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The ranks of real estate appraisers stand to shrink substantially over the next five years, which could mean longer waits, higher fees and even lower-quality appraisals as more appraisers cross state lines to value properties.

There were 78,500 real estate appraisers working in the U.S. earlier this year, according to the Appraisal Institute, an industry organization, down 20% from 2007. That could fall another 3% each year for the next decade, according to the group. Much of the drop has been among residential, rather than commercial, appraisers.

Some say Americans are unlikely to feel the effects right now, as it’s mostly confined to rural areas and the number of appraisal certifications - many appraisers are licensed to work in multiple states - has held relatively steady. Others say it’s already happening, and rural areas are simply the start.

Since most residential mortgages require an appraiser to value a property before a sale closes, they say, a shortage of appraisers is potentially problematic - and expensive - for both home buyers, who rely on accurate valuations to ensure that they aren’t overpaying, and sellers, who can see deals fall through if appraisals come in low.
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