A Professional Journey: Becoming a Right of Way Appraiser

Posted: 6/4/2018

Behind the ROW

The land acquisition process is part of many projects that expand or enhance a municipality’s transportation network. This component of a transportation improvement often requires the acquisition of private property for public use. The law not only requires just compensation for acquisitions, but it also encourages agreements structured to avoid litigation and assure consistent treatment of property owners. The ability to reach an agreement in a timely manner is founded on a comprehensive, accurate, and defensible appraisal.

Civiltech recognizes this critical component of public agency transportation improvements and offers our clients the unique service of an in-house Right of Way (ROW) department. With land acquisition services in-house, our team has an unmatched understanding of how the design work integrates with the land acquisition process. We can implement land acquisition strategies to minimize project impacts and delays. Also, our designers pay particular attention to the minimization of private property impacts when identifying ROW needs.

The ability to provide a complete land acquisition process requires the specialized services of a Certified General Real Estate Appraiser. In February of this year, Civiltech’s Dino Lanzo received his license and joins our Director of ROW services, David White, in this distinction. Working as a Certified General Real Estate Appraiser within the ROW field is not a common career path for appraisers and requires specialized knowledge and experience. Civiltech considers our dynamic ROW team to be a tremendous asset for our clients and our projects.

Dino’s path to certification provides a glimpse into this interesting and somewhat elusive career path. Dino began his career with a bachelor’s degree in music business, which led him to an internship working in a recording studio. His duties included business development, working on recording projects, and teaching music lessons. While he found being involved with recording projects interesting, he quickly realized that his passion was for the detail in the business end and not the music aspect. With the business part of his background, Dino transitioned into an accounting role within the Illinois Tollway (on loan from another transportation engineering firm), working as a project accountant calculating the potential savings of their Congestion Relief Program. Subsequently, Dino was assigned to a position at the Bureau of Land Acquisition within IDOT District 1, then continued in a permanentpo sition as a Consultant Appraisal Manager.

Through this unconventional route, Dino found himself in the middle of an exciting new world, a business opportunity that sparked his interest and at which he felt he could thrive. Dino’s career discovery was Civiltech’s good fortune when he began working with Dave White and the Civiltech team. Dino joined Civiltech providing services similar to his Consultant Appraisal Manager position at IDOT. This role allowed him to see the processes employed by many different appraisers. He then transitioned into preparing appraisal reports which provided hands on training and counted towards the 3,000 hours of documented experience that he needed, as he now knew he wanted to pursue becoming a Certified General Real Estate Appraiser.

A challenging path, the requirements prior to sitting for the exam include 300 hours of classes, the 3,000 hours of experience noted above, and a minimum of 30 months in preparation. Dino began this process in 2012, taking most of his classes online, and finished his last class in May 2017. In October 2017, he sat for the 6 hour test and is now a newly licensed appraiser, certified to independently sign appraisal reports.

Having been involved in the process as both a client representative (public agency) and in the trenches doing the appraisal work, Dino brings a thorough, well-rounded view of the entire ROW process. Dino feels that working within Civiltech’s ROW department offers many advantages to his position. He explains, “Being involved in the beginning of the land acquisition process is often the most difficult because it’s hard to explain to people what the proposed improvement will look like in the end. Civiltech provides great exhibits and thorough plans to illustrate the project, which makes my communication with the property owners easier.” Also, when asked about the advantage to having ROW services in-house, Dino notes that it is beneficial to have the ROW specialists involved in the design process. “We want smart land acquisition policies. Integrating the perspective of someone in the right of way field within the planning and design process can help facilitate the project schedule and generate cost savings by identifying and minimizing unintentional impacts that may not have otherwise been foreseen.”

Dino’s advice for anyone interested in pursuing a career in land acquisition, “Find a great mentor to help you learn the ropes and recognize real world experience opportunities as part of the educational process. It’s a difficult path, but with hard work, it can be very rewarding.”