How Appraisers Deal with Difficult Homeowners

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Dealing with Difficult Homeowners

Being a real estate appraiser can be a fascinating career. After an apprenticeship under a seasoned veteran and finishing up the pre-license/certification coursework, the adventure can truly begin. However, one thing no amount of classroom instruction nor experience as an apprentice can impart is dealing with difficult homeowners/customers. The first thing you need to do is eliminate any thought of them as “the client” right now. Yes, even if they are the ones paying you.

Be Polite and Professional

In an industry that deals with the public, especially one that deals with the largest, most expensive asset of said public, this should always be the ideal your practice is built upon. When introducing yourself, it’s a good idea to present them with a business card. Now, let’s look at some of the issues you will inevitably come across.

Idle Chit Chat

Small talk is a part of life, and it would be rude in the extreme to ignore the person escorting you through the house. But, beware! Even the most innocuous comment can be twisted far out of shape.

Example: An appraiser was viewing the subject property while wearing a unique jacket with the logo of a local professional sports team emblazoned on it. The owner commented on it and she asked where he’d gotten it. He told her where he bought it and remarked that he’d never seen it for sale anywhere else. When the appraisal didn’t meet what the house was “worth” to the client, the seemingly innocent comment became a “10-minute ramble about the team that bored her to death” in a complaint to the lender.

The Proffered Comp

Many times, the customer who meets you will have a list of properties they want you to use as comparable. Maybe they had a friend or relative who is an agent run off a printout from the local MLS, or they know of a sale or listing nearby. Handling this can be tricky because the owner is anxious to “prove” the value of their home. It’s best to just take the list and reply with noncommittal phrases like:

  • Thank you, I’ll look them over (and do so because sometimes they have ones that don’t show up in your typical databases).
  • That’s appreciated. The more information, the better.
  • Wow! This might just save me some time.

Never, ever promise to use them. If it turns out you shoehorned one of their properties into your report just to appease them, your state board is likely to come-a-calling. Generally, after the lender has had to foreclose on the property.

The Do-It-Yourselfer

People like to tinker, and save money. Experienced appraisers have come across many DIY projects. Everything from the simple light switch installation up to something a bit more complex…a whole-house rewiring (true story).

A proud homeowner naturally wants to show off the effort they’ve put into the upkeep of the property. Sometimes, you can honestly say it is done in a “workmanship like manner,” which is industry jargon meaning it’s well done. Other times you wonder if the house will be standing next Thursday. Best advice, take a picture or two of all of them, include them in the report and describe your impressions.

As an appraiser, you are tasked with making judgments about a person’s pride and joy. You will run into people who take exception to your conclusions. Remember to keep a level head, and know that you’re building valuable experience with each new client.