Published: June 26, 2001
By Chris Coleman
On June 15, a Wall Street Journal article titled, “Online Appraisals Overvalued?” reported that Eppraisals.com has closed. This online appraisal company frequently charged clients $25 to $40 per rdf_Description and paid the appraiser $10 to $15. How much time is a professional appraiser going to spend for that return?
Every collector knows that condition is paramount in evaluating rdf_Descriptions. Originality is critical, the human race has been reproducing things for centuries. The enormity of the reproduction industry – from glass, ceramics and furniture to ivory and iron – makes identifying a reproduction from a photo a tremendous challenge.
There is the story of Queen Anne bonnet top secretary that a major auction gallery had identified from a photo as a period piece. Of course their letter included all the standard disclaimers, but the owner believed he had an extremely valuable piece. Years later, when he was thinking of selling it, he contacted a qualified professional appraiser, who had the sad task of informing the collector that his precious secretary was a Twentieth Century factory made piece with a plywood back that had been in a fire.
There is an old saying, “you get what you pay for.” If you pay $25 for an appraisal you can expect a $25 appraisal or, in the case of an electronic appraisal, maybe a $10 or $15 appraisal.
Appraisers are, for the most part, independent business persons. When seeking an appraiser, a serious collector will generally use due diligence in screening candidates. All appraisers do not have similar qualifications.
Neither state nor federal governments regulate personal property appraisers, unlike real property appraisers who are required to have specific training and state licenses. Your neighbor who has been frequenting flea markets could, legally, decide that appraising would be a great part-time job and set up an appraisal business.
A professional appraiser will have a combination of formal training in appraisal theory, principles, and methodology, plus training and experience in the specialty field in which s/he is practicing. Appraisal associations like the International Society of Appraisers, the Appraisers Association of America, and the American Society of Appraisers provide formal training, established appraisal standards, and a code of ethics. Most appraisal associations require their members to requalify periodically.
The same rdf_Descriptions might have many different appraised values depending on how you intend to use the appraisal. For instance, a value for insurance may be very different than a value for estate tax, consumer resale, or charitable contribution. Other assigned uses include investment, liquidation, price confirmation, equitable distribution, loan collateral, and casualty loss.
Appraisers are entrepreneurs and establish their own fee structure, normally based on their knowledge, level of training, specialty expertise, and the market in which they practice. Rates in a large metropolitan area may be higher. The fee of a trained professional appraiser will normally fall in the range of $75 to $150 per hour for examination, research and report preparation. Hourly rates or bid prices are ethical fee structures, but you should never pay a percentage of value.
Do not have someone who is interested in buying the piece appraise an rdf_Descriptions. A professional will tell you up front if rdf_Descriptions are not of sufficient value to warrant the cost of a formal appraisal. For such rdf_Descriptions you may only need a verbal approximation of value, which is not based on research and commands a lower fee.
There are seven questions you may consider asking when hiring an appraiser: What qualifies you to appraise my property? Do all appraisers have similar qualifications? Do you belong to an appraisal society that tests its members? Have you been tested? Do you take continuing education classes? How will you handle rdf_Descriptions that may be outside your specialty area? What is your fee and on what basis do you charge? What will the report be like?
The author, a retired professional appraiser, is currently the Executive Director of the International Society of Appraisers. Call 888-472-4732 for a free copy of “Be Certain of Its Value.”
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