Start a real estate appraisal business by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your real estate appraisal business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a real estate appraisal business?
After you have your license and legal stuff out of the way, startup costs are very low. You can usually start with just a laptop and a professional suit — less than $1,000.
What are the ongoing expenses for a real estate appraisal business?
Virtually none. However, you must maintain your own computer equipment software to conduct appraisals. This should not set you back more than a few hundred dollars per year.
Who is the target market?
Clients are usually homeowners, but may also be other businesses.
How does a real estate appraisal business make money?
Appraisers make money by charging a fee for appraisals. This fee is usually a flat fee, but may also be a per-hour fee.
How much can you charge customers?
In general, you can charge between $300 and $400 for a two hour inspection. For complex inspections, or inspections that take several hours or days, you can charge $1,000 to $3,000.
The fee largely depends on where you live. In larger cities, you can command higher fees because rents are higher and home prices more expensive. People expect to pay more for appraisals in New York City, for example. They expect to pay less in a small rural town.
How much profit can a real estate appraisal business make?
A real estate appraisal business can earn between $30,000 and $200,000 per year, per real estate appraiser. Wide variation in income and revenue exists because of the inherent volatility across real estate markets. Some areas are more expensive and thus command higher fees. Other areas are cheaper and thus command lower fees.
There's also the fact that inexperienced appraisers earn less because of their lack of experience, education, or both. More experienced appraisers tend to charge more for their expertise.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Making an appraisal business more profitable can be done in one of several ways. You can consider staging homes that you appraise, assist in the sale and purchasing of homes, and do more in-depth inspections for individuals who want them.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Real Estate Appraisal Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your real estate appraisal business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Real estate appraisal businesses should consider requiring clients to sign a service agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership. Here is an example service agreement.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your real estate appraisal business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
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How to promote & market a real estate appraisal business
Set up a website, hand out business cards, and make contacts at networking events. You should consider networking with real estate agents, mortgage brokers, life insurance agents, financial planners, and local business leaders.
How to keep customers coming back
Provide excellent and honest service. Most of the people that get into this industry are selling their services as a commodity. The one way you can attract customers and keep them coming back is to sell your personality and stay competitive on price points. You can also attract more customers by doing a thorough job on the appraisal. For example, be objective, but also tell people how they can negotiate the price of the home and save themselves some money. Maybe the roof needs repair. These are objective facts you can convey to your customer, without being biased. At the same time, you're making sure that you are accurately representing the real value of the property.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
Start A Real Estate Appraisal Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
This business is ideal for individuals who are detail-oriented, good with numbers, like having a flexible work schedule and are highly motivated.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a real estate appraisal business?
Real estate appraisers gather and verify data on residential and commercial properties. They measure structures, physically inspect the exterior and interior of buildings, photograph property, and analyze market sales, the architectural quality, and the intended use of the property.
They also perform in-house appraisals and valuations for individuals, stay on top of the current real estate market conditions, assist in the construction of financial models for the real estate industry, gather data on recent sales, pending sales, and current listings. Real estate appraisers also maintain property records, indicating changes in local property values over time. They may also prepare and defend clients in formal appeal proceedings with help from senior appraisers or other companies.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful real estate appraisal business?
You will need good people skills. You'll also need a license to appraise real estate, along with a minimum of required hours of courses and training. Check with your state for specific requirements and examinations for different types of appraiser licenses. An example for an real estate appraisal license requirements in Michigan can be found here.
What is the growth potential for a real estate appraisal business?
Growth potential is usually small. An appraisal business is usually owner-operated, but may be grown into a larger company if there is enough demand. Some larger firms include the Tri County Appraisal Group; A Quality Appraisal, LLC; and Dugger, Canaday, Grafe, Inc.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a real estate appraisal business?
Consider mentoring under a senior appraiser. This can be a hard business to break into, so it may be helpful to work under others for a set period of time.
How and when to build a team
You won't ever need a team of people unless you decide to grow your business. If you do decide to grow, grow organically as prospects and leads grow. When work gets to be too much for you to handle alone, consider hiring an assistant appraiser and train them to do your job.