What Is An Mai Appraisal?

You’re looking for someone to appraise your property before you put a ‘FOR SALE’ sign in front. After conducting thorough research on the internet, you’re still unsure who to call because there are so many real estate appraisers available. 

But one term keeps popping on every single page: MAI appraiser. What does that term even mean? Why would it matter to you, anyway?

Well, there is a good reason you should seek an MAI appraiser to come and evaluate your property, especially if it is commercial property. 

As you may know by now, real estate appraisers can have several different licenses after they finish the trainee stage. These are Licensed Residential Appraiser, Certified Residential Appraiser, and Certified General Appraiser. In order to evaluate any property and provide an appraisal report, every appraiser needs to obtain these licenses by law.

Nevertheless, there are also designations that appraisal associations offer. However, they’re not required by law, but they certainly add more credibility to one person. One of these destinations is an MAI designation.

If you’d like to learn more, then keep reading!

What Does MAI Stand For?

A Common Misconception

  • First and foremost, we need to clear some things up. There is no such thing as ‘MAI appraisal’ or commonly misspelled ‘MIA appraisal.’ An MAI is not a type of appraisal. There are only appraisals that are performed by an appraiser that can hold a specific designation called ‘MAI designation.’ They are also known as MAI appraisers.

MAI Designation

  • ‘MAI’ refers to a professional designation and the highest standing that is available to appraisers. It is offered by the Appraisal Institute, the oldest and most well-respected appraisal institutes in the US. 
  • ‘MAI’ stands for ‘Member Appraisal Institute.’ The MAI designation is the highest accomplishment available to an appraiser, and it is considered the ‘doctorate-level’ of commercial real estate appraisal.
  • MAI’s are appraisers that can evaluate commercial and residential properties and industrial, agricultural, and vacant lands. They can also advise clients when it comes to real estate investment decisions, and they can also provide opinions of review, value, and evaluation. They have experience and education in all appraisal work levels, and they can grip on most complex assignments.
  • Only certified general appraisers can get this prestigious designation, but they have to face a long hard road. To become an MAI member, the appraiser must meet rigorous requirements surrounding its education, experience, and testing. 
  • They’re also required to demonstrate their knowledge, ability, and understanding and spend several additional years on further education and experience. Not to mention comprehensive exams and written paper thesis, they have to pass to prove their understanding of commercial property valuation laws.
  • Achieving the MAI designation often takes 5-10 years, which can get exhausting and time-consuming. But it seems like the Appraisal Institute is lowering the requirements for designation.


  • An appraiser can’t get an MAI designation just like that and has to fulfill several different requirements before the testing process begins. Although the conditions have and will change in the future, it is vital to view current MAI requirements via the Appraisal Institute’s published materials. 
  • To become an MAI Designated Member of the Appraisal Institute, a person must:
    • Have a good moral character
    • Be a Certified General Real Estate Appraiser
    • Have a Bachelor’s degree or higher
    • Meet standards and ethics requirements
    • Pass rigorous education requirements
    • Pass a final comprehensive examination
    • Receive credit for specialized experience and demonstration of knowledge
    • Have 4,500 hours of documented experience completing specialized appraisals
  • Candidates that meet these requirements begin their coursework, and when they complete everything, they are randomly selected to sit for the comprehensive exam. The questions on the final exam are specially designed to test the knowledge with judgment.
  • After that, appraisers have to pass the General Demonstration of Knowledge requirement. There are seven available options to choose from. Most appraisers choose ‘Traditional Demo Option,’ which means they have to do a comprehensive demonstration report appraisal of the property, far more complicated than a regular appraisal report. It is said that 30 days is an appropriate time-frame to complete the demo report, and every appraiser candidate is reviewed and scored by another MAI appraiser.
  • Finally, receiving the MAI designation requires skill, expertise, and, most importantly – dedication. Receiving the MAI designation is essentially the highest point of the appraiser’s career.


  • An MAI appraiser’s average annual income is between  $94,000 and 98,000, while the average appraiser makes $62,000 annually. 

The Benefits Of MAI

Rdl What Is An Mai Appraisal

As we’ve already mentioned, an MAI designation is well-known as the ‘doctorate level’ in the real estate appraisal world. So, not only does an MAI appraiser have more education and training, but he or she also has a lot more experience and judgment knowledge.

Such a designation, like an MAI designation, gives more reliability and confidence to the people who are hiring for appraisal services. Furthermore, most acknowledged and sophisticated companies prefer evaluations done by an MAI appraiser. For example, REIT, pension fund, lenders, developments, investment funds, investors, corporations, and even regular buyers and sellers will prefer MAI designated appraisers.

Why Would You Consider An MAI Appraiser?

Suppose you’re searching for an excellent appraiser that will, without any doubt, give you the most accurate evaluation of your residential or commercial property. In that case, you should seek for the best amongst professionals – MAI designated appraiser.

That’s because an MAI designation means that the appraiser has spent a considerable amount of time improving his or her analytical and valuation skills. Even though many professionals know how to appraise a property correctly, only MAI appraisers stick to the Appraisal Institute’s higher standards. This is maybe even more important when it comes to commercial properties, which require an increased level of accuracy and sensitivity.

Final Thoughts

Without any doubt, an MAI designation is the most prestigious designation in a real estate appraiser career. It requires years of dedication to studying and work, as well as tuition and annual renewal and exam fee. But ultimately, it does pay off.

An MAI designation is not the only designation available to appraisers, and many will argue how it is not the most prestigious one, or not on the ‘doctorate level.’ However, you are welcome to explore other professional appraisal designations and then make your final decision. In our opinion, an MAI designation is the most esteemed and respected one, and we would always pick an MAI appraiser rather than anyone else.

However, if you’re looking for someone to appraise your residential real estate and don’t care for licenses and designations one appraiser holds, then this won’t matter to you. On the contrary, if you’re looking for someone to evaluate commercial real estate’s worth, we always recommend an MAI appraiser. They will most certainly give a better judgment as they are more educated and have far more experience in the commercial field.