by Rachel L. Richardson

The Pros of the Appraisal Profession

Karl Finkelstein, MAI, an executive with Valbridge Property Advisors, is on a mission to reveal the opportunities within the commercial real estate appraisal profession and insights regarding its current team of professionals.

“The profession is wide open if you’re willing to work hard and get into it,” he says. “And it’s been really good to me, so the least I can do is share my experiences.”

At this point, his main effort is getting the word out about the profession, visiting college campuses to share his enthusiasm about a commercial appraisal career with students.


There is no single type of person that makes a good commercial appraiser. It’s open to anyone with an interest in real estate and analysis and a desire to work with others who share that interest, Finkelstein says. Success in the profession comes to those with both a strong work ethic and a desire to find out the true value of a commercial property.

“It’s not for everybody,” he admits, “but at least we can get people interested in taking a look at it.”


  • An executive with Valbridge Property Advisors and an MAI-designated appraiser, Karl Finkelstein, visits college campuses to share about careers in commercial real estate appraisal.
  • A comparatively small profession, real estate appraisal has many perks and is suitable for a variety of people.
  • In his campus visits, Finkelstein shares with students about real estate appraisal, professional organizations like the Appraisal Institute, and about the Valbridge Scholars internship program.
  • The Valbridge Scholars program is a paid internship that offers valuable, hands-on experience in the profession.

Appraisers often enjoy a flexible work schedule and working location, with some outdoor work but primarily indoor work in an office setting. They also travel to a variety of properties within their city or may even travel between states if they specialize in unique property types.

“If you talk with any working parent within Valbridge, they love it because of its flexible schedule,” he says. As for pay, the sky’s the limit, he adds, with the only limiting factor being the number of hours in the day. And since it is not a physically demanding career, it ages well.

Commercial real estate appraisal offers the opportunity to specialize in an array of property types both among and beyond the big four—office, retail, industrial, and multifamily. Besides their work on appraisal reports, appraisers may be involved in a diverse set of related services—such as litigation, assessment appeals, market studies, tax assessments, and advisory services.


Many of the Valbridge appraisers are members of the Appraisal Institute—a global professional association of real estate appraisers with over 16,000 professionals in almost 50 countries throughout the world. Their mission is to empower valuation professionals through community, credentialing, education, body of knowledge and ethical standards.

Organized in 1932, the Appraisal Institute advocates equal opportunity and nondiscrimination in the appraisal profession and conducts its activities in accordance with applicable federal, state, and local laws. Individuals of the Appraisal Institute benefit from an array of professional education and advocacy programs and may hold the prestigious MAI, SRPA, SRA, AI-GRS, and AI-RRS designations. Each of Valbridge’s more than 80 offices is managed by a designated member.

Many appraisers with Valbridge Property Advisors have also held positions within the Appraisal Institute, including Finkelstein, who is on its newly launched University Relations Committee. Finkelstein believes their efforts will “coexist and mingle nicely” with Valbridge recruiting efforts, as they each build profession awareness.

A UK counterpart to the Appraisal Institute, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors traces its history back to 1792. The organization offers several designations, of which the Chartered Members (MRICS) is most comparable to the MAI. Some Valbridge appraisers hold both the MAI and MRICS designations, while some may also hold the CRE designation by the Counselors of Real Estate.

Beyond having designations with the professional organizations above, appraisers may be affiliated with organizations like CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women) or ones focusing on a specific appraisal specialty practice, like IRWA (the International Right of Way Association).

What Do Commercial Appraisals Involve?

So, the appraisal profession has many perks, can be a good fit for a variety of people, and we’ve discussed some of the professional organizations appraisers can be involved in—but what goes into a commercial appraisal report?

“Generally,” Finkelstein says, “most people aren’t aware of what we do.”

Because it is a relatively small profession, likely with fewer than 100,000 people in the US, and many people have had no exposure to it, it can be hard to quickly summarize.

(The answer is no, though some appraisers have worked as a realtor or broker before transitioning to appraisal.)

While many people are more familiar with residential real estate and may have had experience with an appraisal of their home, commercial real estate appraisals are different not only in subject, but also in form.

Commercial Appraisals Residential Appraisals
Form Customized, with long-form paragraph summaries and descriptions & tabular content Brief template comprised of checkboxes and short portions for write-ins
Content Entry letter, table of contents, and sections for descriptions of region, market, property, tax history, and one or more approaches to value Checkbox description of residence construction, brief summary of market conditions and comparable sales
Length 50 pages plus 6 to 15 pages
Approaches to Value Includes sales comparison, income capitalization, cost approach, and others Sales comparison approach

To learn more about the profession including the skills needed to be a successful appraiser, the licensing and career timeline, and more, check out our brochure on the commercial real estate appraisal profession.

How Can You Get Started in Commercial Real Estate Appraisal?

While the exact process varies by state, careers in commercial real estate appraisal begin with some initial coursework to earn a trainee license. Once a licensed trainee, prospective appraisers are mentored by senior appraisers who go on inspections with them, guide the completion of appraisal reports, and eventually provide the final review of the trainee’s completed reports. Trainees will also take coursework presented by the Appraisal Institute and some may utilize additional sources of accredited appraisal education such as McKissock or Allied. After a certain number of hours on the job and courses completed, trainees can take an exam to become a Certified General appraiser.

The Certified General Appraisal license also requires a bachelor’s degree (or higher) in any subject, which is why Finkelstein and the Appraisal Institute committee have focused on recruiting on college campuses.

Many appraisal firms are small, with only a few MAI-designated appraisers in an office, which can make it hard for them to support appraisers in training. Valbridge offices range in size, and among them, there is a strong desire to train a new generation of appraisers.

“We’re always looking for talented individuals. And talent doesn’t mean the smartest person in the room—it just means somebody that’s got the wherewithal to become a great appraiser will be a great fit,” Finkelstein says. “And that’s different in everybody.”


Because of this desire to train a new generation of appraisers, an initiative proposed in the early days of Valbridge has now come to fruition—Valbridge Scholars. Valbridge Scholars is an internship program which was launched in January of 2022, and hosted its first interns in Valbridge offices that summer. The program seeks to share the appraisal profession with those who are interested in learning more about a career in real estate appraisal. Geared toward students in their last two years of their four-year degree, or those earning an advanced degree, the program offers a paid opportunity to get a head start in the appraisal world.

In the summer of 2022, Finkelstein says, about eight offices participated in the program. This year, about 15 offices participated, including Finkelstein’s office in Charleston, South Carolina.

“I think Charleston got more requests” than other offices, Finkelstein remarks. When asked his secret, Finkelstein said with a laugh, “I’m not doing anything. I just happen to have the right zip code next to my name… Charleston is a wonderful place to be, especially during the summer.”

Through the program, interns enjoy a hands-on experience with the appraisal profession, weekly Lunch N’ Learn sessions with insights from experts in the field, travel to meet Scholars from other offices across the country—and more.

“Having the Valbridge Scholars program in place has been really beneficial,” Finkelstein said. “Our thought process is, if it works, it’s good advertisement for us back at those campuses… And I know some of the other offices have hired their interns from last year. So, you know, there’s certainly a lot of potential there.”

For more on current openings with Valbridge Property Advisors offices across the nation, visit our careers page.