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Lower interest rates have generated so much work that professional appraisers everywhere are struggling to keep up. Many appraisers choose to hire trainees as a solution to meeting their client commitments. While this may appear to be a good solution, be aware of the potential hidden costs and risks to your firm.


An appraiser must remember that it is not enough to simply hire a trainee. The trainee must also be supervised and proper supervision involves a significant time commitment. As a result, the appraiser should give serious thought to whether he or she should hire more than one trainee at a time. If we see a single licensed appraiser with multiple trainees, it raises a red flag. There are immediate concerns and questions about whether those trainees are receiving the training and supervision they need and deserve. How can a busy appraiser keep up with a heavy workload and supervise multiple trainees?

Unfortunately, we have seen claims that were the result of a supervising appraiser doing nothing more than signing off on a report improperly completed by a trainee. In addition to the risk of legal action, improper supervision of trainees may result in the loss or restriction of your license.


State appraiser boards regulate trainees and have established guidelines for the supervising appraiser. When working with trainees, be sure you know the answers to these questions:

  • If the trainee is performing the inspection, should you, as the supervising appraiser, be in attendance?
  • Should the trainee's name be mentioned in the report as someone who assisted in the preparation?
  • Can the trainee sign the report?
  • Should you sign the report indicating your review, even though you did no inspection?

Since the answers vary from state to state, it is up to the supervising appraiser to adhere to your state's regulations. If you cannot confidently answer these questions, check with your state appraiser board before hiring and when working with trainees.

If handled properly, the addition of trainees to your appraisal practice may provide a cost-effective increase in volume and allow you to maintain the quality you have worked so hard to achieve. Before looking for trainee candidates, you must commit to make available many hours of training and supervision.


Tell Tale Claims...

The Trainee Cover-Up

One particular claim involving a trainee will always stick in our minds. A lender sued an appraiser for over-appraising a commercial building. It was claimed that the building was virtually worthless because it had no plumbing or electricity. The loan balance would not have been recovered if the necessary improvements were to have been made. The lender argued that the loan never would have been approved had the true building conditions been reported.

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Initially, the appraiser seemed baffled by the allegations. At first, he claimed that what he thought was a bathroom turned out to be a closet. He found the door closed and did not go inside. The matter of the electricity was another story. He swore that the building was occupied with people, sitting at desks, working on computers and that lights were on.

After further investigation, we learned that the building in question shared a common wall with the building next door. The same individual owned both buildings. People who worked at the building in question used the bathroom next door, and extension cords were run from one building to the other through a large hole in the common wall. The property appraised truly had no utilities present.

When faced with this information, the appraiser finally admitted that a trainee was sent out to do the inspection and he had not actually seen the premises. He didn't mention this before because he had signed the report and stated that he had personally inspected the property.

The "Valuable" Helper

Another appraiser was overworked and hired a trainee to help with the workload. On certain assignments, the trainee just did some research. On others, the trainee did the whole report, including the inspections. In all cases, the supervising appraiser signed as if he had done them himself. After one problem appraisal was brought to the attention of the state appraiser board, an investigation determined that numerous reports had been improperly prepared. Unbeknownst to the appraiser, the trainee was fabricating comparable sales data to complete assignments. The appraiser ultimately had his license revoked due to his failure to properly supervise the trainee.


On average, an appraisal claim is submitted 2-3 years after the appraisal is completed. By that time, the trainee who helped with the assignment in question may no longer be available. It is critical that you coach your trainees to produce files that are well documented, with legible notes and copies of all research data. Here's what to add to your training checklist:

  • Readable notes from the field inspection, including clarification of anything that could generate a question
  • Print-outs of information from public records
  • Print-outs of data used for comps presented, with notes on reasons for selection
  • Print-outs of data used for comps not used, with notes on reasons for rejection
  • Interior and exterior photos

REMEMBER: YOU WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR YOUR TRAINEE'S WORK. Be sure that you understand everything in the file before affixing your signature. The time it takes to do this is well worth it! To the entire world, you are responsible for any work product that bears your name.


Coaching a trainee can provide you with a good review of the procedures necessary for proper file documentation. If you are a coach, be a reliable one. Contribute meaningfully to the development of your trainee's career. The quality of the training you give is a reflection of your professionalism.

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