Feb 21, 2015

How to Find a Qualified Appraiser

For the past year I have been involved with the Washington DC-based Appraisal Foundation that oversees the appraising profession (business, real property, gems, and personal property). I am on a resource panel for personal property appraisers charged with helping the Appraisal Foundation enhance public trust in personal property appraisers. We are examining ways appraisers get accredited and  are attempting to determine if a universal accreditation/certification system is feasible, considering the creation of a "national registry" for valuation specialists/appraisers in various disciplines, seeing if developing discipline-specific standards is possible, and considering methods of oversight of the profession. 
At present, there is no universal set standard to which appraisers must adhere. It is also a self-regulated profession, with appraisers of the various organizations setting admissions policies for their own members. Moreover, only a small number of appraisers belong to the big three appraiser organizations (AAA, ISA, ASA) at all--most are independent, with many being dealers or auction house staff members. Still, while many members of these organizations are very good, membership in these national appraiser organizations does not guarantee that appraisers are really qualified in the areas they appraise.

I would strongly recommend that when searching for a qualified appraiser make sure to hire only appraisers who truly have specialization in the fields for which they need appraising services. Also, remember that if your collection is large and diverse you might have to hire several appraisers or an appraiser who works with colleagues in several specialties (as I do). Perhaps the hardest thing for an appraiser is to know when to call in a consultant. Many generalists don't know the best dealers or auction houses to recommend to clients who want to sell their collections. Often for large and diverse collections I recommend selling at several  venues, that I select depending on where the client lives and the quality of the objects. Also, and this is most important, when choosing an appraiser always ask when they last took a USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice) class. USPAP (initially a 15 hour 2-day class with exam and 7-hour update classes every 2 years thereafter--to coincide with regular updates to USPAP) is required of appraisers who do appraisals reviewed by the IRS. Many appraisers do not even know what USPAP is and do not comply with its standards.