How to Level Up as an Appraiser

By Conrad Meertins Jr.

Excerpts: The key is not the letters but the competency or skill. For example, are you competent to prepare an entire appraisal from start to finish? You might answer, “Absolutely!” But what if the appraisal form was completely blank with no boilerplate text? Do you still feel the same level of assuredness? What if you could not use the URAR form at all, but still had to produce an appraisal report that could stand up in court? Are your legs shaking? These questions help us to start to gauge our current level.

The three levels that we are going to discuss are “Beginner,” “Intermediate,” and “Pro.” Now, we could go deep and say that there are levels within the levels, but for now we will keep it simple and explore these three main levels. Some view each level as a stepping stone, and some view each level as a permanent parking space. It’s your choice which level you choose to pursue. The goal here is for us to evaluate which level we are at and determine which level we want to achieve.

Level 1 – Beginner

This is where we all start. There is no shame in this level. Depending on how you were trained, at the beginner level you typically view appraisals as forms — forms with checkboxes to be checked or left blank. If all the right boxes are checked and your report is signed with a value, mission accomplished!

Level 2 – Intermediate

At the intermediate level, you realize there is more to appraising real estate than checking boxes. Here is where you provide more explanations. If you say the market is stable, perhaps you add a sentence or two to expound on that. If you say that comp #1 was the best comp, you add a sentence explaining why. If you don’t adjust for the subject being on a busy road, you add a sentence about the neutral impact of the busy road and a comparable to support that conclusion—before being prompted to do so by the underwriter.

Level 3 – Pro

There is a subtle difference between Level 2 and Level 3. But one indicator that you have crossed the line from intermediate to pro is understanding how all the pieces fit together. For example, you understand that you do not need a form to produce an appraisal.

To read more, click here

My comments: Hybrid Appraisals are coming fast for lender appraisals, when any “human” appraisals are done. Full appraisals that Level 1 and most Level 2 appraisers cannot do will be done by Level 3 appraisers. I am writing two long articles for the November issue about Hybrid Desktops and Property Data Collectors. Both positive and negative sides for appraisers. If you want to continue to do AMC appraisals, this is an option.

What if you don’t want to do either one? If you have done AMC lender appraising only, you only appraise homes that conform to GSE requirements. You have a low skill level.

If I did lender work now, I would be in the “top tier” to be called when other appraisers said no. For as long as I have been appraising, lenders had special lists for the tough ones, or for a valuable bank client that borrows money from the bank and has large deposits.

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NOTE: Please scroll down to read the other topics in this long blog post on  retirement, USPAP 2024 Changes, school district app, unusual homes, mortgage origination and more!


$25 Million Home Is Built Into a Cliff and Overlooks the Pacific Ocean

Excerpts: In the mid 1960s, Richard Clements, a contractor from San Francisco, set out to build a one of a kind resort. The location: 9.5 acres atop a stunning bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The inspiration: Paro Taktsang Monastery in Bhutan, perhaps one of the most famous cliff-hanging structures in the world. Though the hotel never came to be, the lobby, which appears to grow out from within the rocky overlook, was constructed. And in 1992, this daring design was purchased and transformed into a single-family home, which recently hit the market for $25 million.

Spanning 3,635 square feet, the two-bed, two-bath home is now known as Taktsang Big Sur. Gripping the side of the cliff, the home is anchored by four two-story concrete pillars. Full-height glass walls encircle the home, offering 240-degree views of the rocky California coastline and Pacific Ocean. Organic materials define the home’s interiors: a central stone chimney commands the main living area, large skylights and timber trusses adorn the ceiling, and stone floors expand throughout the two-story home.

“The home’s views are considered the best by many because of the positioning,” says Mike Gilson of Coldwell Banker Realty, the property’s listing agent. “You are close enough to the ocean to hear the soothing sounds and also high enough to have spectacular views up and down the coast.”

To read more click here

My comment: I Want It!!!


USPAP 2024: The Changes Appraisers Need to Know

By: Dan Bradley

October 6, 2023

Excerpts: On May 5, 2023, the Appraisal Standards Board (ASB) voted to adopt changes to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). While most of the changes won’t have a significant impact on how you perform appraisals, it is nevertheless important to know and understand the changes before they go into effect on January 1, 2024. We’re breaking down the USPAP 2024 changes, so you know what to expect.

Updates to the ETHICS RULE

Appraisers know that illegal discrimination is prohibited by USPAP, but legacy language in the ETHICS RULE regarding “unsupported conclusions” perpetuated the public misconception that discrimination is permissible if the appraiser’s conclusions are supported…

Retiring the definition of misleading

In the Cambridge Dictionary, misleading means to “cause someone to believe something that is not true.” However, based on the definition of misleading in the prior version of USPAP, many appraisers were concerned they could be disciplined for minor, unintentional reporting errors. In response to these concerns, the ASB retired this definition from USPAP for 2024.

Revising the definition of personal inspection

For purposes of clarification, the ASB revised the definition of personal inspection to read, in part: “(for an appraisal assignment) the appraiser’s in-person observation of the subject property performed as part of the scope of work…” There are three key elements to this definition.

To read more about changes, click here

My comments: Thanks to McKissock for posting this so I don’t have to try to figure out what changed that I need to know (maybe). I guess for the next two years, USPAP Update classes will not have much to say since there have been relatively few changes. The new USPAP edition is for 2024 with no ending date, of course.


Retirement: To Stay or Not to Stay. That is the Question!!

Fixed costs of appraising

MLS, forms software, E&O insurance, auto expenses, state license, CE,

association dues, etc., can add up. What are your total annual fixed costs?

I asked my E&O company if my cost could be lowered as I am billing out much less. They said to check with their underwriter, which I did. I got a reduced rate for a much lower volume of work.

Doing appraisals after you give up your state license

This is usually the “trigger” for retiring from appraising. I don’t recommend giving up your license unless you are sure you will never want to appraise again, as it is an easy way to increase your retirement income.

In most states, you renew every two years and must decide then.

Fortunately, in California, we are on a 4-year CE renewal cycle, so there is a

longer period before deciding. We have two years to get a license back after not renewing.

You can appraise without a license in many states, including California, but it is very difficult to get work. No lender work, and many other clients, want to know if you are licensed. When licensing first started, I knew appraisers who did not get licensed because they never worked for lenders. They had to get one because their clients wanted it, particularly attorneys.

Social Security – delay until age 70

My monthly Social Security income is $4,125. I am still working, and it goes up every year (plus the annual COLA adjustment). I also get $2,000 per month from a tenant.

I am 80 and started collecting social security at age 70. Why? I don’t

have a pension and have a relatively small IRA account (Under $300,000). I am not married. I will need money when I am over 90, not now. 85% of Social Security is taxable. I use all of it to pay my income and self-employment taxes.

If you start at your full retirement age (such as 66), you’ll get 100 percent of the monthly benefit. If you start at age 70, you get 132% of your full retirement benefit. But, only 10% of seniors wait until 70. Every year you wait, you get 8% more.

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Search by school, a new feature on the Zillow app, makes it easy for home shoppers to discover homes for sale or rent within specific school attendance zones or school districts just by using the search bar.

Search by school on the Zillow app – lots of stats, maps with boundaries, and more

Excerpts: Zillow® has launched search by school, a new feature on the Zillow app that makes it easy for home shoppers to discover homes for sale or rent within specific school attendance zones or school districts just by using the search bar.

Searching by school is currently available on Zillow’s iOS mobile app and will launch on Android platforms by the end of the year; it will be on the web in 2024. Additionally, Zillow is introducing the ability for home shoppers to receive instant or daily alerts about new for-sale or for-rent homes within their preferred school attendance zone or school district.

To read more, click here

My comments: Location within a school district can be an important valuation factor. I have paper maps and information on all my local districts, but this map is easier to use.It was accurate in my small city. Check its accuracy where you appraise. Type in an address and see its school zone (s).Only available as an iPhone smartphone app for now. Easy to use. I tested it on my iPhone. A bit hard to see but very useful for many appraisers.


Zoning: How it Can Change an Appraiser’s Career

By Richard Hagar, SRA Excerpts: Zoning can determine what an appraiser can and can’t appraise. For instance, if a property is zoned commercially or contains a large multi-family building, then a Certified General appraiser would perform the appraisal.

If the property is zoned “SFR” and there are four units or less, then a Certified Residential appraiser can provide the report. What I’m about to describe isn’t in every state, however, it’s spreading and likely headed your way, which is why I’m providing this warning. If certain changes in zoning become law in your state prepare for a massive decrease in the number of properties a residential appraiser can appraise.

New Washington State Law and the IssueThe state of Washington just passed a new law that requires cities to rezone all single-family areas based on the following:• Cities with a population between 25,000 and 75,000 must be rezoned to a minimum of four units per residential lot.• Cities with a population greater than 75,000 must rezone to allow a minimum of six units per lot.

Here’s the problem, once five or more units are “allowed” to be built on a lot the required highest and best use analysis and conclusion must be made by a Certified General appraiser. Washington’s new law will eventually prohibit Residentially Certified appraisers from appraising any home in any city with a population greater than 75,000.

Clearly the people who thought up and passed this law didn’t understand appraisals or banking laws.

I’ve found that the idea is spreading and likely to come to your city, county, or state. For instance, Portland, Oregon has a similar zoning. California, through a series of laws passed over several years, has achieved the same thing and I’m hearing that Phoenix may have similar pending legislation. Even the White House is trying to come up with ways to “reduce housing costs” through changes in zoning. In other words, this wacky “left coast” idea is spreading.


Competent appraisers have a better understanding of real estate, banking, and appraisal laws. Zoning is a local issue and shouldn’t be controlled at the state or federal level. If you see something like this being considered in your community or state, please become involved! People who create these laws must learn and understand banking and appraisal laws and their limitations. Ask your local appraisal coalitions to become involved as well. Help educate the people, because doing so might just save your career.I’m trying to keep you safe…and employed out there.

To read more, click here

My comments: How many properties are adding additional rental units if laws have changed? In California, we have complicated regulations about lot splits and adding additional units. Very few have been done. We have also made it much easier to do ADUs. I don’t see a lot of them being built yet.

When doing the Highest and Best Use, I always look to see if the newly allowed use is being done and if any are planned. Regulations on ADUs have been made easier over time, but I don’t see many being built, except for maybe small areas in one city.

Where I work there have been few ADUs built over the past 5+ years.I will watch what is happening where I appraise regarding additional units being allowed. Of course, since I have a certified general license, I can do them if I want ;>


Bargain of the Midcentury: 5 Homes Retro Style, All Priced at $600K or Less

Excerpts: Siding doors, walls of glass, and wide-open floor plans — they all sound like standard features in today’s luxe new homes.

Believe it or not, your grandmother could well have been enjoying all those swanky features 60 years ago, all while sipping a two-olive martini.

It’s quite amazing how the midcentury modern style has endured, persisted, and reemerged. Most newly built homes today give graceful nods to the trends that were popular in the mid-1940s and on into the 1970s.

You might be surprised that an original midcentury modern abode that has been respectfully and tastefully restored can demand as much as 150% more in price than similarly sized and aged homes of different styles.It’s fascinating to see how popular the midcentury modern style has become all over the country.

We found five marvelous homes that were built decades ago in diverse locations, yet still retain many of their distinctive original features. In fact, some are even enhanced with newly built, retro appliances and accessories.

To read more, click here

My comments: Sorta boring to me, probably because I live in a city where anything built since 1930 is new and less popular! Maybe they are in demand in your market, even the retro ones with “classic” kitchen appliances. I have a 1950s rental unit with the original formica countertop with a very interesting pattern. Tenants like it.


HOW TO USE THE NUMBERS BELOW. Appraisals are ordered after the loan application. These numbers tell you the future for the next few weeks. For more information on how they are compiled, click here.  

Note: I publish a graph of this data every month in my paid monthly newsletter, Appraisal Today. For more information or get a FREE sample go to Or call 510-865-8041, MTW, 7 AM to noon, Pacific time. My comments: Rates are going up and down. Many appraisers are not busy. Some are busy, usually with non-lender appraisals. =========================================

Mortgage applications increased 0.6 percent from one week earlier

WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 11, 2023) — Mortgage applications increased 0.6 percent from one week earlier, according to data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s (MBA) Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending October 6, 2023.

The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 0.6 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 1 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index increased 0.3 percent from the previous week and was 9 percent lower than the same week one year ago. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 1 percent from one week earlier. The unadjusted Purchase Index increased 1 percent compared with the previous week and was 19 percent lower than the same week one year ago.

“While most mortgage rates increased last week, rates on ARMs declined, leading to an increase in ARM volume and an increase in overall applications. The level of ARM applications increased by 15 percent over the week, bringing the ARM share up to 9.2 percent of all applications, the highest since November 2022. The yield curve has become less inverted in recent weeks and ARM pricing has certainly improved,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Vice President and Deputy Chief Economist. “The 30-year fixed mortgage rate is at 7.67 percent – the highest level since 2000 and 40 basis points higher than a month ago. Application activity remains depressed and close to multi-decade lows, with purchase applications still almost 20 percent behind last year’s pace. Refinance applications also continue to be limited, and the average loan size has fallen to its lowest level since 2017.”  

The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 31.6 percent of total applications from 31.7 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity increased to 9.2 percent of total applications.

The FHA share of total applications decreased to 14.4 percent from 14.5 percent the week prior.

The VA share of total applications increased to 10.2 percent from 10.1 percent the week prior. The USDA share of total applications remained unchanged at 0.5 percent from the week prior.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($726,200 or less) increased to 7.67 percent from 7.53 percent, with points decreasing to 0.75 from 0.80 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio (LTV) loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $726,200) increased to 7.70 percent from 7.51 percent, with points decreasing to 0.57 from 0.74 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages backed by the FHA increased to 7.40 percent from 7.29 percent, with points increasing to 1.08 from 1.01 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 6.97 percent from 6.86 percent, with points increasing to 1.18 from 1.14 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate increased from last week.

The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs decreased to 6.33 percent from 6.49 percent, with points decreasing to 0.90 from 1.21 (including the origination fee) for 80 percent LTV loans. The effective rate decreased from last week.

The survey covers over 75 percent of all U.S. retail residential mortgage applications, and has been conducted weekly since 1990. Respondents include mortgage bankers, commercial banks, and thrifts. Base period and value for all indexes is March 16, 1990=100.


Ann O’Rourke, MAI, SRA, MBA
Appraiser and Publisher
Appraisal Today
1826 Clement Ave. Suite 203 Alameda, CA 94501
Phone 510-865-8041

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