In our Appraiser eLearning survey, real estate appraisers across the country report more work than ever before, a few savvy adaptations, and a shift in life priorities.
We had more than eighty responses from appraisers all over the United States. Respondents were split nearly 50-50 between folks whose main source of income was assignments from AMC vs. assignments from lenders, with a few reporting that they mainly do litigation support. More than half work as solo practitioners and about one-fifth in firms of 2-5 employees. Most respondents said they had not retooled their firms for remote work — presumably because many solo entrepreneurs already worked from home before the pandemic. A few did retool how and where they worked, at least partially, and some said that prompted them learn new tech and new ways of delegating — and allowed them to become more productive than before.
Here’s where it gets interesting. More than half — 57% to be exact — reported having more work in the past year than they did before the pandemic. Lots more. “We inspected 450 properties in 2020,” said D Lawson from Texas. “That is 150 more than our normal year. And nobody in my 3-girl office got Covid.” And TMM, also from Texas, wrote, “The pandemic has been the best cash cow in 16 years in business.”
Several people reported doing more desktop and drive-bys this year, and many said that costs were down and income was up, or WAY up. “We are able to choose work and raise fees with little pushback,” wrote Greg, an appraiser in Texas. “Business is great, and I haven’t changed anything because of the pandemic. “We had already changed to a work from home situation. Our costs have never been lower and fees are the highest ever.”
Below, we’ll break down the numbers and dig into some of the detailed responses that people sent in. We think you’ll find it fascinating and illuminating, and probably familiar.
Thanks to all who took the time to answer this survey!
How did your work/income change over the past 12 months?
What are some ways you adapted your appraisal work or business strategy to this pandemic year?
Which of these professional challenges did you face over the past year?
“People are chasing appraisers on foot and in their cars. They beat on the appraiser’s window, windshield and other parts of the car. If the appraiser opens the window, they hit the appraiser repeatedly in the head. They file false police reports that the appraiser threatened them. I was in an online class where everyone had a similar experience weekly. It’s unsafe to be an appraiser now.” —Sandy (CA)
How will you prepare for future unknowns that affect our industry, such as recessions, interest rate hikes, housing crises, or other global emergencies like COVID?
Going forward, what will change about how you do business after the pandemic
“I think that we will continue to support our staff working from home and likely downsize our investment in facilities in favor of technologies to continue to support our network.” —DRD (MO)
“We sold our office building during the economic crash of 2009, over 10 years ago and while it hurt at the time, it wound up being the best decision we ever made. We consider ourselves blessed to have made that decision when we did. We worked off a remote server, communicated by phone and email constantly and met regularly, but never missed a beat. It was different but helped us get ‘lean and mean’ opening up the budget for better equipment and higher salaries.” —Victor Andrews (TN)
“Roll with the punches.”—Scott Cullen (MN)
“I concentrated on local lender clients that value my services (as opposed to AMC’s). I added additional services for them (evals and restricted desktops); this was much more lucrative and rewarding.” —MWW (AL)
“This past year I took off more weekends, which allowed me to de-stress and actually do some relaxing. I tried to look at 2020 as a “gap-year” where I accepted less work, but was able to have more downtime.” —Linda K (TX)
“Going forward I’d like to incorporate more technology and get a trainee on board.” —MER (MO)
Were there any surprise revelations for you this year—the good kind? Lessons learned, shifts in priorities?
These answers were wildly variable. Lots of people said, simply, “no.” Others spoke of gratitude — for having a livelihood still when so many did not, and of being able to do the work safely (for the most part). Several appraisers mentioned taking much-needed down time during 2020 and enjoying time spent with family. A few were disappointed with how they were treated by clients and the people whose homes they inspected, while others saw their faith in humanity renewed by kindness.
“Who knew that the housing market would be booming during a pandemic?”—SMK (OH)
“I continue to be amazed at the lack of knowledge in general about what appraisers do. Literally no one cares about us. They didn’t care if we got sick; didn’t care if we spread Covid to the universe; plain flat didn’t care. I contacted CAL BREA to see if we had any kind of special dispensation to receive the vaccine and they could have cared less whether we lived or died … I never received a single order that did not require me to do an interior inspection. Very disappointing!” —Allison (CA)
“Our biggest surprise of the past year was the amount of work out there for the appraisers who wanted to challenge themselves and not just take cookie cutter assignments. I personally learned that family is important. The year brought challenges due to elderly parents and providing care for them while trying to keep a business running smoothly.” —D Lawson (TX)
“Realized that remote workflow with tech tools and delegation works great. Actually increased productivity and volumes dramatically this year. Perspective changed with new model.” —Glen Calderon (MD)
“Learned to be more efficient and streamline the appraisal process. Was able to spend time on education and learning new systems. This year is starting off good.” —Norman Jones (KY)
“I don’t look half bad on Zoom.”—dcs.value (NC)
“I was surprised how many people had no problem or issue with me coming into their house during a pandemic as long as they can get that lower interest rate. I had only a handful of borrowers cancel when they found out I had to come inside. I also finally realized that the work will always be there, take some time for yourself to recharge. Step away, put yourself as ‘on vacation’ or ‘out of the office’ with your clients. The time you missed out on doing things you love and just being with loved ones because you had deadlines, can’t be retrieved. It’s gone. Make some money – but don’t forget to make some memories”. —MER (MO)