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First, and most importantly, make sure the personal property appraiser that you hire is credentialed by one or more of the three major international appraisal societies: ASA, ISA, AAA. Accreditation is the only certainty that you the layman has that the appraiser knows more than you do about the appraisal process. Billy-Bob the antiques dealer won’t cut it anymore, even if he happens to be a star on the Road Show. The IRS requires accreditation.

You can easily verify the appraiser’s accreditation by going to the respective website of the appraisal society that the appraiser purportedly is a member of: ASA, ISA, AAA. There are differences in the three organizations; standards are highest for ASA members. For an ASA member to be listed in the ASA Find an Appraiser search engine results, the member must have passed the rigorous accreditation curriculum and testing. The other two organizations list everyone who pays dues whether they are accredited or not. A designated (qualified) member is allowed to attach letters after his/her name, i.e. ASA, ISA, AAA, and mention his/her respective Society when advertising.

Next, ask the prospective appraiser if s/he has taken the core accreditation courses, and when. Some of the older appraisers were grandfathered into the system without taking the modern classes. They are still doing “it” the old fashioned way and the old fashioned way no longer satisfies IRS standards. Their work product amounts to a line-item list with unsubstantiated numerical conclusions. If you want a laundry list of your stuff, do it yourself! The last thing you want to happen is to pay for something that is worthless. The whole point of having an appraisal is to have proof of worth if the need arises. If you must defend your claim of worth in a Court of law, you want to prevail, right? Well, if you hire a Billy-Bob-the-clueless or an old fogey that hasn’t kept abreast of changing standards, you’re going to get crushed in Court when opposing counsel hires an 800 pound appraisal gorilla, like…me.

Big gorillas cost more and they are worth it.