How to Become a Real Estate Appraiser in California

The California Bureau of Real Estate Appraisers handles appraisal licensing. California is one of the few states with a lower minimum time requirement to obtain the necessary experience hours for licensing. The 2,000 experience hours can be obtained in 12 months. However, this may lessen to 1,000 in 6 months if the state board soon decides to adopt the new 2018 AQB changes.

California Appraiser Trainee License

Appraiser TraineeAs a California licensed real estate appraiser trainee, you will be able to complete inspections and appraisal reports under the direct supervision of a certified appraiser. However, the amount of work you do depends on the amount your supervisory appraiser allows you to do. He or she may just give you the task of researching property data and filling out reports. Ideally, the supervisory appraiser is a mentor who works with you through the entire appraisal process, helping and guiding you and answering questions. Finding a mentor (especially a good mentor) and obtaining experience hours can be the most challenging part of becoming a real estate appraiser.

Real estate appraising is a diverse field. There are many different factors and scenarios you will encounter and each appraisal assignment is unique. After completing your first few appraisals, you will understand the purpose of field work under a supervisory appraiser and on the job training (which can take six months to two years, depending on your states minimum time requirements and how often you can do appraisal work). It requires specialized knowledge. Obtaining your trainee license demonstrates that you have the elementary knowledge necessary to begin your journey.

Basic Requirements: Must be 18 years or older and submit an application including education, experience, background check and proof of legal presence in the United States
Training Requirements: None
Education Requirements: 150 hours of qualifying appraisal specific education courses not more than five years old. 

Courses can taken through a provider such as OnCourse Learning Real Estate, where Appraiser Career Center readers get an exclusive 15% discount! (Appraiser Career Center is partnering with OnCourse Learning Real Estate to offer online real estate courses).

Fee: $380.00
State Required Test: None

California Residential Appraiser License

Licensed AppraiserA licensed real estate appraiser is the first level of licensing for appraising real property without a supervisory appraiser.  With this credential, you are able to appraise non-complex one to four family residential units having a transaction value less than one million dollars ($1,000,000), complex one to four family residential units having a transaction value less than two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000) and other types of real property having a transaction value less than two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000) . While most states have adopted this kind limitation for this credential, some states may vary.

As a California licensed real estate appraiser you may find yourself working for an appraisal firm or for yourself as a fee based appraiser. Your clients may be local, such as individuals, lawyers, accountants and small banks, or national clients such as from large appraisal management companies (AMCs), national lenders or government sponsored enterprises (Fannie Mae). Keep in mind, however, that many larger lenders and financial institutions may enlist only certified appraisers to complete their appraisals. The exception is if a certified appraiser accompanies you on the inspection and signs as the supervisory appraiser on the report.  Regardless, as a field appraiser, your day will be divided between property inspections and completing research online and at local court houses and/or assessor’s offices.  For most purposes you will be completing appraisals for home purchases, refinancing, divorces, estates and portfolios.

Basic Requirements: Must be 18 years or older and submit an application including education, experience, background check and proof of legal presence in the United States
Training Requirements: 2,000 hours of experience in no less than 12 months
Education Requirements: No college-level education required. 150 hours of qualifying appraisal specific education courses are required. 

Courses can taken through a provider such as OnCourse Learning Real Estate, where Appraiser Career Center readers get an exclusive 15% discount! (Appraiser Career Center is partnering with OnCourse Learning Real Estate to offer online real estate courses).

Fee: $455.00
State Required Test: Yes

California Certified Residential Appraiser License

Certified Real Estate AppraiserA certified real estate appraiser is the second level of California state licensing for the appraisal of real property. It is one above from licensed and one under general certified (commercial). With this credential you are able to appraise all types of non-complex one-to-four family residential property without regard to the transaction value and other types of real property having a transaction value of less than $250,000 (two hundred fifty thousand dollars) (exact limitations may vary by state).

Just like as a licensed real estate appraiser, you may find yourself working for an appraisal firm or for yourself as a fee based appraiser. Your clients may be local, such as individuals, lawyers, accountants and small banks, or national, such as from large appraisal management companies (AMCs), national lenders or government sponsored enterprises.

As a California state certified appraiser, you now meet the requirements of many larger lenders and financial institutions which enlist only certified appraisers to for their transactions. Likewise, as a field appraiser, your day will be divided between property inspections and completing research online and at local court houses and/or assessor’s offices. For most purposes, you will be completing appraisals for home purchases, refinancing, divorces, estates and portfolios.

As a state certified appraiser, you will also qualify for many in-house positions at large financial institutions and AMCs (generally as a review appraiser). Although years of experience is often desired, having the state certification meets one of the basic requirements set by many employers and makes you more qualified than if you only have your license. Check out job postings for real estate appraisers to get an idea of what positions are available, what they entail and their exact requirements and qualifications. Working an in-house position is one of the alternatives to field work and you also get to enjoy salary pay and health benefits.

Basic Requirements: Must be 18 years or older and submit an application including education, experience, background check and proof of legal presence in the United States
Training Requirements: 2,500 hours of experience in no fewer than 30 months
Education Requirements:  A Bachelor’s degree or other accepted option from the following:
1) Bachelor’s Degree in any field of study
2) Associates Degree in a field of study related to: Business Administration, Accounting, Finance, Economics; or Real Estate
3) Successful completion of 30 semester hours of college-level courses that cover each of the following specified topics
4) Successful completion of at least 30 semester hours of College Level Examination Program® (CLEP®) examinations
5) Any combination of Option #3 and Option #4 that includes all of the topics specified in Option #3
6) No college-level education is required. This option applies only to appraisers who have held a Licensed Residential credential for a minimum of five (5) years and have no record of any adverse, final, and nonappealable disciplinary action affecting the Licensed Residential appraiser’s legal eligibility to engage in appraisal practice within the five (5) years immediately preceding the date of application for a Certified Residential credential.
200 hours of qualifying appraisal specific education courses are also required. 

Courses can taken through a provider such as OnCourse Learning Real Estate, where Appraiser Career Center readers get an exclusive 15% discount! (Appraiser Career Center is partnering with OnCourse Learning Real Estate to offer online real estate courses).

Fee: $505.00
State Required Test: Yes

After you obtain yourstate certification, you may desire to appraise commercial property. For this you will seek the certified general appraiser credential.

California Certified General Appraiser License

Certified General AppraiserA certified general appraiser is the highest level of licensing. He or she is able to appraise all types of property – residential or commercial –  with no value limit.  Typically, these appraisers will spend the majority of their time appraising commercial properties. The type of appraisal could vary from a small, one-story office building valued at $250,000 to a high-rise apartment building with a value of $20,000,000.

The main differences between a certified appraiser and certified general appraiser are many additional hours of coursework and 1,500 of commercial appraising (non-residential) experience under a certified general appraiser, and a bachelor’s degree. Commercial appraisals are much more complex and time consuming and require far more research. There is far less margin of error. The intended user of the appraisal may be basing a significant business decision on the outcome and an erroneous appraisal could result in a loss of millions of dollars. As a result, the requirements to become a certified general appraiser are more stringent.

As a California certified general appraiser, you will typically work in a small to medium sized firm devoted to commercial work. You may but rarely will complete residential assignments. But if you do decide to complete residential appraisals you can (just like licensed or certified appraisers) do work for local and national clients devoted to residential transactions.

Basic Requirements: Must be 18 years or older and submit an application including education, experience, background check and proof of legal presence in the United States
Training Requirements: 3,000 hours of experience in no fewer than 30 months. 1,500 of those hours must be in non-residential experience.
Education Requirements: Bachelor’s degree or higher and 300 hours of qualifying appraisal specific education courses. 

Courses can taken through a provider such as OnCourse Learning Real Estate, where Appraiser Career Center readers get an exclusive 15% discount! (Appraiser Career Center is partnering with OnCourse Learning Real Estate to offer online real estate courses).

Fee: $505.00
State Required Test: Yes

Want to know more? Read our 60-paged eBook written by a state certified appraiser!
  • Front CoverGet an inside look at being a real estate appraiser
  • Determine whether appraising really is the right career choice for you
  • Discover the little known experience hour “loop hole”and how it can help you get more hours
  • …and Much More!

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When Should You Take The Appraisal Courses?

appraiser_traineeIt 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.

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California Bureau of Real Estate Appraisers

The author of this article, Chris Dolland, is an active Certified Real Estate Appraiser. If you have questions about becoming an appraiser, drop one in the comments below!

9 Comments

  1. carolina

    Hello,

    In 2.5 years I can complete all the requirements to become a California Certified General License Appraiser?

    I will star soon to study to become a Real Estate Appraiser in California and your blog really help me to understand everything better, I bought your e-book and I love it.

    Thanks :)

  2. Chris D.

    Carolina,

    Thanks for the feedback! Yes, 2.5 years is the minimum time you may complete your 3,000 experience hour requirement and thus obtain your certified general level of licensing.

    Per the AQB, “Three thousand (3,000) hours of qualifying experience obtained in no fewer than thirty (30) months, where a minimum of one thousand five hundred (1,500) hours must be obtained in non-residential appraisal work.”

    And the State of California has kept to these minimum AQB requirements. Good luck!

  3. Option.Period

    I am thinking about getting licensed as an appraiser in California. I plan on doing this on the side while still working my regular full-time job (8a-5p; M-F) in order to transition out of my present profession and into this new one.

    I understand getting the trainee’s license (plan to do that online in the evenings after work) and then “Per the AQB, the minimum requirements to become a licensed appraiser are the completion of 2,000 experience hours in no less than 12 months” (meaning one has to take at least 1 year to get their experience hours in) – my question is whether there is a limit on the other side e.g. must the 2,000 hours also be completed WITHIN a certain period of time, as I am doing this on the side (I have a friend who will work with me on timing … mostly time on weekends) it will take me quite a while to amass 2,000 hours … probably 4 years. Will violate an outside time limit to get the hours in or do the hours expire? Thanks for any advice!

    1. Chris D.

      There is no maximum time limit. Just remember to renew your trainee license and make sure your mentor remains in in good standing with the state. I would also complete and have your log signed “as you go”.

  4. limeywriter

    I would dearly love to become an appraiser (after 20+ years as a landlord/araprment manager I would love to venture out in this direction). The big problem to me is finding an appraiser who’s willing to take you under their wing and give you the 2000 required hours of experience. I’ve been told the majority of appraisers are in their 40’s, 50’s and beyond and don’t want the extra competition. So this begs the question: If your uncle or best friend isn’t an appraiser, how do you find one who’s willing to help?

    Best,

    Steve.

    1. Chris Dolland, Certified Real Estate Appraiser

      That is the hardest part of becoming a real estate appraiser. You can check trainee positions on job boards such as Career Builder, Indeed, Monster, etc. and also Craigslist. You could also try posting on appraisersforum.com.

      Besides that, you could try networking with any real estate agent friends that may have connections to local appraisers that could ask around.

      You could also search active appraisers in your area on asc.gov and call and simply ask if they would be interested in taking on a trainee or are looking to hire one. You might find one that will say yes!

      1. Chris Dolland, Certified Real Estate Appraiser

        Busy appraisers/appraisal offices do have an incentive to take on a trainee. Keep in mind, however, that they may make you sign a non-compete agreement to keep you from leaving once you become licensed/certified.

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