Think about these situations that cause major property damage:
A kid threw a toy into the toilet and the entire downstairs was filled with water. You’ve got a frazzled and embarrassed mom trying to keep her cool.
A large hurricane just rolled over half the state and knocked tree after tree onto hundreds of roofs.
The wind ripped half the shingles off the roof and all the gutters were bent by the F4 tornado that carved a ditch across an eleven-mile strip of Kansas.
These homeowners are all looking to you, as a property adjuster, for help so they can get the insurance claim processed, and piece their lives back together.
In this article, I’m going to go through what a property adjuster is and what they do. I’ll also include career information and guidance on how to get started working as a property adjuster.
What does a property adjuster do?
Property adjusters handle various tasks associated with a property loss claim made by a homeowner. When damages occur and an owner believes their insurance policy covers it, the property adjuster determines if the loss is covered, and the amount of damages the property has sustained.
The major tasks that a property adjuster performs on a daily basis are:
- Schedule appointments with insured people or contractors representing the insured
- Document and update the status of claim files
- Determine damages sustained to the property
- Take photos to document the damage
- Create a sketch of the house
- Write an estimate for the damages
- Create a report
- Settle the claim
- Issue payment
Required skills for a property adjuster
While there are no hard degree requirements for most adjuster positions, there are some skills that property adjusters use on a daily basis. Having these skills can help you have a successful career in inspecting damaged property.
Property adjusters are very active, and most need to be able to climb ladders to inspect the roofs of houses for damage. There are services to handle roof inspections for adjusters, called ladder assists, but adjusters should generally have the physical capacity to safely climb a roof.
Communication is KEY to being a successful property adjuster. Whether communicating through the status and notes in a file, with an insured person about their coverage, or with a contractor about additional damages, communication is what sets apart great adjusters from the rest.
Computer skills and the ability to write an estimate in the industry-leading property estimating software, Xactimate, is a must.
Organization and time management
Good organizational and time management skills are critical to ensure you are able to keep track of your claims and serve the policy owners with a high level of customer service.
Property adjuster jobs
When you type in “property adjuster” into Glassdoor, 3485 job postings appear. Indeed boasts 1756 possible job opportunities. Regardless of these listings, there are tons of opportunities out there for property adjusters.
For example, current listings include a property adjuster job in Austin, Texas to work as a catastrophic adjuster, as well as opportunities in Chicago, Saint Petersburg, Florida, and everywhere in between.
There are three main ways that you can be employed as a property adjuster:
- Staff adjuster
- Independent adjuster
- Public adjuster
Staff property adjuster
A staff property adjuster works directly for an insurance company as a w-2 employee. They work full-time hours and may have to work overtime when things are busy.
The insurance company that employs them handles all their expenses, including gas, and sometimes the vehicle the adjuster drives may be supplied by the employer.
Independent property adjuster
Independent adjusters are contracted or rented adjusters. They still do work on behalf of an insurance company, but they are their own business.
They are hired as a 1099 contractor and work for multiple insurance companies. They can be contracted for a single claim or for an entire event, such as Hurricane Harvey, to assist the insurance company with their increase in claim volume.
Independent property adjusters also handle claims for insurance companies that don’t have their own staff field property adjusters.
Public property adjuster
Public adjusters represent the homeowner in a claim. Their job is to ensure that the insured is taken care of in a claim. Many times they negotiate with the insurance company for a higher settlement amount by double-checking the work of the insurance company’s adjuster.
Public adjusters own their own business and must find work for themselves by marketing to homeowners and networking within the community.
Property adjuster salary
How you are employed can greatly affect your salary as an adjuster. I’ll break down the different numbers based on the different options of working as a property adjuster.
Staff property adjuster salary
They earn a salary and typically also receive benefits. The average salary of a staff property adjuster, according to Glassdoor.com, is $46,954 a year. Experienced adjusters and those that travel to catastrophic claims typically have a higher earning potential and can earn up to $60,000 – $80,000 a year.
Independent property adjuster salary
Independent adjusters earn $80,000 a year or more, on average, depending on how busy they stay and whether they handle catastrophic claims or not.
As business owners, independent adjusters are responsible for their own healthcare, tax withholdings, and expenses. They are typically paid on a per claim basis. The amount per claim varies depending on the amount of damages to the property. This is called a fee schedule.
Public property adjuster salary
Public adjusters are paid a percentage of what they help the homeowner recover. The percentages can range from 5% to 20% of the claim payout.
A public adjuster’s income can vary greatly, but just like independent adjusters, they have to find clients, manage expenses, withhold taxes etc. However, they have the opportunity for earnings of greater than $80,000 per year.
How to become a property adjuster
Being a property adjuster is very fulfilling and a potentially lucrative career path. Many people who discover insurance adjusting are confused about how to get started, but we’ll try to eliminate some of that confusion in this section.
The type of adjuster you decide to become will determine your exact steps, and which insurance adjuster tools you’ll need, but this section covers the basics of what you need to do.
The first steps to becoming an insurance adjuster are pretty straightforward:
- Decide which path is right for you (staff, independent, or public)
- Get an adjusters license (determine your state adjuster license requirements)
- Learn Xactimate estimating software
- Apply for jobs and continue training and networking (check out our post on the best free insurance adjuster training for some great resources for this)
How to Become a Staff Property Adjuster
Becoming a staff adjuster involves a lot of job interviews, and a typical type of hiring process. Having a degree may help, but isn’t required for most opportunities.
Being good at interviews may greatly help your chances, but also being properly trained and familiar with how property claims are handled is a plus.
How to become an independent property adjuster
Independent adjusting has some entry requirements before you are eligible as a contractor for claims. Most independent adjusters (IA’s) are hired by staffing companies called independent adjusting firms.
You can get a list of independent adjusting companies and start calling, but I’d recommend that you complete some training and feel competent before you start. Most of these companies want to hire independent adjusters who have experience or are confident in their abilities.
Few companies want to work with people that need training. Remember, as an independent adjuster, you are a business owner. No one wants to hire a “professional” service they have to train. If you are overwhelmed with the details of what order to get licensed, get trained, network, apply to IA Firms, etc. you can look at the Property Adjuster’s Roadmap that Mathew Allen and Chris Stanley put together to give you a downloadable step by step guide.
Also for a complete list of steps to become an independent adjuster you can check out our article How to Become an Insurance Adjuster: A Comprehensive Guide.
How to become a public property adjuster
Public adjusters have to earn the trust of their potential clients. Being competent in what you do is important. This is typically not where most adjusters start, but I’ll try and help you navigate a course there.
Just like the other types of adjusting, you must learn Xactimate and have basic construction knowledge of a house. Being able to compile a professional report is a must. Since you are trying to wow your potential clients, make sure you also have some skill at creating beautiful reports and proposals.
Being able to negotiate and handle uncomfortable situations as a public adjuster is a must. Understanding the repair process behind a damaged home will greatly improve the odds that you can help your clients receive a larger payout from the insurance company.
Learn more about the property adjusting career path
If you’re interested in becoming an independent property adjuster, I recommend you read through the Independent Adjuster’s Playbook: A step by step guide and roadmap to becoming a successful independent adjuster.
In the book, I outline exactly what being an independent adjuster is like, what it takes to succeed, and the exact steps you can take to give yourself the greatest odds of success. You’ll find the Property Adjuster’s Path Roadmap as a clear guide for each step.
If you want to connect, don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us with your adjusting questions.