Appraisal Institute President Pushes for Appraiser Education


Kids aren’t the only ones with “back to school” on their minds this week. Members of the Appraisal Institute in Memphis are responding to a leadership push to develop the education of Memphis-area appraisers by seeking special designations.

“This year the Appraisal Institute is making a big push with our candidacy program, which is to encourage members to attain those designations,” said Michelle Alexander, newly elected president of the Appraisal Institute in Memphis, referring to the MAI and SRA designations.

“It is a far cry from the basic requirements of state certification. We require experience and we require demonstration of your knowledge. That’s my big push, to get these guys to the next level.”

Alexander herself holds the MAI and MRICS designations.

The move is meant to ensure quality of appraisers’ work, to bolster their reputations, and generally to protect the public’s best interest.

Alexander said she didn’t believe Memphis-area appraisers were doing a bad job, but that written appraisals can be challenged and emotional property owners sometimes make them out to be bad guys.

The more appraisers can do to prove their abilities, the better, she said.

The process to attain designations can be time-consuming and takes a financial commitment, though, and for appraisers who work for themselves, that can be a big challenge to furthering their education.

Alexander spent about five years attaining her designations through Appraisal Institute and traveled to cities like Nashville, Atlanta, Houston, and Boulder, Colo., to take courses not offered in Memphis.

In town, there are proprietary companies that offer appraisal courses and sometimes the University of Memphis offers them, but Alexander believes the Appraisal Institute does the best job of staying ahead of market trends and helping appraisers develop peer relationships.

The candidacy program includes an advisory program in which designated members provide mentoring for candidates.

Currently there are 111 Appraisal Institute members in the Memphis market, 69 of which hold designations. The candidacy program kicked off last summer and by the end of the year, 29 more members had signed on.

The education is also important, said Alexander, because many appraisers like her got into the business by accident.

In 1989, Alexander took a job with Integra Realty Resources, where she still works today, as a part-time secretary. She eventually moved to full-time, then office manager, then assistant to the owner. She decided to take appraisal classes so she would have a better understanding of the business in 1997.

“This is not what I intended to be when I grew up,” said Alexander, now a director at Integra. “This was not intended to be a career.”

But then the shoe fit.

“I’m a math nerd,” Alexander said. “This career gives the opportunity to get into some statistical analysis. I’m a commercial appraiser so I’m turning out a term paper, 100 plus pages long, every week. It’s something different every day.”

Integra is a nationwide franchise with 60 offices and includes residential appraisal, although Alexander’s office is strictly commercial.

She has previously served as the Appraisal Institute’s vice president and secretary/treasurer.

The Memphis market, she said, is getting back on track after the recession with industrial property and multifamily developments leading the recovery.

During the recession, her office stayed busy helping banks and their clients renegotiate financing and, later on, doing appraisals for foreclosures.

“It never ceases to amaze me what people will use an appraisal for,” Alexander said. “Appraisers don’t just do appraisals. A lot of us do consulting work. We might work with developers. We may write market studies for presentation for developers to take to investors.

“Things are starting to recover. We’re starting to see new construction, which held off while we were recovering from the housing market. We’ve seen concessions go away and make the multifamily project attractive for investors.”