I became a real estate appraiser for the freedom from the ‘9 to 5’ corporate world. Being in a corporate office never felt right for me and at the time, I knew of an appraiser who seemed to have the ideal lifestyle. He had worked from home, was a family man and lived in a good suburb in the area. He lived pretty comfortably and even was able to squeeze in golf time during the week.
As a real estate appraiser currently, I can genuinely attest to the fact that the real estate appraiser career can be extremely stressful. The main stress factor is due dates on open orders. It would be nice to have a 100+ order queue with no due date however that’s never the case. While due dates can vary, most due dates for orders fall within 2 – 7 days from inspection. Now this will vary depending if you are doing AMC (Appraisal Mortgage Company), private or VA work. In some states, the VA (Veterans Affairs) allows up to 10 days for turn times! (They are an A+ client to have).
Especially if you are new to appraising, Most of the volume revolves around the lending world and because of this the experiences you or may have have with appraising may be affected by this. Let me explain.
Around the time of the 2007 / 2008 housing crisis, the appraiser I worked for at the time had very limited work. During this time I had more opportunities to indulge in a hobby or spend time with family. Fast forward a decade and with low interest rates, there was a refi-boom sweeping the nation. Recalling the time not having work, you begin having the mindset of taking on incredible amounts of orders so that it can carry you over any potential lull to come your way. It’s a total feast and famine paradigm.
The problem is that at this time I was on my own and the refi boom hadn’t slowed down. I personally didn’t know a slow appraiser at the time. But I also didn’t know an appraiser who had time for themselves. We all seemed to be working like mad to stay on top of the lending volume in our area.
It’s important to take this into perspective because it is inevitable that the housing market will cool down again and diversifying in REO, private, estate, divorce work, etc will help if things become too slow.
I speak to both extremes because the volume tends to dictate how much free time you will have in your day. And after a few years of trying to squeeze in multiple orders a day, you will find that there is more to life than making money as an appraiser. You need to have a system in place. That system will depend if you work for a small appraisal outfit, you’re independent, or work for a larger firm.
You WILL need a system in place. This is crucial in keeping boundaries for work and family. Remember that this career path should provide freedom from an office job. Don’t let the feast take over your personal life and conversely, don’t let the famine mode limit your life.
Here are some helpful tips on having a healthy personal life as an appraiser.
- Time tracking: Whether you are starting out or are a longtime appraiser, time tracking is the first step. Decide on a limit you work daily and stick to that limit regardless of the volume. If you find yourself unable to do this, a system has to be in place. Good free tools out there are Clockify and T-sheets. Clockify has a completely free version where T-sheets is trial based. This will at the very least show you what your time is truly worth.
- Set boundaries between professional and work life: Decide on a time that are your working hours. With a family you want to make sure work is shut off after the time you set and enjoy life outside of appraising. If you are a new appraiser do not use a personal email and/or cell phone as a form of business communications. It’s simple enough to split the personal ties by using a virtual number and professional email. Not only will you look more professional but it will also provide a good boundary from the work infiltrating your family life.
- Family First / Work Second: Whether it’s your son or daughters piano lesson or basketball practice, schedule that first before scheduling in the orders. Appraising has the flexibility for this. Live your life before you spend the time on orders. It doesn’t go unrecognized that to enjoy life, you need to have some means of income. The point here isn’t to just put work on the back burner but to prioritize family events first and work can usually be molded around it.
- Exercise: Personally, I find that exercising in the morning is not only the best way to start the day but loosens the body up and keeps me feeling as limber as I can be. It also aided as a stress reliever. 6 to 9 am or pm are good windows for exercise. Don’t let that cut into family dinners. Can you exercise with a family member? If so then why not.
- Plan the next workday before you leave the office: I personally use my work phone with my appointments synced to a calendar so it’s very simple for me to check on my agenda for the next day. Having a simple and quick way to review the day can alleviate stress from the unknown and help plan. In my calendar, I keep what inspections I have for the day along with due dates for orders that need to be sent out. All you need is a simple high level view of the day’s task.
- Plan your inspections for you: If borrowers could, they would almost always likely try to schedule a time after 5pm or on the weekend. I rarely conduct any inspections within those times. It would have to be an extreme reason for me to do so. Are you a rural or urban appraiser? Most of my work is within small cities and the surrounding suburban areas however traffic can still be a pain and a time drain. Try to plan your travel time for inspections and comp photos during low traffic hours. Now-a-days Google provides Google traffic reports which are extremely useful. Likely however you probably already know what times are times to avoid being on the road but it is good data to review. Another helpful tip is to write down in the front of your planner or task list things you need to get done for the household or personal things you want to do. You need to stop at Home Depot or go to pay that bill? Maybe you have a friend nearby on the next inspection. Plan a trip that encompasses something else so that you can avoid clustering all that “stuff” for the weekend. You might as well do whatever you likely were saving for the weekend while you’re in the area. This saves a huge amount of time, it’s worth getting the chores done while you’re in the area.
- Edification While Driving: Regardless if you are an appraiser or not, there are so many other forms of entertainment and information that there is little reason to listen to terrestrial radio. Sign up for Podcasts that feed your mind. I love listening to appraiser podcasts and mixing it with entertainment podcasts along with audiobooks from Audible for those longer journeys. Maximize that time learning something new!
- Software & Services: I’ll try to be impartial here but you’ll need software that makes form filling easier. There is one software company for appraisers that provides a mobile solution that personally I find works well and is a huge saver on time. Coming from an office that didn’t use it, I can genuinely say it’s a huge savings of time week by allowing parts of the form to be filled on the inspection. Also Software as a Service (SAS) can be helpful in aiding the form filling process out. Datamasters is another great tool in helping save you time.
- Assistants: Whether it’s a receptionist, assistant, trainee or virtual assistant, having help improves quality. With an additional set of eyes on the work, it removes the blinders we tend to have when reviewing our own work.
- Breaks: Like at any job, you should be giving yourself breaks. Get up and out on your breaks. Personally I set reminders for myself and call a friend or family member during this time and spend the time catching up on things unrelated to work. Tend to a hobby during this time.
- Take Vacation: Personally, I find that without some break within the year, time goes by quickly and too seamlessly. Take a 3 day weekend here and there to split up the year and make it memorable. The mundane is hard to discern from where when you throw in a random getaway, it provides as a fun memory or milestone to reflect on. Take a real vacation. While the getaways are nice, having an annual trip to look forward to helps keep a positive perspective. Also because scheduling is flexible flights and trips are usually more affordable if you’re willing to go during off-peak times.
- Be grateful: Be grateful you have your senses. Take time and be appreciative of the little things. Being grateful of the small things is a good habit for building a positive aura.