What is an Appraiser?

A real estate appraiser's job, like that of any professional, is to serve the needs of the client. The first job of the appraiser is to find a cost-effective means to meet each client's need, from a brief consultation or use of the output from an automated valuation model to a 90-page, comprehensive report. The appraiser serves the client's need, up to a point: the point at which the client seeks to mislead some third party - a lender, the IRS, or a court. All the ethical rules that apply to appraisers boil down to just that: that the appraiser not mislead. Claims on TV that the jewelry you buy is "guaranteed to appraise for twice this price" don't help the public's understanding of what an appraisal is.

Some careers require one or two specialized skills. Appraisal is different. To do the job well, an appraiser needs a broad range:

- good math, at the level of algebra and, for advanced work, calculus
- skill in writing reports and in speaking, in court
- task organization, so that assignments are completed on time
- skill in interviewing people
- a healthy skepticism about what is presented as "fact"
- a grasp of statistics
- an ability to see possibilities for a property and "think outside the box"

Much of what an appraiser brings to a job that is of most assistance to the client is in the hands-on tasks of close observation and measurement. An appraiser needs boots and a tape measure as much as a suit and a calculator. Increasingly, the job of market research is performed by data services. Analysis of simple, generic properties can be performed for appraisers with the assistance of automated models and smart systems. The work of the appraiser concentrates more and more in the analysis of complex and specialized properties that require a high level of skill. With a broadening of skills and advances in technology, appraisers become better able to meet clients' needs. In the future, appraisers can be expected to make more appraisals more quickly and accurately, using better tools.

Appraisal as an industry is a network of small businesspeople. Appraisal has its rewards. The work load is varied. Each job is different. Each new job is a challenge. The appraiser is called on to poke around in the bowels of buildings, to climb onto rooftops, and to go deep in the woods. Appraisers are independent. Many are their own boss. As in any profession, a focus on the needs of the client is what leads to success. With better tools and a broad range of skills, appraisers are increasingly able to meet those needs.

Eric T. Reenstierna, MAI

The Reenstierna Associates Report is published as a service to the clients of Eric Reenstierna Associates and other real estate professionals. The views expressed are those of the articles' authors and do not necessarily reflect those of other members of the organization. Copyright 2002. All rights reserved.

Eric Reenstierna Associates
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Cambridge, Massachusetts 02141
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