Becoming a certified general appraiser is not easy. It requires many hours of course work, acquiring professional designations, and spending dedicated time networking to gain trust and experience in your area. On top of all of that prerequisite work, each state has its own specific rules and regulations for appraising. So with all of these barriers to entry into the field, why would it be worthwhile to get certified in multiple states? We spoke to one appraiser who told us why its working well for him.
Kris Koehler is a certified general appraiser with North by Northwest Consulting. Additionally he owns his own company based out of Colorado. And he is certified as an appraiser in three states: North Carolina, Colorado and Illinois, where he is originally from. Kris met North by Northwest CEO, Anthony Alderman at an International Right of Way annual education conference in Edmonton, AB Canada in 2018. Roughly a year after that, Kris started doing contract work for NxNW. Since then, Kris says, Anthony has become a good friend and they have an amazing working relationship.
Taking Initiative to Go Further
Kris started appraising in 2013 as a trainee. He noted that it takes a long time to get the certified general appraiser’s license. The minimum time limit is 2 ½ years. And, with lots of pressure from his boss, he did it in exactly that time. “I started as an appraiser in training. My wife and I had our first child, and I had my first experience with ROW, all within the same year,” Kris shared.
Then, he was only appraising as a certified general appraiser for less than three years before he started his own company.
Kris is also very involved in the IRWA and works as an independent contractor for various public agencies. Including departments of transportation in all three states where he is certified. He is the vice chair of the INEC, at the IRWA and started in ROW in 2012, as a negotiator. Kris jokes that he was inspired to get involved in leadership during his first ever IRWA meeting in Illinois, when he was nominated to be Vice President of his local chapter.
“At the time, I didn’t even know what the IRWA was about, but they went ahead and nominated me at my first meeting to be VP. And that’s how I started out on the board. I got more and more involved as I worked my way up through the chapter where I finished as president.”
“I think that speaks to how within the IRWA you’re really encouraged to get involved. It’s very inclusive and people seem to have an interest in your professional development. They really push you to do more. Whereas so many professional associations are more old school and stick to their exclusive group of people. The IRWA is very different,” Kris shared.
Kris was encouraged to become involved on the international level of the IRWA when the incoming international president, who happened to be from Kris’s region, and therefore someone Kris had already worked with and knew, asked him to be the region representative for the international nominations and elections committee. “She told me there was an opening on the INEC committee, and I’ve been on that ever since. I started in 2016,” he explained.
The Advantages of Being a Certified Appraiser in Multiple States
Kris shared that being a certified appraiser in three states has its advantages and challenges. Of course, it’s a learning curve. “There are a lot of similarities, 98% of stuff I’ve done is for DOT’s. The federal rules that oversee everything remain the same. But then every state has their own rules, which require new learning and training. Fortunately, every state has a manual about how their policies and procedures work. The basic structure is the same; it’s just the details that get more complicated within that,” Kris said.
A good rule of thumb for Kris if he is working in a new state is to ask whoever invited him to do work there to help get him up to speed. In North Carolina, North by Northwest Consulting therefore helped Kris with his training and adjustment to the state procedures. “That’s the nice thing about having a local company to work with. I do the same thing with the IRWA. I’m happy to share work back with you, that’s the IRWA connection. To me that’s so much better than cold calling,” Kris laughed.
Another advantage to being certified in multiple states is that there is a more constant stream of work. “I originally decided to work in more states because things slowed down in Illinois, and I had seen that happen to the appraisers who trained me as well as other appraisers in IL,. So then the general rule of ‘don’t put your eggs in one basket’, is especially true in appraising.”
“Most appraisers just go with the ebbs and flows, they just get by. I can’t operate like that. I wanted to expand myself, and I knew if I moved out there, I wouldn’t get pigeon-holed. Being certified in more than one state means there is a diversity of work. The problem with CO is it’s a tight knit clique, which is hard to break into. But once I started working with Anthony, I found a lot of work in NC. So now I have greater options and more reliability,” Kris said.
What’s Next for Kris
Currently, Kris is excited there is so much work, and so many projects to be involved in. “I’m grateful that we had steady work during the pandemic, North by Northwest had the only project in NC during that time. That set us up to be the go-to guys. I think it is relevant that the average age of an appraiser is 60 something, so when the pandemic happened, many of them saw it as the time to retire, or else to go back to bank work.”
“Now, with fewer people in the field, NxNW has so much work we almost can’t handle it all. I flew in last night, I’m inspecting two random bridge projects, working on a new large project with a couple of hundred parcels in Indian Trail, and finishing up a small project in Boonville. That’s fun for me, I enjoy traveling and meeting with property owners,” Kris said.
Next for Kris, he is looking forward to the prospect of buying property in Colorado with his family. “Since we moved to CO we have been renting, but we are closing on a property now in CO, and we are toying with the idea of building. We are also hoping that the guy that owns the house we are renting, who is in the military and currently based in Germany, might sell this house. We love where we live, and we would be glad to buy it. Overall, Kris believes that being diverse in the industry, though it is challenging to learn the different state DOT rules and be on their lists to be an approved appraiser, is one sure way of finding a steady stream of work, solid networking and success as an appraiser.