Questions To Ask An Appraiser

1. "What qualifies you to appraise my property?"

A qualified appraiser has a 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 a 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 write a formal appraisal of 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 credentials.

It is important to ask the prospective appraiser what type of formal education training he or she has received. Bonnie Rose of Bonnie Rose Appraisals Services, Inc. has completed such training and is certified by CAGA.

3. "Do you belong to an appraisal organization 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 an "accredited" or "certified" member. CAGA is a such an organization through which Bonnie Rose is certified as a personal property appraiser.

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

4. "Have you been tested?"

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 membership 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. CAGA has an absolute non-grand fathering policy.

5. "How will you handle items which may be outside your specialty area?"

No appraiser should claim expertise in everything. 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 reflect biased values. The IRS will not accept an appraisal done with such fee arrangements.

CAGA Appraisers are prohibited from charging a fee based on a percentage of the property appraised by their "Code of Ethics". Hourly fees, flat rates, or per item charges are acceptable. BRASI will determine fee schedules on an individual basis.

7. "What will the appraisal report be like?"

You should receive a formal, type written report that presents the information you need in a complete and organized way.

Some appraisal organizations only teach appraisal theory with no 'real life' examples. CAGA specifically trains its members how to write standardized, comprehensive appraisal reports. And, CAGA is the only organization that has its own computer software program for the Appraisal Report.

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