SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Becoming a state-certified general appraiser was not any easy process for Sandra Gresh. 

Gresh started in real estate as a broker before pursuing the entry level “state-registered appraiser” in 2004, working her way up to earn the highest level of certification in 2008. Operating her business in Britton, Gresh now serves as president of the Professional Appraisers Association of South Dakota (PAASD). 

She said she was personally “saddened” by the Associated Press report detailing Kassidy Peters’ initial denied appraiser certification and the $200,000 settlement for Sherry Bren, the longtime executive director of the Appraiser Certification Program in South Dakota. Peters is Gov. Kristi Noem’s daughter and the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation paid Bren the settlement, according to a copy of the settlement agreement stemming from Bren’s complaint. 

“We were certainly surprised by this,” Gresh told KELOLAND News. “Our group is trying to find more details on this just like the rest of the citizens of South Dakota.” 

Gresh said she and other members of PAASD are hoping the federal government’s Appraisal Subcommittee (ASC) will “check all of this out quickly and find out what they need to; find out what happened and see if there’s any changes that need to be made in our process in South Dakota.”  

The ASC monitors each state’s appraiser licensing and certification regulatory programs. South Dakota was last reviewed in August 2018 as “good” in compliance of Title 11 in the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989.  

While some state lawmakers and Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg are reviewing the apparent meeting, Gresh said for her, and other appraisers in the state, the ASC is “the process that needs to be followed.” 

KELOLAND News reached out to the Appraisal Subcommittee to see if it will investigate the certification process in South Dakota or what role it will play in any future rule changes. This story will be updated when a response is received. 

On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Noem posted on her Governor’s Twitter account saying she “never asked for special treatment for Kassidy. Others went through the same process that Kassidy did.”

Noem said she has “heard for years how difficult it is to become an appraiser in South Dakota, making it harder for South Dakotans to purchase a home.” “I have been working for years to fix that process, and I signed legislation to that effect this past session,” she tweeted.

Bren ‘protected the public’

Gresh had high praise for Bren, who had been a state employee since 1970, and worked well with appraisers across the state. 

“She has not only protected the public, which is her responsibility, but she’s also tried to assist in reducing some of the barriers that have come into play when trying to become an appraiser,” Gresh said.  

Gresh said Sherry was “instrumental” in getting a federal grant to start a new “experienced training program” through the state board of appraisals in South Dakota. She said the new program would help get interested candidates proper education and training without having to work under a “personal supervisor.” 

There’s concerns about what the future educational appraisal program will look like without Bren’s guidance, Gresh said. 

Serving Marshall, Day and Roberts counties in northeastern South Dakota, Gresh said the appraisal industry is busy because of the current low interest rates. 

“Due to the limited number of rural appraisers it does sometimes take longer for that appraisal report to get completed,” she said. “Most appraisers have quite the work log.” 

She added the newly created “experienced training program” was aiming to help rural appraisers. 

Why is an appraisal important? 

Appraisals are part of the mortgage and home-buying process to provide unbiased and independent assessments of how much a property is worth. 

Gresh said buying a home is “one of the biggest purchases” of a lifetime for many people. She said having a professional appraiser look at their property gives buyers a comfort level and confidence to go forward with such a big purchase. 

“That is important because that’s what we are required to do per our uniformed standards of professional appraiser practice,” said Gresh, who showed her copy of the 2020-21 regulation book. “That’s what we’re all governed by.” 

She said PAASD looks to increase education for all appraisers in South Dakota and keep them informed on what’s going on in the appraisal industry. She noted in her nearly 20 years in the industry, she can’t recall any issues with South Dakota’s Appraiser Certification Program.

“We want to put out a good product and follow the guidelines as we’re required to,” Gresh said.