This article is based on a pamphlet the International Society of Appraisers wrote years ago that I have updated and expanded upon.
Question 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 in 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.
Solution 1: Where do you find a qualified appraiser?
First call all of the three major personal property appraisal organizations. See critical numbers section in the newsletter. Once you have a few names check with your local antique dealers, museum curators, insurance agents, or maybe even respected appraisers in other specialties. The generalist appraiser usually specialize in estate appraisals that cover everything from art to refrigerators (household contents). Often these appraisers have specialties in which they feel competent. There are specialty appraisers in decorative arts, fine arts, gems and jewelry, and machinery, so understand and carefully evaluate what you have and what you require in appraisal services. A fine art appraiser would not be a good choice for silver.
Question 2. "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.
Solution 2. Ask the right questions
Does the appraiser belong to one of the three personal property appraisal organizations?
Has the appraiser completed and been tested in appraisal methodology training?
What accreditations or certifications does the appraiser possess?
Has the appraiser taken and passed USPAP with the past 5 years?
What product knowledge does the appraiser possess to appraise the property?
What ongoing continuing education does the appraiser possess?
Ask the appraiser for their resume.
Question 3: "How will you handle items which may be outside your specialty area?"
No appraiser should claim expertise in everything. ISA(International Society of Appraisers) recognizes over 220 areas of specialty knowledge. A good appraiser knows his or her limits, and is expected to consult with other experts when necessary.
Solution 3: Ask the appraiser for their recommendations
If the appraiser is cavalier or blasé about assuming the responsibility for appraising property outside his or her specialty, you probably have picked the wrong appraiser
Question 4. "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.
Solution 4: Ask your appraiser to provide a fee schedule and/or a contract
It is a good business practice to have a contract stating in writing the expectations of both parties. Specifically, it is important to understand in writing how you will be charged. This contract will eliminate all misunderstandings and will significantly reduce the potential for appraiser liability from either the client or third parties relying on the document.
Question 5. "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. Does the appraiser comply with USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice).
Solution 5. If you feel unsure, ask the appraiser for a sample appraisal report
Although there are three different personal property organization, there is one accepted standard that all three comply with as a requirement for their members and that is USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice). For the first time in the history of personal property appraising the U.S. government has endorsed an appraisal standard. In the August 2008 amendment to the Pension protection Act of 2006 USPAP was endorsed as the accepted industry standard.