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Alright, so you need an appraisal, of what property? For what purpose? Where are you? Where do you shop? When do you need the appraisal? These and other questions are what one can expect to be asked when one first contacts an accredited appraiser.

What property? Be prepared to email digital images of the object to the appraiser. For instance, a painting. Photograph the front, the back, and the signature in high resolution. Measure the inside dimensions of the housing frame (known as sight dimensions). If it’s a cased furniture piece, photograph it from an angle that allows viewing of the front as well as the rear foot and the end side and do so with an open drawer. An open drawer will expose the joinery and that aids in identifying furniture.

What purpose? Why you need an appraisal will determine the ultimate numerical conclusion. If you’re wishing to sell something, the valuation will be lower than if you have determined to schedule it for insurance. One is Fair Market Value, the other is Replacement Value. The appraiser will seek different comparables to support his ultimate opinion of value. You need to know with certainty why you need an appraisal. If it is to satisfy your curiosity, try doing the legwork yourself. If you haven’t the time but do have the resources, then be prepared to spend some bucks. Appraisals can cost anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars to prepare.

Where are you? If you are across the street from the appraiser, the associated travel costs your appraiser will incur will be nil. But if you’re in Egypt, well, reason it out for yourself.

Where do you shop? And you think: “What business is it of yours? Where you, the appraiser’s prospective client shops goes to relevant market and that greatly effects the numerical conclusion. When Mrs. Abagail Buroughs Le Hogg, III, shops for silver widgets she does so along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. When Mrs. Bubba la Stink shops for silver widgets, she goes to the local flea market in Hollow Stump, Arkansas. The two markets are relevant to the respective clients and the cost for exactly the same silver widget will be vastly different. For Hogg it will be very high. For Stink, very low. Although both venues are retail, each are as different from one another as the clients are from one another. The relevant market matters and it is the business of the appraiser to extract that information from the client.

When do you need the appraisal? Yesterday. Ah-huh, surely you jest? Properly prepared and researched appraisal reports are like a master’s thesis; they take time and painstaking attention to detail to accomplish in accordance with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). They are legal documents as important as a Will and they are written defensively so that the appraiser’s substantiated opinions of value will prevail in Court. You do wish to prevail if you invoke your insurance policy, donate something that has tax consequences, or win in Court if you litigate, right? Of course you do. So yesterday, tomorrow, and probably next week are all impossible deadlines for an appraiser to exercise his due diligence. Get real, people. Plan ahead.