By DAN TURNER
Real estate appraisers report that business is looking up, although only four of the 10 firms on this year’s List reported employing more appraisers this year than last and a few reported less.
An improvement in the L.A. County economy is leading to an increase in real estate transactions, and more transactions means more work for appraisers. At least, that’s the case on the commercial side residential appraisers have been suffering a decline in business since the decade began.
Most of the appraisal firms on this year’s List seem fairly stable, adding or subtracting only a few employees. But there were two dramatic exceptions.
Downtown L.A.-based Marshall & Stevens Inc. doubled in size between last year’s List and the present. The firm now reports 18 licensed appraisers compared with nine last year, and has leaped from No. 10 on the List to No. 3.
But while one company is on the rise, another is apparently on the verge of disappearing. Eichel Inc., No. 5 on last year’s List, did not return the Business Journal’s survey because a company official said it was going out of business. President Norman Eichel didn’t return calls.
Joining Marshall & Stevens on the plus side was Deloitte & Touche Valuation and Realty Consulting, which has been growing steadily since 1995. With only six licensed appraisers that year, it grew to 16 in 1996 and 19 at the present.
Curtis Rosenthal LLC in Century City also added three appraisers last year, and jumped from No. 9 on the List to No. 5.
Meanwhile, No. 1 PCV/Murcor, No. 4 CB Commercial Appraisal and No. 9 E & Y; Kenneth Leventhal Real Estate Group each reported that it employs one less appraiser this year than it did last year.
The real estate appraisal business enjoyed substantial growth in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a result of the savings and loan crisis, after which the federal government began requiring that lenders make more detailed appraisals.
But a collapse in the local real estate market a few years ago led to slow or no growth for many appraisal firms, and forced several out of business entirely.
Appraisers say things are looking up in L.A. County, but only in the commercial sector. Many residential appraisals are now being done by computer with software having been developed that can assess a home’s value based on assorted data related to location and construction.
Also spelling trouble for the residential part of the business was the recent rise in interest rates, which is expected to slow home-buying activity.
Few of the large appraisal firms in L.A. County have many full-time residential appraisers, with the exception of Culver City-based Major Appraisals. Ten of its 11 full-time appraisers work on the residential side; that firm reported the same number of appraisers in 1997 as it had in 1996.