In Search of the Next Generation

If the residential valuations industry was a football field, many appraisers would tell you they’re sitting on the 50-yard-line, with no book of plays, no running back, and a star quarterback who is on vacation.

Such is the nature of pessimism: It spreads quickly. But, perhaps, appraisers cannot help but feel ‘in the trenches’ when a pervasive belief exists, suggesting that the residential valuations industry is shifting dramatically, and doing so without a solid direction to head in.

You have American Banker magazine writing in a headline that the “Appraiser Shortage Could Gum Up the Works at Mortgage Lenders.”

Then there is the writer/appraiser who wrote on his own blog, an article called:  “Lone Wolves: Appraisers Fighting Everyone, Including Appraisers”—A Civil War-inspired theme apparently.

And my personal favorite—WorkingRE Magazine’s appraisal shortage headline, which seems a bit like the title of a Nancy Drew novel: “The Mystery of the Missing Appraiser.”

An Industry at a Crossroads

Despite the slew of negative headlines, signs of progress bubbled to the surface over the summer months, with more regulators and lawmakers actively paying attention to the issue of there being too few rookie appraisers. If the problem persists, consumers and lenders will eventually find themselves paying more for appraisals when demand for valuations professionals outstrips supply.

In August, U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) and John Thune (R-South Dakota) jumped into the fray, sending a letter to The Appraisal Foundation—the body that sets standards for the industry—requesting the foundation provide input on the appraiser shortage, given the many difficulties already spotted in South Dakota.

The Senators wrote: “According to the Appraisal Institute, the number of residential appraisers declined nearly 19% between 2007 and 2014.” “We are all concerned that this decrease in real estate appraisers will primarily impact homeowners and prospective homebuyers in rural and underserved areas, making it more difficult to buy or sell a home.”

The Senators are not the only voices on the front line. In August, National Appraisal Congress (NAC), an advocacy group for appraisers, launched by the Five Star Institute (the parent company of DS News Magazine) submitted feedback to The Appraisal Foundation’s Appraisal Qualifications Board, offering input on possible alternative tracks to training. The one issue that has turned appraisers into advocates is the cost of training the next generation—and the dwindling ranks of new appraisers because of it.

“Let’s pretend I’m a recent college graduate that’s looking for a career,” noted Jordan Petkovski, chief appraiser with Title Source and Chair of NAC.

“Someone mentions residential appraising and expounds on the benefits associated with working independently and setting your own schedule, all while having the potential to earn six figures a year.  At this point, I’m probably pretty excited about the opportunity…until you explain that I’ll be lucky to earn something slightly north of minimum wage—once time invested is quantified—for two years,” he explained.

“We are all concerned that this decrease in real estate appraisers will primarily impact homeowners and prospective homebuyers in rural and underserved areas, making it more difficult to buy or sell a home.” 

But Petkovski and NAC are now taking the process in a new direction—one where standardization is applied to the training model and cost-effectiveness is built into the system.  In other words,  they are not destroying the appraisal wheel—or buying into the belief that automation will takeover—they are fixing the existing wheel and their instincts haven proven correct, given some of the play the issue is enjoying in Washington, D.C.

“Surprisingly, there is no standard way to ensure a trainee appraiser has achieved competency on this aspect of the appraisal process, beyond relying on the passage of time as a qualifier for aptitude.  To this I say, we can do better,” Petkovski added. “The National Appraisal Congress is in the process of codifying these standards, inclusive of educational modules, practicum-based learning and competency-based examinations,” the chief appraiser said.

“This initiative will allow us to fully develop a trainee appraiser’s understanding of the most rudimentary component of the whole appraisal process (that of the physical inspection), all within a predefined period of time (90 days).  Once the trainee appraiser has demonstrated their understanding of the inspection, they could begin physically inspecting subject properties sans their supervisory appraiser’s attendance.”

Removing Roadblocks

Designing a faster competency program is only one hurdle. The first step is getting state regulators to focus on removing excessive barriers to entry for new appraisers and to influence changes at the state level, especially in states where a trainee cannot work alone on behalf of a mentor for most of the training period.

The NAC launched a regulatory advisory paper in August, advising all states with excessive oversight times to allow for the creation of solutions that will let qualified apprentices work alone without supervision after proving competency. Such a development would save mentors money and time.

To garner support and advocate for younger appraisers, the NAC also formed an advisory committee, known as the Society of Young Appraisal Professionals. Both NAC and the young appraiser subcommittee will be in Washington, D.C., in October to present their solutions for the appraisal shortage to the Association of Appraiser Regulatory Officials (AARO).

While advocates of change want to maintain a high level of professionalism in appraisals, the pushback inevitably comes when the push goes too far, creating standards perceived harmful to a healthy onboarding process for new appraisers. One such point was raised when Senators Rounds and Thune filed a request for information with The Appraisal Foundation.

At one point, the Senators noted that “The Appraisal Foundation recently promulgated standards requiring a bachelor’s degree for an individual to obtain State Certified Residential or State Certified General Credentials. This regulation completely discounts practical experience.”

The main concern of the Senators is the risk of going too far and eliminating this as a career path altogether. And it’s a growing concern in South Dakota among other states, given the fact that 65% of appraisers in South Dakota are 51 years old or older, the lawmakers pointed out.

“We agree that high quality standards in this industry must continue to be a priority, Sens. Thune and Rounds wrote. “At the same time, we believe it is important to assess appraiser education and training requirements, standards and qualifications to make certain we strike the appropriate balance to make certain rigorous standards exist while making, the profession attractive and accessible for individuals interested in the field.”

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