Hiring an Appraiser

Seven questions to ask when hiring an appraiser.

1. What qualifies you to appraise my property?
A qualified appraiser has formal education in appraisal theory, principles, procedures, ethics and law. The appraiser should be up to date on the latest appraisal standards. Continuing education and testing are the only ways to ensure this competence.

The appraiser you hire should be familiar with the type of property you want appraised and know how to value it correctly.

Expertise on the particular type of property is not enough if the “expert” does not know how to evaluate an item for its appropriate worth. Without appraisal training, these “experts” have no way of understanding the complicated variety of marketplace definitions that are used to determine appropriate values for appropriate uses.

For example, a museum curator may be able to authenticate a work of art, or a jeweler may be able to determine the identity of a gemstone, but neither may be able to value those items correctly unless they follow appropriate appraisal principles and procedures.

2. Do all appraisers have similar qualifications?
No! In most states anyone can claim to be a personal property appraiser, whether they have had formal training or not. Until legislation is passed to protect the public from the unqualified appraiser, the burden is on the consumer to evaluate an appraiser’s credential.

It is important to ask the prospective appraiser what type of formal appraisal education training he or she has received. Obtaining a copy of the appraiser’s professional profile or resume can help you evaluate the appraiser’s credentials.

3. Do you belong to an appraisal society that tests its members?
There are many appraisal organizations, but only a few require members to take courses and pass tests before being admitted as “accredited” members. ISA is such an organization.

Membership in an appraisal association is important because it shows that the appraiser is involved with the profession, has peer recognition, and is subject to a code of ethics and conduct.

4. Have you been tested? Do you take continuing education classes?
If the appraiser claims membership in a group that trains and tests its members, be sure to ask if this appraiser has personally gone through the training and testing.

Some organizations have grandfathered members into high member status without testing them. ‘Grandfathering’ means allowing members to retain their titles and status if they joined before new rules or testing standards were required. ISA has an absolute non-grandfathering policy.

Continuing education is also important for appraisers. Procedures and regulations are always changing. Because of this, ISA constantly updates, expands and rewrites its courses to ensure that its members will perform the work you need with knowledge of all the latest professional standards.

5. How will you handle items which may be outside your specialty area?
No appraiser should claim expertise in everything. ISA recognizes over 135 areas of specialty knowledge. A good appraiser knows his or her limits, and is expected to consult with other experts when necessary.

6. What is your fee and on what basis do you charge?
DO NOT hire an appraiser who charges a percentage of the appraised value, or charges a “contingency” fee. These practices are clearly conflicts of interests, and may result in biased values. The IRS will not accept an appraisal done with such fee arrangements.

ISA Appraisers are prohibited by their Code of Ethics from charging a fee based on a percentage of the value of the property appraised. Hourly fees, flat fees, or per item charges are acceptable.

7. What will the appraisal report be like?
You should receive a formal, typewritten report that gives you the information you need in a complete and organized way.

Some appraisal societies only teach appraisal theory, with no ‘real life’ examples. ISA is the only major appraisal society in the United States that specifically trains its members in how to write standardized, comprehensive appraisal reports. Each accredited member has been tested on these standards.

Make an educated choice. There’s too much at stake.
Whenever there’s a question about the value of your personal property, there’s also a risk involved.

It may be the risk of selling too low, or of paying too much; the risk of being under or over insured; the risk of not getting your fair share in a division of property; the risk of incurring tax penalties or being audited when claiming a deduction for charitable contribution or when calculating estate taxes.

A professional appraiser helps you manage these and other such risks by providing a written opinion of value upon which you can base your financial decisions.

Rather that being just an “educated guess”, the professional appraiser’s value conclusions are based on prescribed methods or evaluation, research, and report writing.

Bankers, financiers, investors, insurers, adjusters, estate managers, trustees, executors, attorneys, judges, federal and state tax agencies – ALL are dependent upon the knowledge and expertise of the appraiser, and so are you. Too often and too late, people find out that the appraisals they have are inaccurate or misleading, resulting not only in greater risk to themselves, but also in an annual waste of millions of consumer dollars.

ISA training makes an important difference to you!
The International Society of Appraisers trains appraisers with the most comprehensive personal property appraisal educational program in America. An ISA-educated appraiser is well equipped to give you an accurate and complete appraisal that will stand up in court, if necessary.

The foundation of ISA’s Appraiser Education Program is its courses on Appraisal Principles and Procedures of the Certified Appraiser of Personal Property (CAPP) program.

A person enters the ISA as an Associate Member. Upon completing and passing the core courses, and with three years related experiences, the members earns Accredited Member status. This educational program forms the basis for further studies that lead to Certified Appraiser of Personal Property (CAPP) or Specialist Certified Appraiser of Personal Property (S-CAPP).

A competent appraisal report has:

  • A cover document explaining in detail what type of value is being sought (“purpose”) and how the appraisal is to be used (“function” or “assigned use”).
  • The methodology and resources relied upon, including market analysis and market(s) selected.
  • A complete and accurate description of the property written in such a manner that it can be identified without photos.
  • The date(s) and location of inspection, and the effective date of value.
  • A statement by the appraiser that he or she has no financial interest in the property or that such interest is disclosed in the report.
  • The appraiser’s qualification and signature.

Do not accept an appraisal if:

  • It is handwritten or unsigned.
  • The fee is based on a contingency or upon the value of the property.
  • The appropriate “purpose” or “assigned use” are not stated.
  • The item is beyond the appraiser’s expertise.
  • The appraiser is not willing and able to defend it in court (subject to the appraiser’s availability, and separate fee arrangement.)