How to Become an Appraiser in California
The Bureau of Real Estate Appraiser (BREA) is California’s state appraisal board that safeguards public trust by promoting professionalism in the appraisal industry through licensing, education, and enforcement. There are currently 9,609 appraisers that are actively licensed in California.
Here’s the breakdown by license level:
Certified General (CG)
Certified Residential (CR)
Licensed Residential (LR)
- Complete 158 hours of qualifying appraisal courses
- Apply for a Trainee’s license (AT)
- Acquire 2,000 hours of experience with a certified appraiser
- Pass the state exam
- Upgrade to the Licensed Residential (LR) license
From start to finish, it takes about 15 months to 24 months.
- Applicants will need to be 18 years or older.
- There is no college requirement to get licensed
1. Fulfill Education Requirements
The BREA requires you to take more courses than other states (not by much though). You’ll need to complete a total of 158 hours of education. These courses include:
4-Hour California Laws and Regulations
4-Hour Supervisor/Trainee course
15-Hour Residential Market Analysis and Highest & Best Use
15-Hour Residential Appraisal Site Valuation and Cost Approach
15-Hour Residential Report Writing and Case Studies
15-Hour National USPAP Course
30-Hour Residential Sales Comparison and Income Approaches
30-Hour Basic Appraisal Principles
30-Hour Basic Appraisal Procedures
All of the courses require seat time, which means you have to log time being online. You are allowed to finish a little early. At a minimum, you have to log at least 50 minutes online for every 60 classroom minutes, which is a least 131.67 cumulative hours logged online for a 158-hour program.
BREA requires the course final exams to be proctored. A proctor is someone who monitors you during the test to verify it’s you taking the test (and not someone else). Generally, they’re there to make sure there’s no cheating going on.
Fortunately, there are all types of proctors available. You can find proctoring services at your local college and public universities. Clergy members and military officers are also options.
My personal recommendation is the public library because they are usually free.
There are also online proctoring services. This is the most convenient option but there’s a fee of $20 to $40 per test attempt. You can take the test from home and they will watch you through a webcam. ProctorU and Examity are the biggest ones out there.
How Much Does It Cost?
Getting into appraisal is definitely not cheap. You really have to be serious about turning this into a career. Online programs range from $1,000 to $2,000 for the first 158 hours of pre-licensing education.
2. Apply for a Trainee License
This part is easy. Simply download the Initial Application License form and send it to the BREA along with the $555 license fee.
There is a quick background check done through Live Scan fingerprinting. This is a quick and painless process. It only took me about 5 minutes and cost $20 when I got mine done. Law enforcement agencies such as police stations usually have the cheapest prices but are only available during regular business hours.
You’ll also need to include your course certificates from the 158 hours of appraisal education on the Education Attachment.
You won’t need to take a state exam to get obtain the Trainee License.
3. Obtain 2,000 Hours of Experience
This is the biggest obstacle that most people will encounter when pursuing an appraiser’s license. You’ll need to find a certified appraiser who will be your mentor and show you exactly how to do an appraisal report.
There are a number of places that you can go to find a supervisor, and you can work with as many supervisors as you want.
You’ll want to first reach out to your own network of friends and family first.
Another great source is to check with Appraisal Management Companies (AMC) in your area to see if they’re hiring. You can search for AMCs registered with the BREA here.
If you’re like most people and don’t have any contacts in the appraisal industry, you can search for one easily on the BREA’s website. They keep a directory of all licensed appraisers with their phone numbers. You can even filter down to the county and city.
You can read about my tips about how I was able to find a supervisory appraiser here.
Once you find one and start working, you’ll want to make sure you log your experience hours on this worksheet. I wouldn’t recommend waiting until the end to track all your hours. Otherwise, there’s going to be a ton of paperwork to shuffle through at the end, and it’ll be a very tedious process.
How much do trainees get paid?
This is negotiated between you and the supervisor. You’ll typically receive a fee split on the appraisal report fee and get paid per report. (Because that’s when the appraiser gets paid)
A typical appraisal report brings in about $400 to $600.
You should feel free to get creative and use this as a bargaining chip when trying to find a supervisor. I’ve heard of people offering to work for free for 90 days while other Trainees ask for a flat 30% cut on every report. Another thing that I’ve seen work is offering to pay for your supervisor’s continuing education courses.
Personally, I wouldn’t focus on the money. I’d focus on getting the experience.
4. Pass the State Exam
After you complete the education requirements and finish acquiring the 2,000 hours of experience, you’re ready to take the state exam.
The state exam consists of 125 multiple-choice questions. You have 4 hours to score a 75% or better. The BREA has contracted with the testing service AMP to administer the exam, which has a fee of $105.
You’ll have to drive to one of the following exam locations in California: Chino, Fresno, Irvine, Long Beach, Glendale, Van Nuys, Modesto, Monrovia, Palm Springs, Upland, Sacramento, San Diego (La Mesa), San Francisco, San Jose, or Santa Maria.
If you’re wondering how tough the state exam is, it appears to be getting easier over the years—at least the pass rates have been trending higher.
5. Upgrade to a Licensed Residential (LR) license
Congratulations! You’re officially a state-licensed appraiser in California!
Renewing Your License
For some reason, the appraisal regulators like to make the renewal process confusing, so you may need to read this a couple of times:
Your appraiser’s license is good for 4 years, but you have to complete and submit continuing education every 2 years.
You have to complete the 7 hour USPAP course by your 2nd year and 49 hours by your 4th year. The 49 hours must include another 7 hour USPAP course and a 4 hour California Laws and Regulations course.
This means that you are doing 56 total hours of continuing education over your 4 year license term.
If you want to check your renewal status and which education cycle you’re on, you can go here.