Sunday, June 22, 2008


When should you hire an appraiser? It seems like a question with an obvious answer but in my experience it is not. Recently, I was contacted by someone who wanted me to look at his piece to "see if it was real" but didn't want to pay for an appraisal until he knew for sure. This wasn't the first time I received this type of phone call. People call me all of the time and say things like, "can you just look at it...I don't want to pay if it is nothing" I want to be helpful so I usually say, "sure." If it is an obvious fake then I will tell you but most of the time it would take quite a bit of research and the truth is, you would be better off hiring an authenticator. I was honest with that client.... so he called another appraiser. Authenticating and appraising are different professions. As an appraiser, I gather information. Some of the information is provided by the client and some is recovered through research. I do my best to make sure that the piece is what it is purported to be. There are instances when this isn't possible for me. I don't provide scientific testing or infrared photos. That is the job of an authenticators. They are part scientist and part researcher.

The most common reasons for an appraisal include divorce (for equitable distribution), insurance, estate (either estate planning or when someone dies), and donation. Sometimes someone "just wants to know what it is worth" and that is fine too. In every state there are qualified appraisers who understand how to craft an appraisal so it meets legal guidelines. They understand the different types of appraisals and they keep up to date on the laws, the tests, and different art scholarship. The two questions you should ask an appraiser are "Have you taken and passed USPAP?" and "Do you belong to an appraisal society?" Recently, the Appraisal Foundation determined there are 1 million persons performing appraisals. However, there are only 2000 members in the three appraisal societies. All three appraisal organizations require members to understand, remain certified in, and write reports according to USPAP. If your appraiser has does not belong to one of these societies and has not taken USPAP there is very little chance that they will be performing their job accurately.

I belong to the Appraisers Association of America, one of the three major appraisers associations for personal property appraisers. I do complete appraisals outside of Kentucky. Recently, a client with a second home in Florida sent me to that state because he trusted me to do a good job based on the appraisal I performed for him in Kentucky. I have also been hired as an appraiser in Ohio, Indiana, and Tennessee. In many states appraisers charge $100-$200 per hour. I charge much less than this so if there is a lot of work it may be more economical to pay the plane fare and hotel bill for me than for someone else. Then again, if you only have five pieces it would benefit you to use someone locally.

Before you hire an appraiser do your research and understand the appraisers qualifications! In the long run it will benefit you and help you get the best apprasial possible.

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