Over the past year, beginning with this NY Times piece: Black Homeowners Face Discrimination in Appraisals that initiated a rising progression of news stories covering discrimination in the appraisal of houses. And most recently, this CNN piece: When a Black homeowner concealed her race, her home’s appraisal value doubled.
So I looked at U.S. labor force data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS], which ranked the top 400 occupations by sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. I’ve been an appraiser for 35 years and it’s been very clear that there is nominal diversity in my profession. For users of the industry’s services who have constantly complained about “appraisal shortages” (translated: a shortage of appraisers willing to work for 50% to 75% below the market rate) – here is your opportunity for action to expand our ranks.
The appraisal industry is aging out because it is hard to bring in youth. It is one of the only professions that require new entrants to have a mentor for their first two years and often without making a living, financially. One of the key reasons for this is because most financial institutions won’t accept a “trainee” until they are licensed or certified with two years of experience. A “trainee” is a derogatory term applied to an appraiser that is not licensed yet. While the GSEs like Fannie and Freddie are fine with “trainees” signing reports prior to their two-year experience threshold, most banks are not. Existing appraisers are all for the difficult entry because supply and demand are in their favor. Few other professions have this two-year mentorship period before an entrant can make a living.
Accountants don’t require a two year mentorship program before they can make a living. Free market conditions should let those with more experience make more money, but not zero.
As a result, entry into the appraiser profession via a mentor system essentially requires appraisers to have relatives that will hire and train them. Given the beginnings of the housing industry as explained next, you can see the problem with this approach.
…and racial covenants. No wonder why there is essentially no diversity in the appraisal profession.
These BLS numbers for 400 occupations show an incredible lack of diversity within the appraisal profession. In fact, U.S. appraisers were ranked dead last for diversity in the list of 400 occupations tracked by BLS with white appraisers comprising 96.5% of the industry. Here are some appraiser ratios from BLS.
And here are the 20 least diverse occupations. The appraisal industry is even less diverse than farmers & ranchers.
While The Appraisal Foundation [TAF] was created and enabled by Congress to maintain appraisal standards (ASB) and minimum qualifications (AQB) for entry into the appraisal profession, it was also created to protect the public trust. The Appraisal Foundation’s attempt to address diversity has largely been in the form of “checking a box” to be able to say they are working on it. Yet the only actions they have taken were the result of recent public pressure by people like myself and others to call them out. The most glaring tone-deaf situations at TAF demonstrate how inappropriate it would be to allow TAF to lead any diversity efforts in the profession:
- An African-American had never held a board seat on the Appraiser Qualifications Board (AQB) until 2021. In other words, for more than thirty years, the organization has existed in a racial bubble.
- There have only been three women who have served on the AQB in the past 30 years.
- The head of the just-formed “diversity commission” is white and male.
Since TAF has not been able to see the problem for more than three decades until outsiders pointed it out and they have continued to make decisions that demonstrate their disconnect, TAF leadership is essentially the starting point to resolve the lack of industry diversity problem. Top-down is how this gets fixed if the stakeholders in the industry actually want it fixed. We have no leadership on this issue within the industry and solving this problem has to be top-down or it won’t ever be resolved.
It’s time for Congress to step in.