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About the Appraisal Process 

Collectors often have questions about the purpose of appraisals.  Here are some consumer guidelines to consider when hiring an appraiser. These guidelines are excerpted from the consumer brochure published by the Appraisal Foundation, Washington, D.C.

What's It Worth? A Consumer's Guide to Appraisal and Selecting an Appraiser

Have you ever...bought a house? Sold an antique? Inherited a farm? Donated property? Owned a business? Paid property taxes? Bought fine jewelry? Served as an executor of an estate? Given up part of your property through a right of way taking?

If so, then you are like most people who from time to time enter into a situation, financial or otherwise, involving the need for an appraisal.

An appraisal is an independent, unbiased estimate of value that often serves as a cornerstone in a transaction. Professional appraisers value property with independence and objectivity.

An appraisal can be key to protecting your interest in many financial dealings. When there is a question as to the value of your property, there's also a risk involved.

Value oriented risks may include:

  • selling too low

  • paying too much

  • being over or under insured

  • not getting your fair share in a division of property

  • paying too much in taxes

  • being audited when claiming a deduction for a charitable contribution or a business loss

A professional appraiser helps you manage your interest by providing a well developed and documented unbiased estimate of value upon which you can base your financial decisions.

Appraisals are used for many purposes. Some common uses of appraisals are:

Mortgage Lending
Most mortgage transactions involve an appraisal. Generally, financial institutions will only approve a mortgage after contracting for an independent appraisal to document the value of the property which serves as collateral for the loan.

Donations and Insurance
Art donated to a museum is often appraised to establish the appropriate tax deduction for the donor. Also, furniture and fixtures, gems, fine art and other valuables are often appraised to identify appropriate insurance coverage.

Pension and investment fund managers, corporations and other investors generally require professional appraisal services prior to acquiring investment real estate, art or other property.

Property Tax
Ad Valorem appraisals or assessments are conducted by many jurisdictions to establish real estate taxes.

Appraisers are taught to estimate value by following three recognized approaches to value:

Sales Comparison Approach
Compares similar, recently sold properties (homes, farms, machinery, jewelry) to the property.

Income Approach
Estimates what a prudent investor would pay for the property base on the income the property produces.

Cost Approach
Estimates the cost to replace or reproduce the property being appraised.

Through consideration of results of the analysis conducted, an appraiser then develops a final estimate or opinion of value.


There are many specialties in the appraisal profession. Just as expertise or specialty is important in selecting a doctor or attorney, the same is true in selecting a professional appraiser.

Real Property Appraisers
Appraise all types of real estate including residential, commercial, rural, urban and agricultural properties.

Personal Property Appraisers
Perform appraisals of antiques, decorative and fine arts, residential contents and collectibles.


It is important for consumers of appraisal services to exercise care in selecting a valuation expert.,,,

Affiliation with a professional association
You may wish to look for an appraiser who is affiliated with a non-profit professional association which requires on-going education and adherence to generally accepted technical and ethical standards. Most associations offer special designations for professionals who have demonstrated a higher level of education, experience and dedication to the profession.

Look for an appraiser who has experience in appraising properties similar to yours by reviewing his or her job-history, resume or other qualifications material.

Check references or recommendations from financial institutions, insurance companies, museums, and government bodies for whom the appraiser has performed appraisal services. Also, the recognition the appraiser has received for professional activities is often an important criterion for selection.

A key question to ask prior to engaging an appraiser, is whether or not her or she performs services in compliance with the current annual edition of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).

USPAP, published annually by the Appraisal Standards Board of The Appraisal Foundation, is the generally accepted set of standards of professional appraisal practice in North America. In addition, many professional appraisers in Europe, Central and South America, and Asia are also beginning to practice in compliance with USPAP.

In the United States, USPAP is recognized by state real estate appraiser licensing agencies, Federal bank regulatory agencies and many other Federal, state and local authorities.

Selecting an ethical appraiser who complies with USPAP is the consumer's best assurance that he or she is working with a professional who will provide quality services.

Any concern regarding the work of an appraiser should be reported. Contact the professional association(s) to which the appraiser belongs and, in the case of real estate appraisers in the United States, state appraiser licensing agencies for more information. These groups investigate complaints and assess disciplinary measures where wrongdoing is confirmed.

Independence, high standards and quality services are the marks of the professional appraiser!

 Adapted from: What's it Worth. A Consumer's Guide to Appraisal and Selecting an Appraiser. Copyright, The Appraisal Foundation, authorized by Congress as the source of Appraisal Standards and Appraiser qualifications, Washington, D.C.​

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