Other than your state license are certification, here are 12 things you should have to help you do your job as a real estate appraiser.
If you do purchase some of the resources below through the links provided, I do receive a small commission on some of them at no additional cost to you.
1) Clip Board
When perform your inspection you will take a lot of notes. Your notes will included the materials, quality and condition of the exterior and interior of the house as well as upgrades, renovations, updates and needed repairs. But since your up walking around and not at a desk you will need a good clipboard to write on.
I use the metal clipboard pictured here. At one point I found that when carrying note paper, graph paper, a flashlight and camera is would be nice to to fit all of that into my clipboard, which needed to be thicker. I purchased a thicker one but it was too heavy bulky. So I went back to the thiner one.
By the way, I now use an iPad to take my notes and do sketches.
2) Legal Sized Paper
All of the standardized forms you will complete your appraisal reports on are legal sized. Although you could change the size of the paper at time of printing, the form is most eligible in its default size. And depending on how you take your notes – whether you start with a blank sheet or a form you’ve designed – legal sized will give you more space to write.
3) Graph Paper
An appraiser should always physically measure the subject property to verify the GLA on public record or the MLS. Graph paper will allow you to sketch to scale the perimeter of the house for an accurate calculation. Graph paper is available free online.
4) A Good Camera
With the advent of high quality cameras on cell phones, you may be tempted to use your phone. I have an iPhone 5 which takes fantastic high quality photos – but only outside in clear or bright light. A camera phone does not take very good quality photos indoor or where lightning is dim – even my almighty iPhone. For this reason, you should also have a REAL high quality camera with a good flash.
There will be many times when you need to take photos in corners, basements, attics and in garages and outbuildings and a camera phone will not suffice. And if you appraise rural properties, your comparables may be off the road many hundreds of feet. You will need a good zoom to capture a good photo. Any photo you take should be clear so it is useful to the reader of your report, especially the lender/under writer.
I use the Canon Elph 160 (pictured).
5) An iPad
If you get a tablet such as an iPad Mini (what I use) you won’t need #2 on this list for note taking or #3 for sketching. I use the Microsoft Word for my field notes (I’ve created a template) and I use Total for Mobile for my sketches. I recommend getting an iPad with cellular capabilities.
A measuring reel, not a measuring tape, primarily because there will be time when you measure the side of a house and trees/brush will be too thick to keep you from getting close to the side. in which case you can dig the stake or the pointing end of the measuring reel into the ground in line with the side you are measuring pull the tape to the end. I use this in conjunction with a laser measure.
7) A laser Measure
Laser measures are slick and easy use, They allow you to measure spots you can’t get to and work perfectly for measuring second floors.
8) A Laptop
If you’re reading this I assume you own your computer – most likely a desktop. But I recommend you own a laptop for appraising even if its in conjunction with your desktop. When I started real estate appraising, I didn’t see any reason to purchase a desktop. The laptop allows me to work from anywhere, even if I don’t have an internet connection.
For example, if I’m out on inspection 30-40 minutes from the office and I need to do a comp search, I don’t have to waste time and gas driving there and back. I can just open my laptop and do my comparable search from my car (using my iPhone as a mobile hot spot) or the coffee shop.
9) Business Cards
This one is pretty obvious. Although most of your work will come from banks, attorneys, AMCs and other government entities, there will times when individuals need to hire you for non-lending purposes (see 5 Main Ways Appraisers Get Assignments). Leaving your card after your inspection if just one more potential referral and it could be that homeowner, or his brother, neighbor, etc.
But another reason for carrying business cards is for when you are driving by comparable properties and taking photos. In areas of high home break-ins, people are very curious, protective, defensive and suspicious. Stopping in front of their home and taking a photo is a suspicious activity and they may not reason that you are a real estate professional taking a photo of the home they just purchased last month or 10 months ago. They may confront you, so having your business card is good identification to prove that you are who are say you are and doing what you say you are doing (and it could be another referral!).
They same applies if you were pulled over by police due to a call of suspicious activity. But most of the time you will be taking photos during the workday when the majority of people are at work or running errands.
10) Magnetic Car Signs
I highly recommend this, especially when driving by comparable properties and taking photos. I think this prevents a lot of confrontation with homeowners because it tells them who you are. I use signs that read “Licensed Real Estate Appraiser” and place one on each side of the car on the front doors. Of course, you could always get fancy and create an entire advertisement with it using fancy graphics.
Appraisal software is required. It’s industry standard and there’s no other way to complete summary reports for federally related transactions. The FNMA 1004, 1025 and the 2055 are the most common forms Essentially the software allows you to input several on these and several other types of standardized forms. You will also use it add your photos, complete the sketch, location and flood maps and any other addenda. There a many companies that provide this software, such as Appraise-It by SFREP, A la Mode, Inc. and WinTotal.
12) A Vertical Screen Setup
Since the appraisal report forms are legal size, projecting them on a vertical screen allows you to view them in their entirety. I find that this makes it easier to complete and review. I have a wide 24′ Acer monitor that used to be on a fixed stand. But I bought a rotating Dell monitor stand, carefully drilled 4 holes and affixed it to my Acer screen to achieve the functionality you see pictured. It’s the best of both worlds. When I’m writing reports I turn it vertical. When I want wider screen for web research, I turn it horizontal. If you want the same setup and are not very handy, I recommend buying a Dell monitor with the rotating stand.
Interested in Appraising? Check out the Ultimate Appraiser Career Guide!