Executive Summary / The PaceSetter

Despite an interest rate-fueled refinancing boom in the residential market and continued strength in the commercial investment market, the aggregate number of real estate appraisers at the Top 10 firms in Los Angeles County slipped slightly in 2001.

There were 124 appraisers employed by the 10 firms on the list, down from 125 last year and 134 the year before. Certified general real estate appraisers made up 65 percent of the total, while certified residential appraisers made up 16 percent.

Appraisers are being spread more thinly among the various types of services, according to Stanley Dennis Jr., senior managing director of Cushman & Wakefield Valuation Advisory Services.

"Although we still do quite a bit of financing activity, a lot of the other activity is in support of litigation, bankruptcies, mergers and acquisitions and pension fund activity," he said. "It's been a more notable shift over the last year or so, with the shift in the capital markets."

Appraisers are usually hired by lenders to estimate the value of a property involved in a financing transaction. Consultation, litigation, portfolio analysis, property tax services and market studies are also within the umbrella of services offered by the county's largest appraisers.

Danny King

The PaceSetter:

PCV/Murcor was the largest real estate appraisal firm in Los Angeles County, a position the company has maintained since 1995, when the list was initiated.

The Pomona-based firm's stable of appraisers shrank by 19 percent, to 22, but that was still nearly 30 percent larger than the 17 employed by the No. 2 firm, CB Richard Ellis Valuation & Advisory Services.

Founded in Walnut in 1979 and previously known as Pacific Coast Valuations, PCV/Murcor is one of just two firms on the list that does primarily residential appraisals (Century City-based Major Appraisals is the other). Just 20 percent of the firm's appraisals are in the commercial sector.

In December, PCV/Murcor began an 18-month-contract with the City of La Puente's housing rehabilitation program for the community's limited income homeowners. Additionally, PCV/Murcor became the subcontracting appraisal firm for Insignia/ESG Inc.'s Small Business Administration (SBA) loan portfolio valuation program in February.

The company employed 7 residential appraisers this year, four fewer than a year ago. It had 15 residential appraisers 32 total when it first appeared atop the list.

The reduction illustrates the role technology has played in the appraisal industry. With the proliferation of computerized appraisals, which uses figures of comparable property sales and building characteristics as a mathematical model and ultimately cost less than human staffing, fewer appraisers are needed.

Danny King

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