Top 3 Appraisal Schools in California

Becoming an appraiser in California is a serious commitment. It requires a lot of time and money to meet all of the state requirements, so when you take the first step to satisfy the pre-licensing education requirements, it is important to find a reputable school.

After conducting extensive research, it became clear that there wasn’t one perfect school for everyone because everyone has different needs. So, here are the top 3 schools that I have compiled for obtaining an appraiser’s license in California.  

1. McKissock Learning

Packages start at $1,299

McKissock Learning started off as a small school back in 1991. Since then, it has grown into the leading appraisal school in the country, having served hundreds of thousands of appraisers over the years. They have pre-licensing and continuing education programs in all 50 states as well as Washington, DC, and the US Virgin Islands.

Their courses have a 4.4 out of 5 star rating based on over a million self-reported reviews. They are committed to providing the ultimate learning experience by backing every purchase with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you are not satisfied for any reason, you can request a full refund within 7 days for any course that has not been completed yet.

McKissock Learning gives you three convenient ways to satisfy the California requirement for appraisal education:

Qualifying Education (QE) Unlimited Learning Subscription – This is a fairly new program that they began offering. This program is actually an amazing deal because it includes all of the online qualifying education (up to Certified General). Plus, it includes access to video tutorials, monthly webinars, appraisal community, and partner discounts. This is an annual subscription, so you will automatically get charged every year. However, you should be able to finish the courses within a year, so you can just cancel the subscription before it renews again.

158-hour Trainee (TR) & Licensed (L) Get Started Package – This package consists of the 8 online courses required to become licensed. The courses are only available in a text-based format, so it will be just like reading a book on the website. There is no mobile app currently available. There is an interest-free payment plan option available with this package for up to 4 months.

158-hour Trainee (TR) & Licensed (L) Advanced Pro Package – This package gives you everything in the Get Started package plus you get the hardcopy books and instructor support. However, due to state restrictions, they will only send the books out to you after you have completed all of the hours online. In other words, you cannot use the books to help you study as you are taking the course. 

Once you enroll in the online program, you have 6 months to complete the courses.

Best suited for: the Value Shopper

McKissock Learning offers people the best overall program at a decent price. Their courses are modern-looking and flexible enough to work with anyone’s schedule. There are various package and payment options available. The new QE Unlimited Subscription program gives you an unbeatable deal that will be the best choice for most people.

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2. OnCourse Learning

OnCourse Learning Real Estate School

150 Hour Package Price: $1,199

OnCourse Learning is a fast-growing online appraisal school. With over 40 years of experience, they offer real estate and appraisal programs in all 50 states. They were previously known as Career WebSchool, and their courses used to be pretty dull and boring. However, their online programs recently had a major makeover and re-branding. The courses are fresh and engaging now. Some parts of the courses even incorporate video clips.

Once you enroll in an OnCourse Learning package, you are given 6 months to complete the program. The format of the courses is text-based, which is the industry standard. The California Bureau of Real Estate Appraisers (BREA) requires seat-time, so you will have to spend time logged into the website.

The support options are limited at OnCourse Learning. If you have an IT or customer support issue, you can call or email them during regular business hours from 8:30 AM to 6 PM Monday through Friday. However, if you have a question pertaining to the content of the course, there is no direct phone support. You have to email the instructor your question and wait until you hear back.

Something worth keeping in mind is that their California 150-hour Trainee & Licensing Package includes all of the courses you will need to obtain a Trainee License in California. However, there are two additional courses you need to take before acquiring your Trainee hours. You will eventually need the 4-hour California Laws and Regulations course and the 4-hour Trainee/Supervisor course. OnCourse Learning does not provide these two mandatory courses at the moment, so you will have to get them from somewhere else.

The main appeal of OnCourse Learning is its price. Appraisal courses are expensive, and they offer the lowest prices in the industry, saving you hundreds of dollars while still delivering a quality product. Even with the two additional courses you will need to get later, this will still be a cheaper route.

Best suited for: the Budget Shopper

OnCourse Learning delivers a solid appraisal program for someone who is on a budget and prefers to learn independently. They keep the program simple and easy to use. The courses do not come with a lot of extra features or content, and the instructor support is limited to email. However, if you are looking to become a California appraiser without breaking the bank, this will be a great option for you.

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3. Appraisal Institute

Review of Appraisal Institute | Appraiser License

150 Hr Package Price: $2,260

The Appraisal Institute (AI) is a global association of real estate appraisers with about 20,000 members from over 95 chapters around the world. AI members benefit from an array of professional education and advocacy programs and allow you to obtain the prestigious MAI, SRPA, and SRA designations.

Anyone can attend their courses, although members do receive a discounted rate. However, to become a member, you have to pay an annual fee plus meet their continuing education requirements, which, in effect, negates any real discounts on the courses. Not to mention that they already have the most expensive courses on the market.

The Appraisal Institute offers both live classroom and online courses for appraisal pre-licensing. However, the live classes are only in limited locations, and they do not have all of the required courses in a classroom, so you will have to take some online courses to fulfill the 158-hour requirement.

The curriculum is rigorous. You are given 30 days to complete any online course that is 15 hours or less, and 45 days to complete any course that is over 15 hours long.  All final exams have to be administered at a Pearson Vue testing center. If you change your mind and want to cancel, you are hit with a minimum cancellation fee of $60. If you have completed over 25% of the course, then you are not eligible for any refund.

There are a few quirky things about the program at the Appraisal Institute. When you sign up online, you may have to wait up to an hour for the course to load into your account. Shouldn’t this be instantaneous? Also, if you need an extension, you have to pay a $30 fee, and you only get 16 more days to finish the course.

Best suited for: Aspiring Commercial Appraisers

Appraisal Institute courses are generally viewed as more prestigious. However, they are the most expensive and have the most stringent requirements. Most appraisers, especially those who only appraise residential property, will not gain additional benefit from this program. I would only recommend this for people who want to become a commercial appraiser and plan on earning an MAI or SRA designation in the future.

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