To keep up on what is happening in appraisal businesses, mortgage lending, USPAP, etc. , Plus humor and strange homes, sign up for my FREE weekly appraisal email newsletter, sent since June 1994. Go to Home on the left side of the menu at the top of this page or go to
Sign up in the Big Yellow Boxes

I regularly write about hot topics in appraising and appraisal business management issues
in my paid Appraisal Today monthly newsletter.
$99 per year or (credit card only) $8.25 per month, $24.75 per quarter, or $89 per year.
For more info, go to


How to have business come to you – always ask, always tell

In times past when business was stable and there were many fewer appraisers after an appraiser got experience (and sometimes a professional designation) he or she could “hang out a shingle” and get referrals from clients or other appraisers. Now, of course, just like in medicine and law, most of us can’t afford to just sit and wait for the phone to ring. The key to getting more business is Referrals: How to Have Business Come to You.

We all remember the days when the phone rang with clients begging us to take one more assignment. Those days come and go. There is another way to get clients to call you: referrals.

Many appraisers don’t actively solicit referrals. We have an excuse: no sales training. But even experienced salespersons forget about this excellent source of business.

I recently spoke with a local top producer real estate agent whose business was slow. She told me she recently took a class on referrals and was contacting all her old clients. Although she has been in real estate sales for many years, she had forgotten about the power of referrals.

Many appraisers ask me how to get on lender lists, how to get more business appraising certain property types (such as nursing homes), how to break into litigation appraising, etc. I tell them all the same thing. If no one knows who you are and what you can do for them, you won’t get any business.

To get more referrals, you have to contact more people. If no one has heard of you, they can’t give you a referral!

Always ask. Always tell.
The primary key to getting a person to be a source of referrals is to always ask for referrals. How many of your relatives, friends, and business acquaintances know that you would like to get referrals from them?

You must also tell the referral source what types of referrals you would like. Always tell referral sources what you want them to do.

In the above example of the local real estate agent, she hadn’t told me that now she was working with both buyers and sellers (not just sellers) and had expanded her geographic area. I had only been giving her name out for sellers looking for a local agent.

If you work for mortgage brokers and are looking for new clients, you would ask your referral sources to give your name to mortgage brokers, mentioning that they knew you as a reliable business person (or you had worked on one of their deals). Implying that you would complete the appraisal on time with minimal hassles.

If you want to increase your business from attorneys, you would tell your referral sources that you do work on all property types for estates, divorce, litigation, etc. Many people think appraisers only do house appraisals for lenders.

Always say thank you
How many times have you been called by an appraiser thanking you for a referral? You probably remember that person’s name.

Always, always, always thank referral sources by phone, letter, or email. Then they will be much more likely to give your name out again. You have given them positive reinforcement.

How do you know where a client got your name? Whenever someone calls you about doing an appraisal, always ask where they got your name.

Who can be a referral source?
Almost anyone can be a referral source, if they know you (or know of you) and what you can do.
Some sources are:

  • Neighbors
  • Relatives
  • Friends
  • Your accountant, attorney, dentist, doctor, etc.
  • Current clients (often your best source)
  • Real estate agents and brokers
  • Appraisers
  • Mortgage brokers
  • Soccer moms
  • PTA members
  • Loan offices at conventional lenders
  • People you meet at:
    • Charity events
    • Grocery stores
    • Sporting events- Etc., etc.

If this seems like a big list, you’re right! I have gotten appraisal assignments from just as wide a range of referral sources. I have also gotten assignments directly from individual contacts. For example, I was recently at a charity dinner. Sitting next to me was a woman who needed 10 properties appraised for an estate.

Who are the best referral sources?
The best referral sources are people who are in regular contact with persons needing appraisals. That’s why other appraisers are usually one of the best sources of referrals.

Who do people call when they need the name of an appraiser? Other appraisers, real estate agents, and brokers, attorneys, loan officers, etc.   Your clients are also one of your best referral sources. They know your work.

Appraisers as referral sources

One of our best referral sources is other appraisers.

How many times do you get calls for appraisals in areas where you don’t work, or for property types you don’t appraise? We all do. (If you don’t, you really need to increase your marketing efforts!)
Whose names do you give out? Why do you give those names?

Do you give them the names of appraisers you know or just open a telephone or association directory?

Which are you more comfortable with? Most of us prefer to give referrals to appraisers we know.

If other appraisers don’t know you, they probably won’t give your name out.

Being active in appraisal organizations and taking appraisal classes and seminars and networking with the other attendees are two excellent methods.   Keep in regular contact with your appraisal network with phone calls, emails, and/or brief notes.

What types of referrals do you want?
Before working on increasing your referrals, first, you must decide what types of referrals you want.
Do you want only lender referrals, non-lender referrals, or both?

Do you want to work for private individuals, mortgage brokers, banks, government agencies, or attorneys?

What type of lender referrals do you want? Commercial, residential, mortgage brokers, foreclosures, etc.
What geographic area do you want to emphasize (a city, county, multi-county, or state).
What types of properties do you want to appraise? Homes, apartments, vacant land, hotels, industrial property, etc.

What should you say to a referral source?
Many people confuse real estate appraisers and real estate agents. Be sure the person you are speaking with understands that you are not looking for a listing.

Tell the prospect about your expertise in appraising. For example, you appraise residential properties in your county and have been doing it for 10 years and are state certified.

Match your message to the person you are speaking with. If it’s someone who doesn’t know what an appraiser does, you need to tell the person.

If you’re speaking with someone with real estate experience, you could be more specific, saying, for example: “My firm does lots of work for attorneys in Suffolk County, including estates, divorce, and litigation.”

Directly asking for a referral is extremely important. If you are unable to do this, don’t waste your time looking for more referrals. Practice saying the words, for example: “If you know of someone who needs an appraisal, have them give me a call. If I can’t help them I can give them the name of another knowledgeable appraiser.”

What about writing and speaking?
Speaking to groups is an extremely effective way to increase your referrals.  Instead of having to speak one-to-one with 20 or 30 people, you can reach the whole group.

Whenever I have spoken to a group, I have always gotten referrals.    Targeted groups are the best, of course, for example, real estate agents, accountants, attorneys, or employees of government agencies.

Writing a regular column in a newspaper or Bar Association Journal can also be effective, but it does lack the personal touch of speaking.

What’s in it for the referral source?
The referral source is doing a favor for someone they know who needs an appraisal.
Both the person needing an appraisal and the appraiser benefit. The referral source helps both, and may get referrals to their own business.

The more the referral source knows about you, the better the referral. The person is more confident giving your name out. They don’t want to be embarrassed by giving someone your name and you don’t return a call or do a good job.

Since referral sources are not receiving any monetary benefits, thanking them is very important.

What if you just want to work for lenders?
I don’t ever recommend only working for lenders. Lender business is notoriously fickle, typically with wide ranges in the volume of work and little appraiser loyalty.

Most referral business is for non-lender work such as estate, probate, divorce, and other tax or legal related work.

But if you only want to work for lenders, you can get business from referrals. You never know when the person next to you in the ladies’ room washing her hands is a chief appraiser or high producer mortgage broker, who knows of someone looking for an appraiser.

Or, the person sitting next to you at your daughter’s soccer game could be in charge of a big bank’s foreclosure or trust department and knows of another lender looking for appraisers.

The best way I know of to get on lender lists (and to get more lender business) is by having real estate agents, developers, or mortgage brokers strongly encourage lenders to use your services.

You need to be very clear with your contacts that you only want referrals for lender work.

Market Your Appraisal Services: 59 Ways to Get More Business Now(Opens in a new browser tab)

Lots more appraisal business tips