Niche Success:  How one appraiser is having his best summer in three years

Q:  What’s your local market like?
Our area is in pretty good shape.  Our economy is energy based (natural gas and coal power plants), so employment is good.  As far as the housing market goes, home sales up to the $350,000 range are still good.  We probably have a year’s supply of homes in the $350,000-$500,000 range, and the market for houses over $500,000 is definitely hurt.

There’s appraisal work to do, so those of us who have been here for a while are doing ok.  Those that haven’t been in the market very long are struggling.  Our local market is doing better than the average, though.

Q:  How’s your business going?
Business is good.  June and July have probably been the best months I’ve had in about 3 years.

Q:  Where has your recent business come from?
Basically, it’s coming from refinance work, opportunity from new FHA guidelines, and marketing to non-mortgage niches.

One of my niches is estate work, which I prefer because people aren’t fee shopping and are generally not in a hurry.  I also like that there are no underwriters to deal with.  Of course there’s always the opportunity that you may be dealing with the IRS if they question it.

Normally, these clients don’t even ask me what the fee is.  They’ve been referred to me by a CPA or trust attorney and told that I’m fair and honest, so they don’t even ask what the fee is.  And consequently, I try to be fair and honest and do the best work I can.  When you’re being referred to a client by someone who has the potential to refer many more clients over the years, you make sure to do your best to take care of them.

I also do relocation work, and I’ve done that for more than 25 years.

Q:  You said that you made an intentional decision to be less dependent on the mortgage market.  How did you get started?
I’m in a relatively small market, so I basically just went through the phone book.  I also spoke with my own CPA and a couple of attorneys that I knew did trust work asking who should I target.  Then, I sent out a letter to all of them telling them who I was and what type of appraisal work I do what type I don’t do (I don’t do commercial).  In it, I also ask if I can call their office in a week to set up an appointment to stop by and discuss it.  Then, I go ahead and call them in a week.

Q:  What’s your typical response?
About half of the people I send letters to set up appointments when I call.  That’s the benefit of a small town — I’ve been here for 33 years, and my name is known to them.  By setting up appointments, I’m just trying to get my foot in the door.  While I’m in there, I talk to them about the variety of appraisals that I do.  I end up getting appraisal orders from about half of those that I meet with.  It’s lucrative.

I always include my business card in the letter, so I still get occasional work from the prospects that I never get to meet with.

Q:  What % of your business is related to lender versus non-lender markets?
65-70% is lender work and the balance is non-lender.

Q:  How do you market to commercial appraisers?
I generally just call them and tell them that I get calls every week for commercial work, and I don’t do commercial work.  I ask if I can refer clients to them.  I’ll ask them if they do residential work or have someone that does their residential work.  If they don’t, I invite them to pass residential work to me.  I get about one a month this way… it adds up.

Q:  What would you like to share with other appraisers?
I’ve been a member of the WinTOTAL user’s group since Brian started it, and I’ve noticed that the majority of the group doesn’t do anything other than mortgage work.   That’s been many appraisers’ entire focus.  You can say that you need to do a campaign and try to get non-mortgage work going to get you through good times and bad, but it seems to fall on deaf ears.  So I’m hoping that a light bulb will turn on.  Lender work is the easiest work to get, but it isn’t always there.



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