NEWS

Real estate appraisers hopping during construction and home-buying upticks

Busy season

Kevin Hunter of Hunter Appraisal Service makes notes in one of the bathrooms as he reviews a newly constructed home at 4
Kevin Hunter of Hunter Appraisal Service makes notes in one of the bathrooms as he reviews a newly constructed home at 403 Cimarron Dr. in Hiawatha. (Stephen Mally/Freelance)

This is the busy season for Jonathan Westercamp.

While commercial real estate appraisal work remains steady throughout the year, said Westercamp, senior appraiser with Appraisal Associates Co. in Cedar Rapids, “We do see pick up in the spring and summer which is due to prime construction seasons.”

Residential real estate appraisers experience a similar trend — spring and summer, after all, is the biggest time for home sales.

“With an all-time low for interest rates right now, it makes us even busier,” added Kevin Hunter, owner and appraiser with Hunter Appraisal Service in Cedar Rapids.

An appraiser’s job usually starts with a financial institution.

“A lending institution approves credit and decides to give a loan,” Hunter said. “The lending institution then hires me to go out and put a value on the property so they don’t loan too much against the property.”

Hunter has been doing his work for the past 13 years, providing residential real estate appraisals for mortgage lending purposes, estates, divorces and market studies.

“Basically we do the appraisal for anyone wanting to know what their residence is worth,” he said.

The same is true of commercial real estate appraisers, only on a bigger scale.

“The major difference is the level of detail between a residential and commercial appraisal,” Westercamp said. “Typically a residential report has one to two approaches to value, with less detail. Commercial appraisals are more complex and time consuming.

“A residential report may be 3 or 4 pages, where a commercial report can be over 100 pages.”

Westercamp explained that his work varies from consultation to very detailed reports.

“The appraisal process of gathering information includes inspection of the site, gathering legal records, financial records, physical information and interviewing the property owner. Then I assemble the data on not only the subject property but also the comparable properties to develop the appraisal.”

“Reports can vary in level of detail, specific to the clients requirements,” Westercamp said, making it clear that fees are based per project and depend on their length and complexity. “Our fees are not based upon values.”

SCOPE AND NEEDS

Through the process, long-term business partnerships can develop.

“Dependent on the scope of the project and client’s needs, our work may start with the feasibility of the project in the conceptual stage, all the way to after the purchase, or estate planning,” Westercamp said.

“We have many clients we do repeat work for, as well as new clients,” he added.

“It’s a lot of referrals and building relationships, doing business with them personally,” Hunter agreed.

Hunter works in a seven-county area that includes Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Westercamp and his five co-workers cover the state as well as surrounding states for special purpose properties.

Becoming a certified appraiser can keep them busy, too. It requires a four-year degree and a trainee process, plus completion of field experiences and classes to obtain a state real-estate appraisal license. Once certified, Hunter explained, continuing education is required to remain current with the laws of the appraisal process.

But it’s worth it, if the latest CNN Money “Best Jobs in America” list can be believed. Real estate appraiser finished No. 8 among 50 positions, with an average pay of $66,216.And its 10-year job growth outlook? According to the CNN Money list, real estate appraisers came in at 22.78 percent.

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