While the appraisal industry is vast and full of opportunities, it is often overlooked by college graduates due to lack of knowledge and understanding. Yet for many young people, appraising is the perfect career pathway- aligning their interests, strengths, and passions. Growing up on a dryland family farm in rural Eastern, Washington, Heidi Parr was no stranger to the agriculture industry. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Idaho, Parr knew agriculture would always be on her horizon. However, like many others, Parr was unable to return to production agriculture and landed, instead, in agriculture appraising.
Here to discuss the career opportunities of the appraisal industry is Heidi Parr, a Certified General Appraiser at AgVisory in Baltimore, Maryland.
Why did you pursue an appraisal career?
I first learned about appraisal when I was a junior in college after a sit down with the Dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, where he connected me with Ruby Stroschein. So, I met with her and she gave me a brief overview of what she does, and it just seemed like a really good fit. I ended up interning with her and then had another internship which ultimately led to me getting started in this career path. I wanted to stay in the field of agriculture but there wasn’t really an opportunity to come back on the production side and that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. So, this was a really good way to stay active in an industry I am passionate about but still be independent of my family’s farm.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Being in the field is definitely my favorite part because in appraisal you get to see a variety of operations that the general public doesn’t get to see. For example, I worked in Yakima, Washington for 3 years and the majority of the clients I worked with were orchardists, growing apples, pears, cherries. As an appraiser, I had the opportunity to visit packing warehouses, storage facilities, and it is just really cool to see how commodities truly go from farm to table. For me, that is when I feel the most connected to agriculture which is a driving force as to why I am in this career.
What are the basic requirements you must complete to be an appraiser?
To work in the field of agricultural appraisal you need a Certified General Appraisal license or a CGA. It requires 300 classroom hours and 3000 experience hours on top of a bachelor’s degree and then at the very end a 6-hour licensing exam.
What is your best advice for someone looking to go into appraisal?
First, I would say there is a huge need. I don’t think it is any secret, there is a lot of gray hair in the appraisal industry. My biggest piece of advice is if you are really interested, try and take some time to meet with an appraiser. Go in, interview them, job shadow and try to get a feel for what they do day-to-day. I know it can be hard but if you can find some way to maybe go on a field visit, see what they do in the office, get an internship- really just communicate that you are interested.
What is the biggest challenge of being an appraiser?
Getting information- specifically, comparable sales. Something that I didn’t quite understand how important it is when I started this career, and it isn’t always talked about, is how every appraiser has a method of getting information. As a young appraiser though, I don’t always have the connections the older appraisers do so getting good information, which is necessary to do quality work, can be very frustrating at times.
In agriculture specifically, appraising is getting more challenging because there is a lot of outside money coming into the industry. Farm investors, equity investors, they just bring a different perspective than a local small-town family orientated grower. So, obtaining information when evaluating those two very different market segments is very challenging and you’re going to have to approach those differently.
What is the day to day of an appraiser look like?
I’m sure everyone says this, but it depends on the day. Like I said before, I spend a lot of my time in the office where I am on the computer typically working through a report. Depending on where I am at in the report I might be working through one of the 3 approaches, working on an income analysis, looking at comparable sales data, calculating adjustments, I might be typing some background data on a subject property, making phone calls trying to verify sales information- there are a variety of components that go into writing a report. Then, of course, there is field time, but I would say most of my time is spent on a computer working through those different components of the report.
Why is appraisal a good career and what opportunities are available?
I think it is a good career because one, there are a lot of opportunities. There is a need for young folks to get involved so that’s a guaranteed job. Second, for folks like me who grew up on the farm family but aren’t going back but want to stay involved in the industry, it is a really great opportunity to stay involved and get connected. I think appraisers enjoy it because of the time they get in the field and in the office and seeing things general consumers wouldn’t always see.
How can interested people learn about opportunities?
These days technology is really advanced, and you can use that to your benefit. For example, ASFMRA has a website where job postings are available, and students can actually join for free. That is a good resource, the Appraisal Institute has something similar. LinkedIn has a feature where you can search for jobs and let recruiters know you are interested and open, you can set it to a specific area, what positions you are interested in. Really just spreading the word that you are interested, there are opportunities out there it is just a matter of finding them.
What would you recommend people to do to prepare to get into the field?
To get into this field, you do have to have a bachelor’s degree, there is no requirement as to what that bachelor’s degree has to be, but I would say if you are interested to try to highlight as many business classes as possible. If you are interested in a specific field like agriculture, take some agriculture classes. The appraisal classes are business orientated, so just knowing common finance and accounting, and just being able to speak to those terms would be beneficial.
You’re working in the real world with real information, and these people are trusting you with their finances, so you have to be able to be respectful and also hold an intelligent conversation with them. It also is never too early to start taking those appraisal courses! It is up to you and you really have to scale yourself on your interest to decide how to move forward.
Heidi M. Parr was raised on a dryland family farm operation in Garfield, WA and obtained a B.S. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Idaho in May 2016. Since then, she has pursued a professional career in the agricultural valuation industry and is currently employed as a Certified General Appraiser at AgVisory. Heidi has a background in permanent planting appraisal, though new opportunities in the commercial facilities sector are on her horizon. She resides in Baltimore, MD but believes travel is good for the soul and new experiences contribute to personal and professional growth.