(updated 03/2022 with my earnings as an appraiser, added at the end of this article)
As a real estate appraiser, you may work in a variety of positions at different types of employers (i.e. an appraisal firm or financial institution) or you may own your own business where all work is fee based. The amount you earn as a real estate appraiser will depend on your level of certification, years of experience and level of business IQ.
So, how much to real estate appraisers earn? The short answer is that they may earn anywhere from $35,000 per year to $200,000 per year. There are many reasons for the large range. But before we read why, here’s The Bureau of Labor and Statistics stats on appraiser earnings: The median annual wage for real estate appraisers is $58,650 (May 2020). The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,990 (likely part-time), and the top 10 percent earned more than $107,090.
Here’s a chart I created of data provided by the Appraisal Institute of annual incomes for all valuation professionals.
The amount you can make as a real estate appraiser is determined by many factors.
Employed By a Company
You may work as an in-house review appraiser at a local or national financial institution, appraisal management company or government sponsored enterprise (Fannie Mae). Financial/lending institutions need in-house appraisers to review work done by appraisers they’ve hired who provide an opinion of value for the house they are taking as collateral for the mortgage loan. Part of the underwriting process is to ensure the reports completed by the assigned field appraisers are credible, reliable, accurate and void of any fraud or detrimental errors. As an employee, you will enjoy the benefits of steady pay (hourly or salary) and benefits (insurance and vacation).
You may also work for an appraisal company as a field appraiser. The arrangement may either be salary you may split the fee of the assignment. A typical fee split may be 50%/50% or 75%/25% [You/Firm].
Consider that salary is based on a standard 40 hour work week and you or may not receive OT pay for any hours beyond. Compare this where your earnings are fee based. The more hours you work the more appraisals you can do. The more appraisals you do, the more money you can make (and time being your only limit, as long as you have steady supply of appraisal orders).
Appraisal Reviewer: $45,000-$85,000
Chief Appraiser: $45,000-$90,000
Appraisal Reviewer at Local Bank: $45,000-$80,000
Appraisal Reviewer at Large Bank: $65,000-$125,000
Field Appraiser Salary: Salaries may range from $35,000-$75,000 depending on your years of experience. Being a partner in the firm with a share in the firm profits could substantially increase salary/earnings.
Field Appraiser Fee Split: ~$60,000-$130,000+
A typical fee split may be 50%/50% or 75%/25% [You/Firm]. The amount you earn depends on how efficient (and hard and smart) you work. If you earn $300 on a $400 appraisal (low end) and you can do 5 per week that’s $1,500/week. If you work 48 weeks out of the year that is $72,000, for example. Depending on the assignment type, complexity and location of the property, the fee could be more ($400-$750). In 2021, I received rush appraisal fees up to $1,400 due to the competition between lenders and low interest rates. It is not unrealistic do to 6-7 appraisals per week and a typical average appraisal fee can be about $450 for a standard single-family house. At 75% fee split, 6 appraisals per week for 48 weeks is $97,200.
Self-Employed/Owner of Appraisal Business
Field Appraiser: ~$90,000-$150,000+
You keep 100% of the fee you receive for the assignment. You set your own fees, however you may adjust the fees based on your clients. Fees may range anywhere from $400 for a basic one-family property to $800 for a complex 2-4 family property. Hypothetically, if you completed 4 basics and 1 complex, that’s $2,400 per week x 48 weeks per year is $115,200. Keep in mind that there are costs to running your own business, plus additional taxes. However, holding a position at an appraisal firm may include many of these expenses, so the actual earnings will be a little less when you are completely independent. You could reasonably complete 7-8 appraisals per week and work 50 weeks out of the year to further increase your earnings. I am personally able to complete 6-7 appraisals per week working a steady 40-50 hours.
How to make upwards of $200,000 per year
You own the firm and you give the assignments your company receives to other appraisers in your company you have an agreement with. You get the business and take care of the expenses as an incentive and you offer perhaps a 75%/25% or 50%/50% split. Having 4 or 5 appraisers in your office plus yourself can substantially increase your earnings well into the six figure range (but takes a good plan and lots of work).
How Much Do I Make as a Real Estate Appraiser?
As of today (11/15/2019), I’ve billed $144,357 over the prior 12 months. Here’s a screen shot of my billing analytics:
That’s how much I billed. How much did I make? I am not an employee, but I do not own my appraisal business. I have an exclusive contract at an appraisal firm that provides work. In return, I give up a portion of the fee. I receive 70% of the billable amount. But the firm also provides office space, EO insurance, software, office management and many other things, if I choose to use them. It is a trade-off. I could own my appraisal business and take 100% of the $185,190 and forgo these things completely. I instead take $129,633 because it is the setup the currently works for me. I also work not more 50 hours/week. I could work more hours and on the weekend to increase my portion to $140,000+. But I like having work/life balance.
If you’re curious about becoming an appraiser, watch my video course made by a State Certified Appraiser (me) that provides an in-depth look into the profession! I also take you on real inspections (8 different appraisals!) to give you an idea of what it’s like to perform appraisal inspections. If you have questions, leave one in the comments!
When Should You Take The Appraisal Courses?
It is not required to take the required appraisal courses before finding a mentor.
However, I suggest taking the courses first for three reasons:
1) It will help you determine your level of interest and aptitude for actual appraising. Maybe you’ll change your mind after going through the courses, or maybe you’ll become much more interested. I offer an eBook about being an appraiser, but the courses will show you actual appraising and you’ll do it in theory by completing samples (case studies).
2) If you find a supervisory appraiser, he/she may tell you to come back later once you complete the courses for the trainee level (at a minimum) and obtain the trainee license, which could take two months, depending how quickly you can complete the courses. In the meantime, someone else could take your spot.
3) Your experience hours don’t count until you’ve taken the courses and obtained your trainee license. So if you wait to find your supervisory appraiser before taking the courses, you’ll lose two months worth of experience hours (or however long it takes you to get through the courses). You’ll get the experience, but the hours won’t officially count.
Here’s an example of a trainee posting from Craigslist illustrating this:
“Certified Residential Appraiser looking to take on a trainee… Preferable applicant will have a minimal 2 year degree and will have completed all required basic level training to acquire an appraiser trainee license. Please submit a resume for consideration.”
Of course, if you find a supervisory appraiser who is willing to take you on immediately even before you complete the courses or obtain your trainee license, do it! You don’t want to lose the supervisory appraiser. Just accept the loss of initial “log” hours for the immediate opportunity you have.
Interested in Appraising? Check out the Ultimate Appraiser Career Guide!