By Sarah McCullom

          In my earlier articles I acquainted you with why you would need an appraisal, and also what information should be included in the appraisal.Now that you know when to get an appraisal, and what the document should look like, you are asking yourself how to go about the process of finding an appraiser.

          Many of us depend on our friends and relatives to get recommendations.  Some will go into an antique shop and ask if they do appraisals or know someone who does. Referrals can be a great way to find an appraiser. Most appraisers depend on reputation to help get additional business.But how about calling an appraiser from advertising, such as the yellow pages?Certainly good appraisers advertise – but how do you know if they are qualified to do the job for you?

          One thing you need to know is that personal property appraisers are not regulated by the government. Appraisers do not have to acquire a license from federal or state governments.Historically appraisers have been those individuals who have had a significant amount of experience with antiques, in particular with the buying and selling, such as dealers, antique shop owners, and auctioneers.A good number of these individuals do appraisals.

          Increasingly other professionals who are not buyers and sellers of antiques are getting into the business of appraising.These are individuals who have had significant experience and education in the connoisseurship and appraisal of antiques, but are not interested in the buying and selling.They only do appraisals and sometimes consultations.

          The first question to ask an appraiser you are considering hiring is if they do their appraisals in accordance with USPAP.What is USPAP?In the late 1980’s, in order to regulate themselves and become recognized as true professionals,  representatives from eight different appraisal organizations met and formed the Appraisal Standard Board of the Appraisal Foundation.They developed the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, or USPAP.These standards set the guidelines for the professional and ethical preparation of appraisals.(For instance, personal property appraisers must put into the report that they do not have any interest in purchasing the item being appraised.)Appraisers in every field use these same standards.In fact, appraisers who follow USPAP must pass an exam every five years.While it is not required by law for an appraiser to prepare their report in accordance with USPAP, hiring an appraiser who does, will assure you of a professional and ethical appraisal.

          The appraiser you hire should also be affiliated with one of the three personal property associations. They are the American Society of Appraisers (ASA) , the International Society of Appraisers (ISA) , and the Appraisers Association of America (AAA) .These associations each have slightly different membership requirements, but they all require their members to follow the guidelines of USPAP, and have a code of ethics that members must follow. 

          Another very important question to ask is how the appraiser charges.Fees should be clearly stated, and should be on an hourly or by the piece basis.They should NEVER be on a percentage of the estimated value.Each appraiser sets their own fees, but they typically start at $100.00 per hour, and may run up to $250 and hour.Most have a minimum fee.A contract or letter of agreement should be signed so that both parties are clear on the fees and services expected.

          Each of the organizations that I have discussed in this article has a listing of accredited appraisers on their website.You can go into these websites and find an appraiser in your area.(You may not find any local appraisers in AAA, as they are mostly in New York.) Otherwise, go with recommendations of friends or antique dealers, but be sure to ask the questions discussed here. If you check them out, you can be confident that you will get a professional, as well as ethical appraisal. An appraisal is a large investment, and a protection for your valuables, so be sure to ask the right questions. 




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