High value: Trulaske alumni, students find new path to real estate appraisal industry

Joseph Hegger, Susan Smith and Fred Bereskin

From left to right: Joseph Hegger, Susan Smith and Fred Bereskin

By Stephen Schmidt

When many people hear the term “real estate appraisal,” their minds probably go to the residential side of the operation — with someone walking through a house with a flashlight in hand and a potential homeowner within earshot.

While real estate appraisal plays an essential role in the financial world, there are plenty of opportunities in commercial real estate appraisal that often go overlooked.

“If I go to a cocktail party and tell someone I'm a commercial real estate appraiser, he or she will go, ‘Well, my house…’ I don't value single family homes. I value shopping centers and office buildings — and other investment properties,” said Susan Smith, BS BA ’81, who has worked in the commercial real estate appraisal industry for close to 15 years.

Hopefully, though, that will change, as recently the Trulaske College of Business earned the distinction of being one of less than 30 universities to have its BS BA degree with an emphasis in finance and banking with real estate recognized by the Real Estate Degree Review Program of the Appraiser Qualifications Board (AQB).

The real estate emphasis has remained a popular option for finance and banking students over the years. In the Spring 2022 graduation, 70 of the 166 finance and banking graduates from Trulaske had an emphasis in real estate.

“This is a unique certification because it really accelerates students’ ability to begin working as real estate appraisers and will help them obtain jobs and internships,” said Fred Bereskin, who serves as the interim chair of the Finance Department.

“It was just a great fit. We're happy to keep finding ways to align the program with students' professional growth."

The AQB designation will afford both alumni and current and prospective students alike a more direct route to an AQB approval of credentials — and the start of a new career in real estate appraisal.

The AQB is an arm of The Appraisal Foundation, a national entity based out of Washington, D.C., that sets standards and qualifications for real estate appraisers, as authorized by Congress. The foundation was established in 1987 in response to the savings and loan crisis.


A ‘wonderful surprise’

The AQB’s real property appraiser qualification criteria consist of four levels, ranging from 60 of 75 required course hours to earn the title of trainee to 174 of 300 required course hours to be a certified general professional, which opens the door to commercial real estate appraisal.

Alumni or students who want to earn trainee status or go the next rung up as a licensed residential professional (150 hours) would only have to take the 15-hour National Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) Course in addition to completing their undergraduate degree.

Furthermore, the program also includes retroactive approval, which in Trulaske’s case dates back to 2009. Therefore, any Trulaske alumnus who graduated in 2009 or later with a real estate emphasis will be eligible.

Joseph Hegger, BS BA’ 87, assistant teaching professor, began the formal application process for the program in the spring. He said it was a bit of a shock — albeit a good one — to have retroactive credit going back to 2009, which is a year after Hegger arrived at Trulaske.

I'm pretty thrilled about that,” said Hegger, who has taught all of the real estate appraisal courses offered at Trulaske at one point or another over the years. “It was a wonderful surprise to know that we can contact alumni and get the word out to them as well.”

Hegger said Trulaske’s involvement in this program will help open the minds of alumni and students alike when thinking about either pivoting careers in the business field or starting right after graduation.

“Even if you don't know what you want to do in real estate, appraisal is a good place to end up or start out,” he said. “Quite frankly, learning valuations is probably the most important aspect of dealing with investment property.”


Opportunities abound

Smith, who serves on Trulaske’s Finance Advisory Board, first discussed the idea of applying for the AQB program with the Finance Department leadership team in January.  She had experience helping a graduate program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City get into the program. When Smith, who earned her MBA from UMKC in 1988, realized that undergraduate programs were also allowed to take part, she informed her fellow board members at Trulaske.

“It helps introduce students — particularly undergrads — to the field and helps them get a jumpstart on their career,” said Smith, who currently serves as a commercial real estate appraisal consultant for clients across the country. “I also think it will launch some young alumni who are already in the field but still trying to get their qualifying education out of the way.”

It is the hope of Smith, Hegger and everyone else associated with this initiative to help create a surge of young talent into the real estate appraisal industry.

Hegger — who worked in the commercial real estate appraisal industry for 19 years before arriving at Trulaske — said that the appraisers he speaks with regularly are always looking for new members to add to their firms.

A collection of studies have put the average age of a real estate appraiser between 50 and 60 years old.

This is despite the fact that the industry has proven to be remote-friendly for more than a decade before working remotely became a desired arrangement. Besides being on-site for the walk-through of the facility, all other work — such as gathering comparables, running financial analyses and projecting cash flows — can be done from home, Smith said.

"Informing and attracting these students at the undergraduate level is really key because most people don't know what an appraiser does,” she said. “Most people's only exposure is when they get a home loan, and they need an appraisal. Commercial real estate appraisers tend to enter the field either through a family member or friend, or by coincidence.

“We need to let students know what the field is like — and this is a good start.”