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tlineopen  Professional Silver Appraising
tline3open  Responsibility?

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Author Topic:   Responsibility?
wev
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Posts: 4046
Registered: Apr 99

iconnumber posted 06-28-1999 07:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for wev     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I posted this query earlier, but it was suggested that it might be more appropriate as a new topic. What responsibility does the appraiser have for the valuation given? I recently looked over a large batch of silver at an estate. The lot had been vetted by what I was assured was a paid professional appraiser. About half the items were mis-identified wholly or in part. Most items were in average condition, but valued at high retail even for mint examples. Little, if anything, was sold by the end of the sale. This was not a case of goods ill-suited to the marketplace and I was not the only collector there to comment on the disparities. If the appraiser was, in fact, a true professional, what, if any, recourse does the seller have? A law suit? Short of a truely blatant mis-evaluation, I imagine it would be a very difficult case to prove. Is it simply a matter of reading - and understanding - the fine print in the contract? It would seem that if the fee charged is a percentage of the value opinioned, then there is an inherent conflict of interest in any appraisal. Are there industry guidelines? A board of complaint? And what manner of enforcement does it possess?

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Gayle M. Skluzacek

Posts: 20
Registered: Jun 99

iconnumber posted 06-29-1999 07:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gayle M. Skluzacek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Appraisals are frequently challenged by clients. Contracts, if they exist at all, are often very vague and unclear. Of course, any consumer should always read the fine print in a contract. Always ask questions of the appraiser to be sure that they understand the assignment and what you expect of their services.

Sometimes a problem lies in the clients intended use for the appraisal and the appraiser's misunderstanding of the assignment. If a client requests an appraisal without telling the appraiser the purpose of the appraisal, the appraiser will not know which value structure to employ, and valuations could be incorrect (i.e. using retail replacement values for a resale appraisal). Other times, a client may not be willing to pay for an appraiser to complete any research on a project. A generalist appraiser may not be able to identify certain marks and dates without research. As such, items may be incorrectly identified.

Not that appraisers are never at fault! There are many incompetent appraisers in the field. I have previously stated that according to the Appraisal Foundation in Washington, there are over 25,000 personal property appraisers in the US, of which only about 2,000 are professional appraisers and members of the 3 main appraisal societies (ASA, ISA, AAA). These societies have strict codes of ethics and monitor their members' practices. Each society has an ethics committee which presides over client-appraisal disputes. An appraiser can be sanctioned, suspended or expelled from an association if the alleged misconduct is supported.

All appraisers who follow the Uniform Standard of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) must subscribe to the ethics rules concerning competency. These rules sate that an appraiser who has accepted an appraisal assignment, but has since discovered that they are not knowledgeable in a certain field he/she must take one or all of the following 3 steps.
1) Refuse the assignment
2) Complete the work with the help of an expert (with the client's permission)
3) Gain the appropriate knowledge to accurately complete the assignment (with the client's permission)
The client must agree to the appraiser's course of action and be informed in writing of the appraiser's lack of knowledge and the steps the appraiser has chosen to complete the project accurately.

The comment on contingency fees is interesting. Any appraiser who is paid based on the value of the appraised items is in violation of all professional ethics. It is against the codes of ethics of the ASA, ISA, and AAA. It is in violation of USPAP. Contingency fees have not been permitted since the 1970s! Appraisers who practice in such manner should be brought up on ethic charges and sanctioned accordingly.

Unfortunately, because state licensing for personal property appraisers does not yet exist, there are no specific state boards to report unethical practices of appraisers. Your only recourse is to report such appraisers to the ethics committee of one of the associations assuming they are among the 2,000 "professional appraisers" who are members. For unethical appraisers who are not ASA, ISA, or AAA members, you can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. Lastly, of course, you can always sue, but it may be difficult to prove malpractice or negligence. USPAP, is however, recognized by the courts. Any appraiser who does not follow its guidelines could be found guilty of malpractice.

Again, you get what you pay for! Accredited professional appraisers are more expensive, but their knowledge, ethics, and appraisals are worth it!

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