Enhancing the Appraisal Process: An Alternative Pathway for Aspiring Appraisers

This past September, Stellar MLS partnered with the Appraisal Institute to launch its Practical Applications of Real Estate Appraisal program (AI PAREA)an initiative that provides an alternative pathway for aspiring appraisers to gain the experience hours required to become a licensed or certified appraiser, using a standardized approach. 

A collaboration designed to benefit both real estate professionals and consumers by enhancing the appraisal process, the online program offers both a licensed residential and certified residential credential. 

Before AI PAREA, the only way to accomplish this was through a supervisor and trainee model, requiring the trainee to find their own supervisor.

Now, participants can appraise properties virtually with an Appraisal Institute Designated Member to mentor them through the path to credentialing. 

A partnership is born

Stephen S. Wagner, head of content development and a former president of the Appraisal Institute, says there was a strong need in the market for an alternative way to get appraisers their experience hours, as there continued to be a shortage of supervisors.

“Depending on the market and where one lived, you couldn’t even get a supervisor, and it would often take a long time because the supervisor was busy or unavailable,” he says. “This is a way to get ramped up in some of those areas and replace the supply of appraisers as people retire.” 

Ray Martinez, senior manager of technology-based education at the Appraisal Institute, notes that there are important things you want someone who is becoming an appraiser to know and do. Therefore, a lot of thought went into designing AI PAREA to ensure it included all the critical components.  

“The participants will have already had all of their qualifying education, but they still need the experience, so we designed a program that would emulate a real-world experience,” he says. “One of the things we wanted to emulate as much as possible is doing real appraisals, which requires the technology and software you would use in everyday life. And one of the important things to use is an MLS system.” 

That’s where Stellar MLS’ involvement came in. 

Merri Jo Cowen, CEO of Stellar MLS, explains that her involvement came after attending a National Association of REALTORS’ committee meeting in 2021, where then-president of the Appraisal Institute spoke as a guest, and informed the audience that the Institute was looking for help with its new program to assist would-be appraisers get through their licensing requirements.

“Apparently, there was a shortage of industry professionals who could mentor, and help was needed for pre-training,” says Cowen. “I felt that it was a great way to help the industry. If they don’t have the ability to learn, it will hinder everyone. Getting more training out there ultimately helps the consumers because there are more choices.”

Cowen reached out, the first MLS to do so, and things were quickly set in motion.

“We have a secondary database that they used, and we set up some pre-training to show their students how to use the system,” says Cowen, who notes that it took about a year to get everything in order. 

Even though the world is changing as far as how appraisals are conducted, with new rules and regulations, Cowen explains that there will always be a need for the personal touch as well as the knowledge level provided by appraisals. 

“There is a shortage of appraisers because there is a shortage of opportunities for the pre-licensed appraisers to get in the hours they need in the MLS to get their practice in. It has to be live data, so by opening up this opportunity, it’s going to benefit the whole marketplace,” says Cowen. “This is going to help lift up the industry across the whole country.” 

Each mentor will answer questions, offer constructive feedback and help participants develop the problem-solving skills necessary throughout an appraiser’s career. The properties they see are from various locations throughout the U.S., providing a broad breadth of experience via different property types in different market areas.

According to Wagner, it’s an alternative route to gain experience, but one that will make a big difference by allowing those who hit roadblocks getting in a simpler way to do so.

“There’s education involved in it, but it’s really taking the education they already received from their qualifying education courses and putting it to work in an environment designed to emulate what it would be like to work for a supervisor and train in the field,” says Wagner. “That includes going out to look at houses and real property and putting together an appraisal report for clients.”

Another benefit associated with AI PAREA is consistency in training.

“We have an opportunity to provide a very even process across the board where our participants are receiving the same type of training, which will be good for the industry as a whole,” adds Wagner. “We wanted to move in this direction for a while, so there’s been a lot of design and a lot of development before opening it up to the world.”

When appraisers finish the AI PAREA program, they’ll be fully licensed, so they can go straight into the business.  

For more information, visit https://www.stellarmls.com/.

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