen today. He’s a Certified Residential Real Estate Appraiser in Ohio. 

In this interview, he will give you a very detailed insight into the appraisal industry and show you exactly what it is like to be a real estate appraiser. 

Before we get into the interview, here are some interesting facts about Jamie Owen.

Jamie Owen is a State Certified Residential Real Estate Appraiser. He has been appraising since 1997 and licensed in 2000. He is now an FHA approved and an Associate Member of the Appraisal Institute. Jamie completes residential appraisals for lending institutions, courts, attorneys, and private individuals. Mortgage financing, lowering taxes and estate planning are just a few reasons for needing an appraisal

He’s responsible for all aspects of residential appraising, including but not limited to residential properties, condominiums, mobile homes, vacant land, and 2-4 family apartment buildings. 

He has extensive experience with REO properties, short sales, and investment properties. He also performs field reviews, including forensic field reviews for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. 

Furthermore, he is CVR certified and has several years of experience completing Collateral Valuation Reports. He also has many years of experience as an FHA appraiser and currently approved with the department of HUD for FHA appraisal work, including 203K assignments.

And today, Jamie is going to share his valuable tips and experience about being a real estate appraiser. 

Let’s dive into the interview

1) Can you please tell us about how you got started as a real estate appraiser? Is that something you always wanted to do?

Great question! Being a real estate appraiser is not what I had originally imagined doing. I was working as a sales manager for Kelly Temporary Services when I first moved to Cleveland, OH from Denver, CO. However, I was looking for something different.

My wife was a loan officer at a local mortgage company. She said that I should investigate becoming a real estate appraiser. She thought it would be something that I would enjoy. So, I took an appraisal class, just to see what it was all about. I honestly don’t remember the class now. I really enjoyed the class. That’s how I became interested in this profession.

2) What exactly is a real estate appraisal? And what is its usage?

A real estate appraisal is an opinion of value (expressed numerically) that is developed and communicated under guidelines of USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice). It can be a specific number or a range of numbers.

Appraisals are used for many things. Of course, the most common being for mortgages. However, appraisals are used by attorneys for litigation, divorce and for probate purposes. Appraisals used for securing loans for bail bonds. They are used for helping appeal taxes.

Homeowners and real estate agents hire appraisals for help in determining what amount to list their home for. Homeowners sometimes hire appraisers to help them determine the market value of a home that they are paying cash for. There are many other reasons for an appraisal being used. 

3) Do you need any expertise or education to start this business? And how long did it take you?

You will have to check with your individual state to see what they require. In the state of Ohio, where I am located, you don’t need to have college level classes to become Licensed. To become Licensed in Ohio a person needs 1,000 hours of appraisal experience in no fewer than 6 months.

However, to become Certified Residential or Certified General, most states, including Ohio, now require a college degree and/or specific college courses and semester hours, in addition to a minimum of 1,500 hours of appraisal experience in no less than 12 months.

To become Certified General, a person needs 3,000 hours of experience, of which 1,500 of these hours must be in non-residential appraisal work, which is to be completed in no less than 18 months.   

It took me a little over two years to become a Licensed appraiser, which I became in 2000 and then upgraded to Certified Residential in 2007.

(Jacob: “You could check out the state licensing requirement on this page.“)

4) After you obtained the appraisal license, how did you build up your client base?

Since my wife worked for a mortgage company, that company did provide me with some work. However, I did a lot of good old fashion cold calling on mortgage companies, banks and anyone that I thought might be able to use appraisals. Then, I started getting referral work. Things built from there. 

5) What does your typical working day look like?

Most weeks, I try to make my inspections on Mondays, Wednesdays and half days on Fridays. Then I spend all day on Tuesday and Thursday and part of the day on Friday typing my reports. It doesn’t always work that way, but most weeks, that work-flow works well for me.

6) Do you need to work during the weekend or evening?

Years ago, I worked many evening hours, late into the night. In more recent years, I just can’t maintain that schedule. Most evenings, I do not work on appraisals. Between spending most of my evenings with my family and caring for other responsibilities that I have. I just cannot devote a lot of evening or weekend time to appraisal work.

Occasionally, I will just have one of those weeks when my work gets backed up due to complications of completing a report, which causes me to end up working late into the night. But it doesn’t happen all that often. In full disclosure, I do spend a couple of hours every week typing my blog articles and recording my podcast. However, while it benefits my work, since I really enjoy doing these things, I don’t really view it as work.

On the weekends, I do usually work a couple of hours on appraisal work. But, not every weekend. I rarely schedule appraisal inspections on the weekends or evenings.

7) What kind of clients do you work the best with?

I work best with those who are reasonable to work with and that are hiring me for my expertise. I don’t work for companies that are just looking for a form filler. In the past few years, I have worked hard to diversify my business to develop more non-lender work. I have several banks that I work directly for, both big and small.

However, I enjoy other types of appraisal work as well. Right now, my appraisal work consists of about 60% bank work and 40% non-lender work. My non-lender work is growing every month. Both have their pluses and minuses.   

8) Many trainees said they have trouble finding a supervisory appraiser nowadays, how long did it take you to find one?

Honestly, I cannot remember how long it took. It seems like a few weeks if I remember correctly. That was back in the fall of 1997. I remember going through the Yellow Pages, and just cold calling every appraiser until I found one that agreed to take me on.  They were not actively looking for an apprentice. But what I called, they said that they were ready to take one on.

The first appraiser I worked for was a very nice person. However, after a year of working for them, I realized that they really didn’t know what they were doing in terms of performing an appraisal. They were more of a form filler than an appraiser.

My wife and I had just purchased a house. I was working out of my home as an appraiser apprentice. One day I looked out my living room window and saw a person taking a picture of our home. I immediately knew they were an appraiser.

So, I ran out the door and ran up to their truck. I’m sure that he thought I was coming to yell at him for taking a picture of our home. I explained to him that I was apprenticing with another appraiser and had a year under my belt. I explained that I was looking for a more skilled appraiser to work for, that could train me properly. He was so kind to take me on to finish out my apprenticeship. We still stay in contact.

I will always owe both appraisers a debt of gratitude for taking me on! The latter definitely knew what he was doing.  He provided me with the training that I was longing for.

(Jacob: “Here’s an article with more helpful tips in finding a supervisory appraiser.“)

9) Do you currently take on trainees? Or do you have any advice for those who are searching for a good mentor?

I am not currently taking on any trainees. The primary reason is due to my own family responsibilities and other responsibilities that just make it difficult for me to train someone right now.

My advice is to just get out there and start calling every appraiser in your area until you find one. It is tough, I know. But they are out there. Be as persistent as you would at finding appraisal business!

Once you find an appraiser who is willing to take you on, if you find that they are not teaching you what you feel you need to know to be skilled at being an appraiser, don’t be afraid to look for a different mentor. I think that loyalty to your mentor is important. However, the purpose of an apprenticeship is to learn a skill. So, you should be learning a lot about how to value a property, not just fill out a form.

In addition to that, there are many classes that can be taken now, both live and on-line, that can really help an appraiser to learn to be skilled at this profession. So, even if a person’s mentor is not the best appraiser, there are other ways to become more competent.

10) What attributes does a person need to become a successful appraiser?

I think that humility and honesty are the most important attributes. Humility is important because if we think we know it all, we are going to be in trouble. Being appraiser requires not being thin-skinned and defensive. Others have their opinions and we have ours. Both may be supportable in one way or another.

Being humble helps us to respect the views of others and not be offended if others have a different view. Humility also helps with business relationships, as well as accepting guidance and reminders when we need them, from peers and others.

No matter how many years a person has been appraising for, we can always learn new things. And, frankly, we all make mistakes, me included! When I make a stupid mistake, I feel terrible. But it helps me to try and remain humble and to work even harder at not making the same mistakes. Humility is a quality that can help keep an appraiser grounded and reasonable.

Honesty is also important. Appraiser’s cannot make things up. There must be support for everything we report. Honesty is also important when we do make a mistake. Honestly admitting our error and doing everything we can to fix it is important. A person that never admits to their errors, even when those errors are point out to them, is a person that is headed for disaster. Most clients can forgive a mistake if the appraiser does their best to fix it and not make the same mistake over and over.

11) What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a real estate appraiser?

Be diligent in studying about the profession. Read USPAP! I would also highly recommend reading blogs that other appraisers write or listening to podcasts that are designed to help appraisers. There is a lot of great information that can help a new appraiser. And much of it is free on-line. These things might also help a person decide whether they want to enter the profession.

I would also suggest not paying any attention to those who are so negative about this profession. Yes, there are negative aspects about our work. However, that goes with every profession! I would also recommend doing your best to not work for someone who does not enjoy their work, if possible. In my experience, appraisers who enjoy what they do are usually the ones who are also more skilled as appraisers.

I would also recommend joining an appraisal organization or state coalition of some type. They will help you to keep up with changes to the industry, as they work behind the scenes to help appraisers.

12) How long does it take for someone interested in this business to start making a good living?

I think that as soon as a person is Licensed, they can get out there and apply with AMC’s to get the ball rolling. Be cautious though. There are some great AMC’s and some terrible ones. So, be careful. Try and do some research on the AMC before you apply with them.

I think even the first year, an appraiser can make a decent living if they are industrious and diligent in their pursuit of new clients. I also recommend having a good website! Most weeks, I am receiving orders from people who found my on-line. So, having a good web presence is important.

13) Where do you think the industry is heading in the next five years?

While no one really knows, I think that if the economy continues to be relatively strong, more companies will continue to try relying on technology more for their valuation needs. Although, I don’t think that appraisers are going anywhere. There is a need for appraisers, even though some in the real estate world may dislike us.

There is a need for a disinterested third party to value property. There has been a trend by some lenders, to use AVM’s, or other more automated forms of valuation, for determining market value on generally simple properties, or properties in which there are a lot of recent comparable sales. I think that this will continue to be the case.

However, for the more complex properties, or properties located in areas in which there are not a lot of comparable sales, an appraiser is still going to be needed. So, the more skilled an appraiser is, the more work they are going to have. I guess that goes without saying though.

14) I realize that you have a podcast program, can you please share more details about it?

Thanks for mentioning that! Yes. It is Home Value Stories. I just finished season one. I created it to educate consumers about real estate, including real estate valuation.  I think that many consumers really don’t understand what we do and why we do the things we do as appraisers.

My podcast, and blog, are designed to educate the public on these things, and to help listeners view aspects of real estate in a new light. There are lots of things in life that relate to real estate, directly and indirectly. I have fun looking for those comparisons and sharing them in a way that is fun and educational. You can find my podcast at www.homevaluestories.libsyn.com or on most podcast players. Thanks for asking!

15) If our readers would like to know more about your appraisal services, where could they find you?

You can find my main website at www.aspenappraisalservices.net.

You can also read my appraisal articles on my blog at www.clevelandappraisalblog.com.

Final words about becoming a real estate appraiser

Wow! That’s a lot of expert sharing about this unique profession. I agree with Jamie that humility and honesty are the most important attributes in doing business. Also, being humble in continuous learning is another essential element to success.

Once again, I thank Jamie for taking the time to give this interview and share such incredible tips and experiences with us. I wish him all the best and continued success in the real estate appraisal industry.

If you want more expert sharing from other real estate appraisers, here’s another article you shouldn’t miss. In there, you’ll find the perspective about the appraisal profession from many professional appraisers.

I hope you like this post. If so, please share it with your friends and colleagues.

If you are reading up to this point, I bet you must be interested in the real estate appraiser profession. Your first step is to complete the pre-licensing courses. You should select one that has an excellent reputation and long-term track record of satisfying students. McKissock is exactly that! You may click here to check it out yourself. (**)

Good News! Due to our excellent partnering relationship with McKissock, you may enter the promo code “NYNC35” at checkout to receive a 35% off website pricing on certain selected course packages. Terms and conditions may apply.

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.

(**) Affiliate Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you. Our website, RealEstateCareerHQ.com, will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking on the link. Please understand that we include them based on our experience or the research on these companies or products, and we recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions we make if you decide to buy something through the links. Please do not spend any money on these products unless you feel you need them or that they will help you achieve your goals.

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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