The average income for home appraisers is $52,600 as of September 2018, although a certified residential real estate appraiser can earn $150,000 or more. Trainees earn considerably less with annual earnings before taxes as low as $10,000. An appraiser's salary is highly dependent on the appraiser's level of experience and licensing. 

Trainee Appraiser

Trainees are paid a small fee for each home appraisal. Payments start as low as $50 and increase to $150 as the trainee develops the competence to do most of the work unassisted. Expected compensation during the training period is $1,000 to $3,000 per month. The majority of the few salaried appraiser trainee positions are available at commercial appraisal firms or government tax assessor’s offices.

A trainee needs at least 1,000 hours of training before qualifying to take the real estate appraiser licensing exam. Residential appraisal trainees must complete a licensing training course and obtain a trainee license before being considered for employment. Potential trainees must seek out a licensed real estate appraiser who is willing to supervise their work. Some licensed appraisers require trainees to pay an upfront fee as compensation for the initial training period. Trainees are covered by their supervisor's errors and omissions insurance (E&O) and are given access to required data services.

Residential Appraiser

Salaries start at about $35,000 and top out at $80,000 for licensed appraisers. There are a few management positions that pay more than $100,000. Appraisers can work for an appraisal management company (AMC), lending institution or government agency. Most salaried jobs are for tax assessors or appraisal reviewers, though there are some positions for field appraisers.

Independent fee appraisers perform the majority of appraisals for conforming mortgages, refinancing or home equity loans. Post-housing crisis financial reforms require the use of unaffiliated appraisers for most mortgage appraisals. Independent appraisers are paid per job. In 2018, standard fees for a Fannie Mae-compliant appraisal are approximately $400. Assignments from AMCs pay in a range of $200 to $350. Doing an appraisal per day for 50 weeks gives a gross income of $50,000 to $100,000.

Certified Residential Appraiser

Certified appraisers can earn gross incomes of $75,000 to $200,000. The higher level of income goes to appraisers who have trainees or standard appraisers working for them, or live in areas with large numbers of expensive homes. A certified residential appraiser must have at least 1,500 hours of experience as an appraiser and pass a special licensing test. The appraisal of any home with a value of more than $1 million, or considered complex, must be completed by a certified appraiser. The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) sets the standards for complex appraisals. Certified appraisers are in demand for appraisals of any size for use in legal proceedings connected to a divorce, estate or tax litigation.

Certified residential appraisers are in higher demand and may charge more for their services. By law, appraisers are not allowed to base their fees on the value of a home. They compensate for this restriction by having a square footage surcharge set to the approximate size. Total fees can run in the $500 to $750 range, or higher.

Bottom Line

Although they command a higher-than-average salary, independent fee appraisers are responsible for all of their expenses. A basic E&O policy costs $1,000 per year. Software licensing, data services, professional association membership fees and continuing education cost at least $4,000. On top of these base expenses, the appraiser still needs to pay for supplies, marketing, utilities, workspace, self-employment tax and automobile expenses. Appraiser training course companies paint rosy pictures of easy money and high incomes for real estate appraisers. The reality is that the work is time-consuming, and the top earnings belong to people who work long hours and are good at running their own business.