Your Appraisal

Often the intimidating process of getting an appraisal is made more difficult by being coupled with the loss of a loved one, the loss or damage of property, the dissolution of a marriage or business, or the simple horror that is calculating one’s taxes. My job as an appraiser is not only to provide you with a comprehensive, ironclad appraisal but to make this process as painless as possible. Here are the basics of the appraisal process and some important things to consider:

What is an appraisal?

Appraisal is often used in place of appraisal report, which is what most people think of when the word appraisal arises. An appraisal report is a document compiled to determine value, estimate cost, or determine the present worth of forecasted earnings. An appraisal report is a typed document that clearly states the intended use of the appraisal, the scope of work, valuation methodology and supporting materials. Depending on the quantity or nature of the items being appraised, an appraisal report can be anywhere from 3 to over 200 pages in length.

Those seeking appraisals should be wary of “verbal appraisals”. These are not considered appraisals but “oral consultations” or “verbal opinions of value” and are not recognized by appraisal associations and other business and government entities.

Why do I need an appraisal?

A variety of business activities require an appraisal of personal property. Some of the most common uses of the appraisals I perform are:

Estate Planning and Estate Tax:

An estate appraisal is a comprehensive report of the value of an individual's property as of a particular date. Federal estate tax applies to the transfer of property at death, and the I.R.S. may require forms to be filed with a supporting estate tax appraisal performed by a qualified appraiser if the decedent’s gross estate exceeds a designated amount. Estate appraisals are also sought after as impartial documents to assist with the equitable distribution of estates between multiple heirs. Many choose to have estate appraisals compiled for planning purposes to help determine net worth and property value, assist in asset management, determine future estate tax reporting requirements, calculate gift tax and aid in the creation of a will. An estate appraisal consists of a room by room itemization of property with complete descriptions, fair market valuations, methodology and supporting materials.

Non-Cash Charitable Donation:

The Tax Reform Act of 1986 permits income tax deductions for the non-cash charitable donation of 100% of the fair market value of donated items, providing these items have the same related use to the qualifying charitable organization of their destination. After a qualifying organization for the donation is selected, a charitable fair market value donation appraisal is required to catalog the donated items and determine the amount the taxpayer may deduct. It is important that the charity meet the I.R.S. requirements for what constitutes a charitable organization for the donation to be tax deductible, and I will be able to guide you through this process. The I.R.S. requires a "qualified appraisal" prepared by a "qualified appraiser" for many donations meeting certain monetary and conditional guidelines so it is important to consult with an appraiser before making the donation. All of my non-cash charitable donation appraisals are prepared within the guidelines established by the I.R.S. and in compliance with the standards set forth by the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) and the International Society of Appraisers (ISA). All donation appraisals meet the relevant requirements of Internal Revenue Regulation §1.170A-13 (c)3 and the requirements of I.R.S. Revenue Procedures 66-49 and Publications 526 and 561.

Federal Gift Tax:

Federal gift tax is applied to the gratuitous transfer of property. Gift tax appraisals determine the fair market value of the gifted property as of the date of transfer. Gift tax appraisals are required when a gift in excess of a designated amount is given to any one donee or to establish a new basis for the property.

Insurance Coverage and Claims:

Insurance appraisals are required by insurance companies to establish the amount of insurance coverage and to assist in the settlement of a claim. Many insurance professionals are not knowledgeable about the value of fine art and appreciable property, and it is the responsibility of the insured to locate a professional appraiser who is competent in performing insurance appraisals as well as someone who is informed in category of items being appraised. The insurance appraisal serves as a third-party verification that the property existed and to determine the value of the property at the time of the on-site inspection. In the event of a loss or settlement dispute, insurance appraisals provide critical information about the condition and value of the property that significantly affects a settlement. It is also important to have insurance appraisal reports updated every 3-5 years to maintain the appropriate amount of coverage.


Bankruptcy appraisals value assets in the event of a bankruptcy for liquidation purposes. Knowledge of state laws when performing a bankruptcy liquidation appraisal is essential and requires an informed appraiser.

Estate Liquidation:

For a variety of reasons, sometimes an individual may choose to sell select property. In the event of an inheritance, death, relocation, down-sizing or divorce, certain possessions may need new homes. Estate liquidation appraisals are performed to determine the value of the property and its most appropriate resale market. Consultation can also be sought to determine the most cost-effective and successful options for liquidating entire estates or individual item consignment.

Casualty Loss:

Individuals experience a casualty loss if they suffer damage to their property as a result of disasters (such as fires, floods or hurricanes) or theft loss. Owners may be able to deduct these losses on their taxes, provided they exceed a designated amount. Casualty loss appraisals are then required to determine the adjusted basis and fair market value of the property before and after the loss.

Equitable Distribution & Divorce:

Equitable distribution appraisals inventory and value property to ensure its fair distribution in instances such as divorce, business dissolution and estate distribution among heirs. These delicate situations require a detailed report performed by an appraiser with a thorough understanding of the laws governing these appraisals in their jurisdictions. All of my equitable distribution appraisals meet these standards and are prepared to be presented in a court of law.

General Knowledge:

Not surprisingly, one of the most common reasons for an appraisal is simply to gain general knowledge of an item and determine its value. With people frequently inheriting or purchasing items outside of their expertise, I am often asked “what is this?” or “how much is this worth?” Appraisals are not only helpful in the identification of an unusual find but can assist later on in its resale. Similarly, potential purchasers may wish to obtain advisory appraisals to ensure they are making savvy collecting choices and to guide them to fair asking prices.

What qualifications should I consider when interviewing an appraiser?

When choosing an appraiser, it is important to not only hire someone you trust and who is knowledgeable of the property you wish to be appraised but also someone in good standing with a federally recognized appraisers’ association that tests its members regularly such as the International Society of Appraisers (ISA), the Appraisers Association of America (AAA) and the American Society of Appraisers (ASA). These organizations promote continuing education and testing of appraisal theory, methodology, ethics and changes in legislation. The appraiser should also prepare all their reports in compliance with the standards set forth by the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) and be current with their USPAP certification. You must do your homework when choosing an appraiser. There are many active appraisers in the field who do not meet any of these criteria and their clients are often the ones to suffer when their appraisals do not meet the qualifications of business and government entities or are involved in litigation.

What should I expect?

Clients usually contact me via email or telephone, and there is an initial discussion of what is needed and what I feel is the best way to proceed. The more information you provide in this initial discussion, the easier it is for me to determine how to best help you. The following is a list of questions I typically ask during our initial discussion:

• Why do you need an appraisal?
• When do you need the appraisal?
• Provide a brief description of the items you need appraised and roughly how many items need to be appraised (this could be a general household size, such as a 10-room, one-story home).
• Are you the owner of these items or trustee of the estate? (If not, I will not be able to perform an appraisal unless you are seeking an advisory appraisal)
• Where are the items located? Are they easily accessible?
• What condition are the items in?
• Any history of the items or provenance you can provide is important.

After the initial consultation, arrangements are usually made for me to view the items that need to be appraised so that I can formulate an accurate fee quote and schedule. A contract is then signed by the client and onsite examination and documentation is scheduled. Onsite examination and documentation occurs at the location of the property, usually the client’s residence. After my initial assessment of the property, I will be able to give you an accurate estimate of how long this will take. I will digitally photograph, measure, observe condition, and record physical descriptions and identifying signatures and markings on the objects. I will then research and compile the report in my office. A time estimate of the writing of the report will be factored into the fee quote. Finally, the completed report will be delivered to you upon receipt of payment.

How do I know if I need an appraiser?

Though it would be wonderful for my business if everyone needed appraisals all of the time, there are some instances when an appraisal is unnecessary or unjustified given the situation or nature of items to be appraised. Contacting your attorney, accountant and/or financial advisor prior to engaging my services would be beneficial. If you have property of negligible monetary value or a tax or business situation that does not require an appraisal, I will discuss this with you after our initial consultation.

How much does an appraisal cost?

I typically work for an hourly rate plus expenses, but do provide flat rates for certain single item appraisals and in cases where the scope of work is conducive to this arrangement. I will be happy to discuss fee arrangements and time requirements during a consultation.

My compensation for appraisals is never contingent upon the development or reporting of a predetermined value or direction in value that favors the cause of the client, the amount of the value opinion, the attainment of a stipulated result, or the occurrence of a subsequent event directly related to the intended use of the appraisal. However tempting, avoid appraisers who offer fees directly related to the appraised value, usually as a percentage of that value.

Please contact me, I would be happy to discuss and schedule your appraisal!