Questions to Ask An Appraiser: How To Get The Best Appraisal Of Your Personal Property, written by ISA

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Before you choose your personal property appraiser, be sure to ask the important questions that inform you of their training and expertise. This can make all the difference in the quality of your appraisal.
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 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 value those items correctly unless they follow appropriate appraisal principles and procedures.
Do all appraisers have similar qualifications?
No! There are many self-acclaimed personal property appraisers who have not completed any professional education.
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; the burden is on the consumer to evaluate an appraiser's qualifications.
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 full members. ISA is such an organization.
Membership in a professional 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.
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.
How will you handle items which may be outside your specialty area?
No appraiser should claim expertise in everything. ISA recognizes over 230 areas of specialty knowledge. A good appraiser knows his or her limits, and is expected to consult with other experts when necessary.
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 rates, or per item charges are acceptable.
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.

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