There are varying degrees of appraisal services available to the consumer. The profession of appraising art and antiques has long been challenged by conflicts of interest and lack of regulatory oversight and requirements. The Appraisal Foundation’s Appraisers Qualification Board (AQB) who had developed the minimum voluntary qualifications for personal property appraisers known as USPAP is currently working on a proposed revision which is poised to be effective early in 2015. Professional appraisal organizations who are members of The Appraisal Foundation will be required to follow the new guidelines. While these new guidelines are a step in the right direction, they are complex and confusing and haven’t considered all the nuisances of the profession.
My good friend and colleague, Cindy Charleston Rosenberg, President of the International Society of Appraisers, has written a very thoughtful summary of TAF’s proposal along with her own comments and suggestions which I would like to re-post. Breaking down their proposed standards in the way she has, helps other appraisers to begin to discuss the merits and flaws of the proposal and make suggestions that will make the eventual regulations more meaningful going forward for both the consumer of appraisal services and personal property appraisers.
As she points out, the proposed regulations are definitely a step in the right direction. While most appraisers follow USPAP which is largely ethics based, defining scope of work and research completed within an assignment, there still is a wide degree of qualified appraisers advertising their services. It is difficult for consumers to know what makes a “good, better, best” appraiser” without a lot of study and trust on the consumer’s part. What will make a “best appraiser” the best is simply superior product knowledge and a clear understanding of appraisal methodology and theory.
A degree at a University doesn’t insure that an individual has adequate knowledge going forward to become an appraiser. While one may study about objects for four or more years, it isn’t the same kind of practical knowledge that is gained from work experience through auction houses, museums, galleries, antique stores or working as a dealer or picker. Seeing and working with hundreds of objects over and over again along with book study is what helps and individual to learn connoisseurship. What should be important to the industry as a whole is making sure that all appraisers are thoroughly educated in specific appraisal methodology and theories- and that this education be married to the product knowledge. Too many times, we see dealers appraise who have excellent product knowledge but only understand the value of what they would buy and sell a work for. They fail to understand that there are many other functions and values. On the other hand, appraisers with only book knowledge may understand the valuation differences but misidentify an object or misread a market trend due to lack of product knowledge gained through work experience.
As Ms. Rosenberg points out, peer reviews at the lowest level of credentialing are required by most of the professional appraisal organizations. Peer reviews help appraisers to improve their report writing skills to present appraisal information in a clear and credible manner that is easily understood by the end users. Also she points out that peer reviews aren’t yet included in the proposed qualifications standards and should be.
I personally think that this should be taken a step further and that appraisers should be encouraged to present reports to consumers in a required “Writing Standard”. The top three professional organizations all have similar writing standards that appraisers of their organizations are required to write to. However, not every advertising appraiser writes to a particular standard. This is particularly true for appraisers who are not members of one of the professional personal property organizations. Their reports can be anywhere from a few sentences with not much description or photos and just a value (whether the correct value for the function or not) to a page, to just a form filled out. However different, those not writing to the same standards as those writing to the standards of ISA, ASA and AAA leave room for a great deal of confusion for end users as to what to expect from a written appraisal and what they deserve to receive. Some unification in standards of report writing in my opinion would be more helpful to the public than some of the current proposed standards.
All in all, I appreciate that the Appraisal Foundation is working on developing Qualification Standards. I agree it is a step in the right direction!
You can read Ms. Rosenberg’s blog here:
You can read The Appraisal Foundations proposed standards revisions here: