By Bryan Aldridge, Appraiser Trainee

“Why don’t you come on an inspection with me?”

It was February 2020, and there were rumors about a new virus beginning to get traction. I was in retail leadership in Sedona, Az and beginning to wonder if I wanted to work with the public during a pandemic. And eventually write this story, Tales of a Trainee at Appraisal Camp Sedona.

Julie Friess was one of my true “local” customers in a store that relies on international tourism that floods Sedona. I did not realize when she uttered those words that it would lead me to take the biggest risk of my life and becoming a member of Appraisal Camp Sedona.

Foto: Bryan on the right, Julie next to him, Jason Vargo on the left, with Tracy Terry next to him.
Julie and her 3 trainees!!

The response of friends and relatives

You can imagine the response I got when I told my friends and family that I was going to leave a secure job (health insurance, industry-leading pay, Covid-19 bonuses) to become a Real Estate Appraiser Trainee.

They pointed out the long road to certification, the lack of Appraisers willing to mentor trainees, and the smaller pool of lenders willing to allow trainees to sign reports. A big thank you to Don at the AZ VA for being our first. I decided to go along anyway.

My first inspection

My first inspection was a home from 1972, a 2800 sqft site-built residence in one of the communities near Sedona. Julie assured me it would be fun and a great way to determine if I had any interest in or passion for appraisal work. We hopped in the car and zoomed off.

As we entered the subject’s neighborhood, Julie began to take note of the types of homes we were driving by and I could see that we had gone from “driving around” to beginning our inspection. I asked why, as we hadn’t even arrived at the property we were going to inspect. “You’ll see,” she said.

Julie said, “What do you see?”

As we pulled up to the home, Julie asked what I saw when we were driving the neighborhood. I didn’t know what she saw, so I modestly replied, “A bunch of houses?” Sharp, I know. She nodded and we walked up to the house to begin our exterior inspection.

The first thing I noticed was how soft the ground around the home was, especially at the edge of the small level portion of the hill that it sat on. It was as if the soil was not packed down properly or it was eroding quickly.

What we saw on the second trip to the house

Several months later, we visited again out of curiosity and two sinkholes had appeared in the driveway.  Before we got far, Julie informed me that there was a huge problem with this appraisal and a mystery to solve.

I was in the dark, but totally IN. Were all assignments this fun?! What I did not notice driving the neighborhood was that every structure was a manufactured home but ours was reportedly not.

The appraiser’s role is risk mitigation

Our subject was pending at $300k as a site-built home. Someone was going to take on that loan as a personal obligation and a lender was taking on the risk of that loan counting on the collateral’s value to be correct should it default. Julie explained that when a loan goes bad, the public is often on the hook for it in a variety of direct and indirect ways.

The Appraiser’s role is to mitigate risk for all parties involved, and this is one of the ways that we “Protect the Public’s Trust”. Julie is extremely passionate about this aspect of the job and THAT formed my attitude right from the very beginning.

Manufactured home with unusual additions

After a quick walk around, Julie told me that she now knew that we were looking at a manufactured home dressed up and sold as a site-built one.

I asked if there was any way for a manufactured home to be modified and become site built. That lead to an answer that still makes me laugh today. “A manufactured home can never become site-built, just like Pinocchio will never be a real boy.”

The home had several rooms added to it over the years and they were blended into the home with various techniques, mostly tons of paint. It was obvious that someone had spent a lot of time and effort hiding something. This is when I began to understand the phrase “Lipstick on a Pig” in a whole new way.

A look at the crawlspace

The proof we needed was a crawlspace, and the pictures it would yield. After circling the house a few more times, we still could not locate one.

Initially, we thought that the additions concealed the crawlspace and that maybe there was interior access to the crawlspace instead. We did not find anything inside, but I did get a great picture of Julie touching the ceiling of the living room without effort. She is 5’3”. “I found the old kitchen!” she said.

I wish I had been filming when Julie found the crawlspace.  They HAD built a room around it. It was a little shed attached to the side of the home and the door was nailed shut.

Julie literally kicked the door down and bingo, crawlspace! We opened the panel and pointed our flashlight inside revealing the tongue and axle of a manufactured home. It had never been removed! We could also see how the additions were not supported by a foundation, but instead were attached to the I-beam and acting as levers pulling the overall home apart.

A pre-1976 manufactured home, sitting on a hill that was actively eroding away from underneath it.

Julie had invited me to be a hero!

On the drive back to the office, as we were unpacking the events of the day.. it hit me. We kept someone from being a fraud victim. We alerted the lender and kept them from making a high-risk loan that would never return their investment if it defaulted.

We kept the taxpayer from potentially footing the bill. We protected the public and their trust in the Real Estate market. Julie had invited me to become a hero. How awesome is that?

About the author

Bryan spent 20 years in the Natural Foods industry and was ready for a change of pace from retail leadership. After learning about the role that real estate appraisers play in protecting the public trust, he decided to change careers and pursue this passion.

After working with Julie and observing her commitment to integrity, honesty, and excellence, he felt that he had found a great supervisor and mentor and joined Sedona Appraisal Research Associates, LLC.

My comments: I met Julie at a local all-day appraisal seminar. a few years ago She was very intense, interesting, dynamic, and fun. I thought maybe someday she would write something for my monthly Appraisal Today newsletter. She said yes! Her last two articles for me were about Appraisal Camp Sedona.

I’ve been complaining for over 20 years about the poor training of appraisers. In college, I spent my afternoons in science labs. When I graduated I was already trained.  Jullie knew trainees needed complete training, both field and classroom, and started a school.

Through the Eyes of another Trainee at Sedona Appraisal Camp

By Jason Vargo, trainee

Brief Excerpt: Things are pretty wild here at Appraisal Camp-Sedona. To bring you up to speed, Appraisal Camp-Sedona offers appraisal trainees real world experience, on-the-ground case-study training, all while completing required courses for licensing and certification.

To read the Appraisal Buzz article click here.

For more info

Advice for appraisal trainees(Opens in a new browser tab)

To hire or not to hire appraisers(Opens in a new browser tab)

We want to know what you think!! Please leave a comment.