Julie Friess

Title: Managing Director, Northern Arizona
Company: IRR Residential Appraisal Research Associates

Why did you become an appraiser?
 
I became an appraiser because my ex-husband convinced me I did not "really" want to become a stockbroker and work on Wall Street or go to work for IBM in their marketing department. I graduated from college with two a jobs lined up to choose from and had accepted one at a firm on Wall Street. I had already studied and prepared for the Series 7 exam when I met my ex-husband while teaching aerobic classes at a health club for the summer after college as a "break."

He told me I could make my own hours, make more money and it would be a much better career choice, and I would enjoy it more. He took me out into the field to Fire Island, NY, and really cool big houses and I liked it so I became an appraiser. That September I took the Appraisal Institute two week 40 hour a week classes with exams on Saturday at the University of Texas, and then an appraisal office called Nassau- Suffolk Appraisals on Long Island hired me to do fee appraisals.  That was 1988.
 
What has been the highlight of your professional career so far?
 
The highlight of my professional career has been completing the SRA designation recently with the Appraisal Institute. I started the process all the way back when I was 21 and life had a way of getting in the way of finishing it. Three years ago I had to re-start it, and I set my sights on completing the designation, and taking every class before taking every exam. The road to the designation was a journey that I would not trade for anything.

After over 20 years of appraising, re-taking classes I had taken when I began, and learning new things was not only informative and educational, it was eye opening and re-newed my excitement and joy for the appraisal profession. I also discovered all the things I had been taught incorrectly and had been doing wrong for a very long time, and corrected my bad habits. I took the statistics class (I hated the many statistics classes in college and hated it now but it is a necessity especially now in this industry) and learned to use excel for the demonstration part of the designation, and was forced to learn to use the HP12C once again.

It was all quite challenging and humbling. As appraisers we become arrogant and self righteous. We convince ourselves that we know everything but try re-taking all these classes and exams and you will discover how wrong you really are and become determined to be a better professional and valuator. I found out how poor my grammar and writing skills were in this process and how much work I needed was shocked! And the process of being grilled and having my reports torn apart by the appraisal institute screener (who was incredible by the way) was phenomenal. I hope to continue this journey by continuing to improve, grow and excel in all ways in this profession.
 
In my career I have had the privilege of giving the NY Attorney General's office input with the writing of the HVCC, working with the FBI, Yavapai County Sheriff's office, and AZ Department of Financial Institutions on investigative cases, speaking on local and national panels, testifying in court for appraisal litigation cases, teaching appraisal classes, being an active part of the Coalition of Arizona Appraisers and giving input to writing the AZ AMC Bill, and but nothing surpasses completing the SRA designation and I highly recommend it any serious appraisal professional.
 
What piece of advice would you offer young people considering a career in this profession?
 
Now is the time to become an appraiser and do not hesitate. There is apathy from older appraisers in the profession right now who just don't get it. Everything in life is about attitude and how you approach it.  If you have the right attitude and truly understand the meaning of supply and demand you would be running into the appraisal profession right now.

Get a designation from an accredited appraisal organization and look to the future with confidence because there will always be a need for high quality educated appraisers. Since I have been appraising I have been hearing that appraisers will be eliminated and replaced by AVM's. That makes me laugh and is ridiculous. If you want to be eliminated, have the attitude that you are not needed and useless. I am not useless and my skills are most certainly necessary.

With the lack of entry right now into this profession, the demand will be so great in a few years that appraisers will be naming their fees and lenders and vendors will be falling over themselves trying to find you and needing you. We need to find an efficent way to train competent appraisers now. Younger educated people have computer skills, analytical skills and are flexible. Older appraisers resist change and are fighting it and that is why they are not only running from the profession, they are negative about it. Change is scaring them.

So young people, if you are out there and reading this, and are contemplating becoming an appraiser, do it and do it now. There has never been a better time and come to Arizona and I will take you on as a trainee or find someone to do so. In addition, there are new college training programs in the works being developed as well, and as they develop, this is going to be a hot profession and great place to be. As the "cleansing" of the profession continues, and the bad eggs are removed from our midst, and the entry becomes more stringent, the only thing that can happen is we become more valued and valuable.

This is an exciting challenging and fun profession. I love being an appraiser and I can't wait to wake up every day and experience the next challenge and I am not dishing "b.s." Anyone who works with me knows I mean what I say. That is why they work with me. We laugh every day and learn something new as well. What profession can you do that in and make a good living doing it as well?
 
What book would we find on your nightstand right now?
 
I have two books on my nightstand. One is called Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie and the other is called The Shack by William P. Young. I also have a Bible on my night stand.
 
Can you share a funny or unique story about an appraisal you’ve done?
 
The very first appraisal I ever did and I never told my Dad, so this will be the first time he hears this story and he will not be happy. I was 21 years old and I picked up a key from a Century 21 real estate office for a house in Wantagh Long Island that was supposed to be vacant. I unlocked the door of the Levit Ranch and started the inspect and a man jumped literally out of the far lower level bedroom and pinned me with a shotgun to the kitchen wall screaming at me because I was in his house. You have never heard me scream in your entire life like that and it was not yet the norm for me to say I was the appraiser.

It was my first appraisal and I was a 21 year old, barely 100 pound 5'3 inch little woman! It turned out he was out on parole and staying in this empty house and he let me explain why I was there and didn't hurt me or anything, but I almost quit right there. However, anyone that knows me knows one thing about me! I don't ever quit anything. There is nothing that I think is impossible and I never ever give up. 
 
Do you have a favorite quote? Why?
 
Never never never give up!
 
My Dad is my hero and he taught me you never quit anything and you never give up. This inspires me. I have a passion for the impossible. I love challenges. The hardest appraisal. The impossible house to measure, the most difficult assignment, the job everyone says I can never get... I want it and I will work until I have it. There is no goal that is unreachable as long as you set it and work for it hard and patiently keep trying.
 
If you could change one thing about the appraisal industry today, what would it be?
 
Enforcement on all levels. Interagency Guidelines and Dodd Frank speak about what is required to engage and pay appraisers appropriately yet no one enforces this. The FDIC and Federal Reserve Board speaks about what they will do to lenders and vendors if they do not comply, yet no one is complying and no one cares or is really concerned about it either.

On the state level, there is such inconsistency in going after incompetent and fraudulent appraisers from one state to another. New York State hasn't had a board meeting in years or taken a license, and Oregon is stricter than strict and doing its job well. This discrepancy holds from one state to the other across the country. Some appraisers who know they are doing their job incorrectly and are in trouble in one state jump states before they can be prosecuted and start over in a weaker enforcement state. In addition, aside from Joan Trice's Clearbox, no one is "really" looking at what appraisers' backgrounds truly are.

Appraisers enter peoples homes, take photos inside their homes, have contact with their children and no one actually knows that much about them. That is kind of creepy.
 
Tell us something about yourself that people might not know.
 
I have two children, Zach, 21, and Courtney, 20, and I adore both of them.  I live in Sedona Arizona and I moved here 16 years ago from Long Island New York because my son was chronically ill and needed a drier cleaner climate to live in. I played competitve tennis from when I was12 years old, taught tennis from when I was 14 years old and played tennis on my college team. I was the aerobics manager for a large health club in Syosset Long Island for over 8 years and started the aerobics and fitness recreation program at SUNY Buffalo that still exists at the Alumni arena today, in 1984. When I left it was so large it had to be turned over to a faculty member and was never again run by a student.

I have an undergraduate degree in Finance and Marketing and a masters degree in Clinical Psychology. I love children, animals and nice people. I am presently the President of the Coalition of Arizona Appraisers (CoAA). I am allergic to almost all food (but not tequila) so taking me out to eat is a challenge but I have a great sense of humor, so I can laugh at myself and you can laugh at me too if you want to!
 
When not at work, you are most likely…
 
This was a funny question. My daughter looked at it and said... "You are working! You don't do anything else."  Actually I do. I run, teach aerobics classes, read, spend time with my family and friends, go to the movies, travel, and one of my favorite things is taking naps with my stuffed monkey!
 
What is the best thing about your job?
 
I started appraising when I was 21 years old. I started appraising on Long Island in New York and the office I worked in paid $80 an appraisal. No one wanted to do the houses that were really expensive and big because they took so long to do, so I did them all. I appraised these 14,000sf plus houses in Muttontown, Long Island with portions of them flown in from France and who knows where else. I would take hours walking around just gawking at the house and the things in the house and meeting different people and hearing their stories. They would talk and talk about their homes and their lives. I loved it and I still do.

I love looking at all different homes. Big, small, old, new, doesn't matter. Every house has a different personality and there are people in those homes all ready to talk about something. People tell you the strangest things and they are so sincere about everything. An appraiser friend said to me recently when I went with him in the Fall on an inspection, "I am not homesteading the house, just appraising it." Not too long ago he called and asked what I was doing. I told him I was busy homesteading a house.