Despite strong residential and commercial real estate markets, the number of licensed appraisers at the 10 largest firms in Los Angeles County fell last year.

CB Richard Ellis Valuation & Advisory Services claimed the top spot in the rankings, this year ranked by full-time appraisers. Knocked out of the top spot was PCV/Murcor, which long had been the largest when ranked by full- and part-time appraisers.

PCV/Murcor saw its combined staff and contractors shrink by 18 percent for the year.

Keith Murray, its president and chief executive, attributed the decline to the mid-2002 loss of a contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and to many appraisers striking out on their own.

"Lenders only ask that you're licensed, so there is a lot of opportunity for residential appraisers to work for themselves when it's busy,"he said.

There were 90 full-time appraisers employed at the 10 largest firms, down 28 percent from the previous year's 125. Adding full-time subcontractors into the calculations, employment at the 10 largest firms is still off 19 percent.

Statewide, the number of licensed appraisers was up roughly 9 percent in 2002. There are nearly 12,000 active licensed appraisers statewide, according to Anthony Majewski, acting director of the Office of Real Estate Appraisers.

Majewski projected a downward trend in the next 5 years, citing a low renewal rate for trainees and increased use of automated valuation models.

Nicole Taylor


CB Richard Ellis Valuation & Advisory Services

CB Richard Ellis, the county's largest real estate appraisal firm, had a busy year in 2002, with business up 10 percent to 15 percent over the previous year. Its revenues of $6 million were also 10 percent higher than the year earlier.

It reached the top spot despite seeing its staff of licensed appraisers shrink to 15 from 17, which Donald Spradlin, its senior managing director, said was the result of office turnover. The office has hired four people and should be up to 19 licensed appraisers as soon as the state certification process is complete, which could take anywhere from a few months to two years, he said.

"Throughout 2002 and the first quarter of 2003, the low interest rate environment has helped us because people are refinancing," said Spradlin. "Sixty percent of our business is mortgage related."

CB has been working with the Los Angeles Unified School District in providing appraisal services for its acquisition of new school sites and the disposing of old schools. The firm also does litigation support for LAUSD and has expanded that staff to three people from one.

Other corporate clients include GMAC Commercial Mortgage, GE Capital and Wells Fargo Bank.

Spradlin said volume in the first quarter of 2003 was ahead of the like period last year, and that the firm was planning to add staff to each of its Southern California offices.

Spradlin expects larger appraisal firms to gain even more share as large corporate clients seek to hire national firms. "There is a lot more lending done by Wall Street firms, with pools of securitized loans, and they want to see a major firm's name on the appraisal report," said Spradlin.

Nicole Taylor

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.