Friday, September 15, 2017

The Importance of Continuous Learning for Appraisers

By Kelly Juhasz, ISA AM
Whether you’ve been an appraiser for 20 years or two years, acquiring new knowledge is important not only to your business but also to your own well-being. We often conveniently put this notion out of mind, but what truly and deeply motivates us isn’t money. It’s knowledge.

As a qualified appraiser, I am required to stay current with USPAP and ISA’s membership criteria, thus ensuring a high standard of appraisal service to the public. So, I am continuing to learn. But is being required to learn enough to keep me motivated and engaged? Not for me. I’m guessing it’s not enough for you either.

Why Keep Learning New Skills?

Many of you who know me as an appraiser likely don’t know that I am an expert in adult learning. For corporations and higher educational institutions throughout North America, I have designed courses and tools to increase performance and motivation in the workplace. I also have helped many arts organizations design programming to engage audiences and expand their purposes.

From a professional viewpoint, I would like to share three key factors that motivate students of all ages to continuously learn and acquire new skills.
  1. Mastery: By building your competencies and skills, you can more easily establish credibility and trust with your clients, two critical components of the appraisal business. By gaining a deeper understanding within your current specialty or expanding your specialties, you will challenge and reward yourself with new knowledge and increased confidence.
  2. Purpose: Acquiring new knowledge will help you solve problems for your clients and colleagues. By providing solutions, you will be heard and recognized for what you know. It will provide opportunities for new business and it will keep you relevant.
  3. Enjoyment and Engagement: As an appraiser, you have a high degree of independence that most people in their work do not have. You have the control to direct your own learning in areas that interest you. You have choice. Create an environment for yourself that is rich, rewarding, and highly satisfying while running a successful appraisal business. 
Realizing successes focused on these three motivating factors starts with a commitment to continuing to learn and acquire new knowledge.

Five Ways to Continue Learning Right Now

Here are five ways to continue your learning in a meaningful way that you can do anytime as a member of ISA:
  1. Volunteer with your local chapter, present at the ISA annual conference, or become an ISA Ambassador. By donating time and expertise in the appraisal community, you will learn from other appraisers. Together, you will solve a problem or create a quality event, workshop or working group and, in return, help to increase the overall expertise of all ISA members. (Purpose)

  2. Add or expand your area of specialty. ISA offers many opportunities to expand your knowledge into other appraisal specialties. If you appraise art, you can take courses to learn more about prints or Asian art, or expand into antiques and modern furniture. I know that I prefer online and self-study courses so that I don’t incur travel expenses and don’t have to leave my office. The Foundation for Appraisal Education also offers annual scholarships for courses; don't hesitate to apply.

    Remember, everything works in cycles. Although some specialty areas seem to be shrinking, and though there may be objects you don’t currently receive many calls about, you’ll always have the chance to use your new knowledge. The cycle will change, market demand will increase for items, and you’ll be confident, armed with your new knowledge, and ready to apply it in your appraisal practice when those calls do come in. (Mastery)

  3. Join a community board, advisory group or committee for an organization focused on your area(s) of specialty. We often think that we will be the ones providing the benefits by sharing our knowledge sitting as an expert, but, in fact, it works both ways. Getting involved will help you notice trends in the market, consumer interests and tastes, and also expand your list of contacts. It will also lead you to new business. You will find that you will learn and receive more than you give. (Enjoyment and Engagement)

  4. Attend Chapter meetings and presentations. With the help of colleagues, for example, the Canadian Chapter of ISA features invited guest speakers as opportunities for new learning. And even more rewarding, fellow appraisers prepare detailed presentations based on their areas of expertise for other Chapter members. These presentations create a bridge between ISA members from across the country and from various specialties, and provide an opportunity to learn together and get to know each other better. There is nothing more challenging than presenting to a highly skilled and knowledgeable group like our appraiser colleagues. (Mastery and Engagement)

  5. Increase your business skills. Find courses and programs directly tied to small business management, marketing and finance (such as calculating blockage discount equations). You will be able to focus your time on tasks that matter and learn when to bring in outside expertise that isn't your core strength. Also, check out the ISA Means Business! Toolbox for resources that can help you increase your business acumen. You will reduce your stress and enjoy running a business better. (Mastery and Enjoyment)

As an appraiser, you may feel like you are on your own, but with ISA, you are never alone.

Kelly Juhasz is an Accredited Member of the International Society of Appraisers, President of the Canadian Chapter, and a certified expert in adult learning. Her work in professional development has improved the performance of thousands of adults across North America and her appraisal knowledge is recognized by government agencies and cultural institutions nation-wide. She holds a Masters in Archival Science from Canada’s highest ranked university and a degree in Art History. She has worked on a range of artwork from Dutch Masters such as Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn and Gerard Dou to contemporary works by William Kentridge and Peter Doig. Kelly was the winner of the 2017 ISA Rising Leader Award. 

Recommended Reading:
Pink, Daniel. (2009). Drive. Riverhead Books.

Would you like to be an ISA blog contributor? Email us

Thursday, September 7, 2017

How Do I Make the Most Out of Networking Events?

Cris Drugan, ISA AM, MIPAV[OS]
Are you trying to grow your appraisal business but unsure how to market yourself? My advice is to attend networking events to start spreading the word about yourself and what you do.

Studies have shown that it takes at least six touches before customers consider using your product or service. Wouldn’t you like to double up on those touches by having others mention you in their conversations? Attending networking events gets your pitch to a number of people at one time and allows you short one-on-one time to begin developing relationships.

People need to know and like you before they trust you enough to purchase or recommend your service. Remember, by recommending you, they are putting their name and brand on the line too. It will take time to reach the “trust” stage with your potential customers, but when you get there, the work you put in will be worth it!

Finding the Right Event for You

If you are just starting your appraisal business or are developing your marketing plan, look for the following types of events. Some may work for you better than others and fees range from <$10 per event to yearly memberships costing hundreds of dollars.

Here are some suggestions:
  1. Local Chamber of Commerce – membership-based 
  2. Business to Business groups (B to B) - membership-based 
  3. Business Network International (BNI) - membership-based
  4. TEAM Network groups - membership-based
  5. Eventbrite groups – individual and membership-based groups
These types of events are a great starting point. Once you have attended a few and made some connections, you can find other private networking groups to join.

How to Survive (and Thrive) at Networking Events

There are many strategies to working a networking event. My suggestions here follow the “Know, Like, Trust” approach I mentioned earlier.

Here are some important tips to remember:

Listen: Take stock of your interactions with other event attendees and make sure you’re using your time to pitch effectively. Think: What does the other person do? Are you satisfied with their knowledge and expertise? Can your clients use their services? Do you trust them enough to represent themselves and your company professionally? Get to know your potential customers and how you can help them.

Don’t be a chicken: Hurry around to as many people as you can with a fist full of business cards. Introduce yourself, your business, hand them a business card, and ask for theirs in return. Quick and to the point, right? But I’m sure you can spot the drawbacks – you won’t ever reach the stage of “Like” in your relationship with your customers. It’s much more effective to take the time to make a good impression and a real connection with individuals.

The Elevator Pitch

Many networking groups will have events where businesses and individuals can give a short, direct summary of their business for attendees. Developing your pitch can help you not only at these events, but can also ensure you’re able to talk positively about your appraising business at any given moment.

They call it an “elevator pitch” for a reason – you never know who you’ll have the opportunity to meet! Not to mention, being able to speak about your appraising business is an important step in building trust with potential clients.

Here are some tips for developing your elevator pitch:
  1. Keep it short. Due to the number of people who attend some networking events, there may be a time limit on your pitch. Be considerate of others and make sure you stick to that limit. You’ll also benefit from keeping people engaged and wanting more!
  2. Practice makes perfect. Pre-write your pitch, time it and practice it. You’ll sound much more confident when you know what you want to say about your appraising business.
  3. Change it up. Don’t try to list everything you do in 30 seconds. Change it up now and again. Talk about the different services you offer in separate pitches. If you don’t keep listeners engaged, they’ll quit listening!
Having trouble getting started? Take a look at these different styles of pitches, courtesy of the Cuyahoga Falls (Ohio) Chamber of Commerce:
  1. The Trainer: Present as if the attendees are new employees and you’re training them on how to market your service.
  2. The Target Market: give specific names of companies you want to talk with, ask them who they know or describe specific types of business you want (or don’t want) to do business with.
  3. The Storyteller: Tell a specific story without using names of someone you helped and what the result was. (Remember, maintaining client confidentiality is part of being a USPAP-compliant appraiser!)
  4. The Comparison: Compare your business to another, without naming them, and show specifically how you're different. Give a list of benefits, quantify them if possible.
  5. The Rambler: Ramble on about unrelated subjects. Win a narcissist award. People will listen, but it won't help you grow your business.
Starting a business as an appraiser can be intimidating, but I hope this post took some of the guesswork out of networking. Remember, it takes at least six touches to make an impression, so keep attending those networking events, building your relationships, and making meaningful connections.

- Cris Drugan, ISA AM, MIPAV[OS]

Chris is the principal of Emerald Art Services LLC in Akron, Ohio. Contact Cris through his website at or by phone or text at 234-207-8686. 

Looking for more information that will help you build and grow your appraising business? The ISA Means Business! Toolbox provides tips, marketing guides, advertising materials and more to all ISA members.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Becoming an Appraiser (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Jillian Van Volkenburgh
I must preface, I am not an appraiser… yet. I just completed Module 16 of the Online ISA Core Course in Appraisal Studies. I am officially past the halfway point!

Are you thinking about becoming a personal property appraiser? That was me a few months ago – I’m relocating to the East Coast and wanted to begin a career I could take with me. I would like to share my recent entrĂ©e into this new chapter of my life with ISA.

Education is an Investment 

I am currently the Director of Education for a large art nonprofit in Northwest Indiana. I am often asked to speak to students about creative careers. The one thing that I stress is that education, regardless of your area of study, is an investment. To invest in your “future you,” you also must invest two incredibly valuable things: time and money. (I know I am not an appraiser yet, so this is not a formal valuation on time or money).

When I made my first steps into researching ISA, I called their headquarters in Chicago. I wanted to know two things: how long the course would be and how much it would cost.

As I mentioned, I work for a nonprofit, so cost was a determining factor for me. And as an adult with full-time adult responsibilities, making a new commitment can be harrowing. Luckily, I found that ISA’s courses and education materials are not unreasonably priced, and that the time I have to complete the coursework is absolutely manageable. But I was definitely nervous about that time commitment before I started!

Those That Appraise Together, Stay Together: Commitment 

Two of the best decisions my husband and I made jointly were getting gym memberships and joining ISA. You thought I was going to say getting married, right? As I alluded to in the previous paragraph, commitment, eh… scares me a little bit. Well, he convinced the girl who vowed never to marry, well, to marry. That was the very best decision that I reluctantly agreed to - now we are on this journey of life, love and appraising together! And I’m glad I have committed to ISA as well.

Joining ISA as a team has many advantages. My husband and I have different strengths and areas of interest. We can discuss the coursework and bounce ideas back and forth. We have ultimately become study buddies. (Yes, I just typed that and he will be mortified for calling him that.) We can challenge each other and celebrate our successes. It even has upped our texting game beyond “Want to get dinner after work?” or “Did you feed the cat?” to “I passed my assignment!”

One important thing to remember, even though I just spent two paragraphs explaining the benefits of joining ISA with my spouse… 

You May Be Unattached, But You Are Not Alone

Even if you haven’t joined ISA with your spouse, that does not mean that you will be alone in your journey toward becoming a professional personal property appraiser. One of the many amazing benefits of joining ISA is that they are setting you up for success. Failure is not their goal. Unlike a certain sadistic college professor that we all have had, they don’t want you to fail. ISA has a number of resources put in place to ensure that you succeed.

First of all, for the online course, you work directly with an instructor via email. The instructor is there not only to evaluate your assessments, but also to answer any questions. Also, you can work with an ISA Ambassador when you first join. Ambassadors are seasoned ISA appraiser that will offer guidance for the year following your completion of the Core Course. There is also a great toolkit - the ISA Means Business! Toolbox - on the ISA website with valuable resources on how to build your business.

As we all know, the Internet is also a social network. Take advantage of it. One site that I have found useful is LinkedIn. I already used LinkedIn for my professional position, but I have extended my network to include ISA appraisers throughout the country. I sent out short messages saying, “Hey, I just wanted to introduce myself. I am becoming an appraiser through the ISA and I wanted to connect with you.” This has opened up dialogue with a number of appraisers who have specialty areas outside of my purview, so they could potentially become great resources in the future.

I Am a Student Again at 40

They say a lady never tells her age, but I will be ethical and truthful in this blog post. I am a few months shy of my 40th birthday. When I was in undergrad, we did not have the option for online learning. I enjoyed academia and being in the classroom and I was not sure if online coursework was for me. I was wrong. I LOVE IT! With a full professional and social schedule, I can dictate when and where I learn. I might be in the comfort of my office or at my local coffee shop. It is fantastic option.

The online lectures are very straightforward and thorough. The instructor gives great examples to illustrate the discussed topics to make them relatable and easy to understand. As a side note, the online proctor is unintentionally funny. His dry humor comes through ever so slightly and unexpectedly.

Read the Chapters First!

The instructor states that at the beginning of each module, you should read the chapter first and then listen to the online lecture before taking the assessment. For the first module, I was like…. oh, I will just listen to the lecture and take the test. When I reached the point to take the assessment, it took me three attempts!

No matter how confident of a person you are, when you see "Failed" in red on your screen, you squirm a bit. Reading the chapters prior to the assessments is critical because the online lectures may not cover everything in the chapter. Always take your instructor’s advice!

A Highlighter is Your Friend 

One study tip I might suggest is making a review packet. Most chapters have a page of review at the end. I made copies of each review sheet and then compiled a quick study packet. Spoiler alert! There is no review for one of the longest chapters in the Core Course Manual, Chapter 12. So l recommend taking notes as you go along and highlight key points through the entirety of the manual.

Find Some “Me Time” 

I recently read a study on the brain and memory retention in Forbes about how multitasking can cause diminished long-term memory and decrease productivity. Even though society commands your attention in every direction with 24-hour ticker tapes on the screen and constant weather/coupon/news updates on your phones, we have to relearn to focus.

Make time to study, especially when you are doing distance learning or the online course. You should set aside time that works around your child/dog/work/Roomba chasing schedule. Give yourself quiet time to absorb the information. Listen, take notes and find a study pattern that works best for you.

Wish Me Luck!

This is is my first of hopefully many blog posts of my adventures in the world of personal property appraising for the ISA website. I will now minimize this screen and begin Module 17. Wish me luck! To be continued…

 - Jillian Van Volkenburgh

Jillian Van Volkenburgh is an aspiring ISA appraiser, currently enrolled in ISA's Core Course in Appraisal Studies. The ISA Core Course is the “original” complete appraisal methodology course for personal property appraising. Its thorough scope includes appraisal objectives, intended uses, market identification and analysis, research methods and skills, ethics and professional conduct, and a detailed presentation of report formats and checklists. Students enrolled in ISA’s Online Core Course program use the same text materials as the onsite course offerings coupled with a series of interactive learning exercises and open book quizzes that must be completed as the course progresses. Learn more about the Online Core Course, our Onsite Core Course, and about becoming an ISA member.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

In Praise of ISA's Job Board

Christine Guernsey, ISA CAPP
I knew that the ISA Job Board was a great idea, but didn’t realize I would be able to utilize it so quickly. Like many of you, I am the sole proprietor of an appraisal practice. I consider my practice successful, but yet, there are always moments of feast or famine throughout the year.

This year has been unusual for my business in that every large collection and important client I have ever appraised for has come back with another need. If I did insurance for them several years ago, they now need an estate appraisal, they're donating a work of art, or they need another insurance update. As appraisers, no matter how busy you become, you never want to say "no" to a great returning customer and risk losing them in the future.

When a past client and now a trustee called early this March with a need for an estate appraisal for his father’s very large Western art collection (over 300 works), I panicked. In addition to Assets, a planned surgery right after Assets, my youngest daughter’s destination wedding in Charleston, and several other appraisals in the works, I really didn’t have the time to take on this new assignment….but how could I say no?

I decided to try the ISA Job Board and see what kind of help I could get. After posting for temporary research help, I received applications from six candidates. Out of those six, I found three appraisers who were familiar with Western art and working towards ISA accreditation and therefore needed qualifying hours of experience. None of this help came from the Dallas area and all work was completed remotely online. I have a template I use for appraisal report work descriptions with sections for comparables which I sent to each appraiser. They researched 10 works at a time, completed the template and included appropriate comparables for me to review and determine the final fair market value for the report.

With the help I received through the Job Board, I was able to complete the appraisal project under deadline while relieving my workload and stress. I also got to assist three appraisers who needed work experience in the field. For the next large job that comes my way, I plan on using the Job Board again. It is great to finally have qualified help on a temporary contract basis and the process could not have gone more smoothly.

Don’t just take my word for it. Your colleagues have had similar great experiences:

Wendy Gerdau, ISA CAPP, of Treasures Estate Concierge Services, California:

"The ISA Job Board has been a fabulous tool for my company. The researchers that applied for part time jobs have turned into full time valued members of the Treasures Estate Concierge Services family. I am looking forward to hiring many more individuals from the ISA Job Board. There is nothing better than ISA members supporting each other, a win-win." 

Linda Matthews, ISA, of Matthews Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico:

"The job board provided me a great opportunity to be a part of a massive art appraisal project, learn a great deal from a CAPP appraiser, get paid for what I love to do AND add a 130 hours towards my AM pathway. A veteran ISA appraiser posted the job, I replied to the ad and was hired. It was that easy! It was a fast way to find work, make money and most importantly learn from others so I can become a better appraiser. It was my first experience getting appraisal work from the job board posting but it won’t be my last!"

Suzanne Houck, ISA CAPP, Houck Asset Verification, Virginia:

"I wish there had been a job board targeted to the appraisal industry when I began my appraisal practice years ago. I love having the opportunity to scan for job opportunities in slow times and to have confidence when looking for help during times of appraisal overload. Even if I’m not looking to post or pick up work, I have enjoyed reading the job posts because I can often connect good candidates who might not have seen the board yet with positions. When looking for help, just knowing my fellow ISA members are reading the board gives me added confidence that I am targeting appraisers well- trained in appraisal methodology and ethics. This job board might be my favorite member benefit!"

Richard J. Meliska, ISA AM, Essex Estate Services, Evanston, IL:

"The ISA job board is a snap to use and postings couldn't be easier to enter. This is my second time using the board and I am looking forward to posting positions as I need additional help. Not only does the ISA have a great pool of talent, but the networking opportunities to find great talent is wonderful." 

If you are temporarily overwhelmed with assignments you couldn’t say no to or are currently underwhelmed with assignments and want to pick up a few extra hours, check out ISA’s new Job Board. You can advertise for ISA qualified help or promote special services you can provide to other appraisers in need. One of the great features of this online benefit is the ability to sign up for alerts when a new position or request is posted.

This is a great new member benefit exclusively created for our ISA members. I urge you all to try the Job Board. It will help you all to accept more assignments and provide further opportunity to meet and work with other qualified ISA appraisers.

- Christine Guernsey, ISA CAPP