Why are there so few women commercial appraisers?

Rear view at architects looking at pc screen while working with scanned copy of building plan, property value estimation, real estate appraisal, construction investment, close up, focus on laptop

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a woman in the commercial appraising industry? According to data provided by the Appraisal Institute, women in the industry made up only 21% of all appraisers in 2019. Whereas, in real estate 70% of sales agents are female and 61% are real estate brokers. So why is there such a huge disparity between women who sell real estate and women who appraise it? 

To find out, I had a conversation with two of North by Northwest’s youngest trainee appraisers who also happen to both be women, Natalie Lathan and Erin Hogge. I wanted to know what it’s really like to write appraisals inside a very male-dominated industry. 

Considering Commercial Appraising

In both cases, Natalie and Erin hadn’t initially intended to become commercial real estate appraisers. They came to the career by accident. Natalie had come from a background in psychology. She had worked as a probation officer and also owned her own business before she took a job at NxNW working in research and data. It was then that she began to learn more about the path to becoming an appraiser, the education and requirements involved in becoming certified, and decided it was something she’d like to pursue. 

For Erin, the path to becoming a commercial appraiser has been a bit different. Erin revealed that after ten years as a stay-at-home mom she was ready to reenter the workforce. But didn’t know where to start. She took an online personality test to see where she would be a good fit. One of the suggestions was to be a commercial appraiser. She started taking appraiser classes and then started looking for firms. It just so happened that North by Northwest was just down the street from where Erin lived. And it didn’t hurt that the team already there was incredibly welcoming. 

The Pathway to Commercial Appraising

Both Natalie and Erin had had some initial reservations about joining the industry. Partially because it was male dominated. And also because it was so different from what either of them had done before. But they quickly found that despite some general surprise at appraiser events when peers are introduced and learn that they’re two younger women in the field, they’ve both been met with incredibly welcoming attitudes. Erin told me, “sometimes when I speak to reviewers I think they like that women are getting involved in the field. I think they want diversity. No one has questioned my work. They seem very welcoming.” 

Natalie agreed and made the case that the surprise might equally have as much to do with their younger ages to most commercial appraisers. “They are surprised by our ages. A lot of them are much older and have a lot more experience in the industry. The barriers to entry are more around the education requirement of a bachelor’s degree. Plus the education to become an appraiser is extensive. Add on top of that that you have to clock 3,000 hours of commercial work. This is more than most other entries for other industries. All of that has kept people out for a long time. That’s why there is a great divide in ages.” 

Theories on Why Few Women Enter the Industry

As for why there are so few women in the industry, Erin and Natalie had some theories. In order to become a certified appraiser you need to have a supervisor. The supervisor has to mentor you until you’re ready to work on your own. You also need to spend a lot of time with that supervisor. Time on assignments, in their office, in their home, on long car journeys, and it all adds up to significant time. It might be that because most commercial appraisers are older men they simply feel uncomfortable about mentoring a younger woman. 

“The key component is finding someone willing to train you and those that are able are mostly older male appraisers. They work on their own. There are not a lot of larger appraisal firms. Their likelihood of taking on a young female to train is small. Also, they are mindful that they’d be training their competition. All things considered, it seems they will be more comfortable hiring a male trainee,” Erin explained. 

The Importance of Support

Part of the appeal of North by Northwest for Erin and Natalie is that the company is a firm with a lot of support. “NxNW is so open and doesn’t see gender and that sort of thing. Personally, in our work environment, I haven’t experienced any sexism but it is definitely a male dominated field,” Erin said. 

Natalie revealed that a big reassurance for her starting at North by Northwest was knowing that Erin was training alongside her, was of a similar age, and also starting from scratch in a new industry. “We feel lucky to have each other on the team because we are close in age and on the same path. It was good to have her support. Once a month I feel really frustrated because in appraising you’re constantly presented with new problems and situations that are different to one’s you’ve seen before. While you lack experience, that can be very disheartening. So we cheer each other on and we offer each other that extra support system.”

Who Should Consider Appraising?

When I asked what kind of person would be suited to commercial appraising, who might not have considered the pathway before, Erin told me it would suit someone very patient. “You have to be willing to take criticism. You have to take constructive criticism. Your supervisor, the banks, and reviewers are all going to look at your report and want significant changes. You have to realize you’re going to make mistakes and learn from them.” Natalie suggested the career would suit someone who is willing to ask for help. “The truth is that it takes a long time to learn all of this process and you will be forced to ask for help.”

Both Natalie and Erin are happy in their commercial appraising career and are amazed how much they’ve learned in just over a year. At first neither of them were sure if it was something they’d even be able to do and now they’re well within the swing of the process. They’ve handled some challenging situations like having to do a valuation on a property being eaten away by a sinkhole and also properly managing to de-escalate an issue raised by clients while on-site. Altogether they’re happy they have become commercial appraisers and recommend more women consider it as a career option.  

If you’re interested in becoming an appraiser or want to know more about our community at North by Northwest, please get in touch today!