A dozen or so years ago now, Jordanna Holmes was taking some business courses at North Island College in Campbell River and trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her life – a typical thing for a woman in her early 20s to be doing – when a friend of the family had a secretary taking leave and asked her to help out around the office a bit for a few months.
That office was Cunningham & Rivard Appraisals. She took the job as a means of making a few extra bucks and getting some experience in an office setting that she thought she might be able to use later in whatever career she decided on.
“But I was getting bored, so I asked them to let me go, because I needed more, and they told me they thought I make a really good appraiser, which I had somehow never considered, despite being actually employed in an appraisal office,” Holmes says with a laugh.
Once the seed of the idea was planted, however, she started looking into it.
“So I went to the library and started researching the job itself. I looked at the pros and cons of doing the job, the hours, that kind of thing, and thought, ‘you know what? This might be okay.’” And she suddenly found herself with a career goal to be proud of, and went to tell her father the news.
“I walked in the door and I was at the bottom of the stairs,” she says. “I yelled up to my dad and said, ‘Dad, I’ve figured it out. I know what I’m going to be.’ And he said, ‘Oh yeah? What’s that?’ and I proudly yelled, ‘I’m going to be a property appraiser!’” And her father spit his wine out across the table. You see, Holmes’ grandfather was a property appraiser. She didn’t know that. And she didn’t know her aunt was a property appraiser. Her father, to whom she was proudly announcing her aspirations, did property assessments on the weekends for a time. She didn’t know that, either. She was entering a field that many would see as preordained for her – and had no idea.
She also didn’t know she was entering a field filled with old men. It’s not like she was intentionally trying to break into a property appraising to prove something. She’d never even noticed or thought about the demographics in the industry until she walked into her first Vancouver Island AIC Annual General Meeting a few years later.
“It was the AGM,” she says, “and I walked in, and it was a room full of men – mostly older men – and I was about 25 and I saw one lady, but she was an older lady, and so there were two women in a room with maybe 45 men, most of them pretty grey.”
She hadn’t made her career decision determined to break stereotypes or prove some kind of point, and the fact that the field was dominated by men didn’t even phase her.
“I literally just looked at the pros and cons, and thought if I ever decided to have children one day, it was the kind of job where I could leave at 2:30 and pick them up from school if I needed to, and I could work from home if I needed to. When I was weighing the pros and cons, it didn’t even cross my mind that it was mostly men who did this, and it didn’t bother me when it turned out that way.”
So what exactly is it that she does? Can’t you just kind of tell by what houses are going for on the market to know what a house is worth?
Well, not exactly.
One thing people might not realize about property appraisers, Holmes says, is the amount of formal education required. In order to be accredited, certified appraisers need to have a post-secondary degree and then enrol in post-graduate studies at the Sauder School of Business at UBC, which includes courses in residential construction, residential law, macro and micro economics, business writing and other facets of the world of housing and construction.
They also need to take 24 credits of upgrading every year through the Appraisal Institute Council of B.C. (AIC–BC), to keep up with the constantly-changing trends and factors in property valuation.
“My favourite aspect is that my job is ever-changing,”
And yes, there’s also a ton of market research involved – constantly. When a house sells for a certain amount, for example, she can’t just mark it down in a book. She also has to find out why.
“Appraisal is very grey-scale,” she says. “Sometimes people want to say, ‘that home costs $275,000,’ but no, there’s some wiggle room there. It could be $278,000 or $272,000. But at the end of the day, I have to be able to put a value on a home and be confident in that assessment.”
She has to be confident in her assessment because she can’t get it wrong. Property appraisals are very important in the world of economics.
Which is why she, as Cunningham & Rivard’s senior appraiser, is always the first one in the office in the morning – sometimes she gets in as early as 4:30 a.m. – and is regularly the last one to leave. But like she said, she doesn’t have to work those crazy hours.
“I love that I have the flexibility I do,” she says. “Right now, I want to be making money, so I put in the hours, but if I ever want to dial it back, I can do that.”
It doesn’t seem she has plans to dial it back anytime soon, however. These days she does three to five appraisals per day, and loves every minute of it.
“My favourite aspect is that my job is ever-changing,” she says with yet another smile. “It’s never the same two days in a row – or even two days out of a month – and I love that I get to meet a ton of interesting people while I’m at it who are nice enough to invite me into their homes.”