A question of value

The Baltimore Sun

Salary: $105,000

Age: 28

Years on the job: 7

How he got started: : Ryan Hlubb got his first taste of the job of an appraiser when he was a teenager and helped his father, who is also an appraiser, with tasks such as taking photographs and doing research. After high school, Hlubb attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County as a computer science major but never finished. Instead, he went to work as a technical support supervisor for a digital security company. Later, he decided to go to work with his father as a commercial appraiser. He's now finishing his bachelor's degree through an online real estate program at Marylhurst University in Oregon.

Hlubb is a certified general appraiser in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, D.C. He holds an SRA designation with the Appraisal Institute and serves as president of the Maryland Chapter of the Appraisal Institute.

Typical day: : The same fundamentals of residential appraising apply to commercial appraising, Hlubb says.

His job is a mix of research, analysis and on-site inspections in an effort to come up with the fair-market value of a property.

His first step is often going to public records, which include deed information, tax records and maps to identify the property. He moves on to the physical inspection, which lasts about one or two hours depending on the size of the building. If it's occupied, he goes into several of the units to get an idea of the building's makeup.

Much of his research involves working with the manager or owner of the property to obtain additional information. He must review this information, which often includes building plans, site surveys, lease information, rent rolls and expenses. He must also take photographs of the property to include in the appraisal report.

Usually, the owner is cooperative in supplying information. However, much of the appraised value is based on comparable data for similar buildings, which can sometimes be difficult to obtain. He uses the Multiple Listing Service and CoStar to gather information, but brokers must be contacted to verify the information. If they are unwilling to cooperate, Hlubb gives less weight to those comparisons or does not use them.

"We do our best to get the best information we can," Hlubb said. "An appraisal is an opinion of my interpretation of the facts."

Hlubb must put all the research and analysis together in a final report or written appraisal, which is often 40 to 50 pages, assigning a value to the property.

Turnaround time is about 30 days, and Hlubb said he's usually working on two or three appraisals each week.

Current market: : Although financing has stalled and much commercial activity is in a holding pattern, Hlubb says he's still busy. His work these days often comes from establishing property values as troubled loans are worked out by banks or for filing for bankruptcy.

Biggest change over the years: Increased regulation and stronger professional standards.

The good: : "You're not confined to your desk," said Hlubb, adding that he also enjoys seeing redevelopment in urban areas like Baltimore and Washington.

The bad: : "Deadlines and uncooperative clients or property owners."

Philosophy: : "I try to be unbiased and fair."

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