Thursday, November 16, 2017

Planning Your Appraisal Appointment

Janet Madrigal, ISA AM

Ready, Set... Form!

First things first, when that phone rings or that email pings with a potential client, I like to have a client data form/activity log handy. You can find an example in our Core Course manual and the ISA Means Business! Toolbox or make one up yourself. I have many copies made and have them in a folder so that I can just grab one when needed. Because our lives are so hectic, I like to write down as much info as I can. Then I peruse my form just before my appointment. Maybe your client’s mom just passed away or they have a child going off to college for the first time. This is a great way to “break the ice” when you first speak to them again or meet them. C’mon guys, we’re selling ourselves!

What, Why, When, Where

What are the pertinent questions to ask when you receive that call? Start with, “What, Why, When and Where!” People love to talk and love to tell you about their treasures, right? Just like when your seat companion on an airplane inquires what you do for a living and they immediately think, “Antiques Roadshow.” Then the stories really start. We can all relate! It’s not usually too difficult to get the client to tell you the pertinent info, but getting them to stop talking may be another matter entirely!

By now you’ve filled out your intake form and your appointment is set! If you’re a generalist (like I am) the average person expects you to know everything about everything that was ever produced! Now, we all know this just isn’t possible (thank you again, Antiques Roadshow). Hopefully, you have a few extra minutes to do a google search or whatever else floats your proverbial boat to have some good information on the client’s collection. I don’t suggest faking knowledge but rather ask good questions and listen well. Then reach back into your core course or something you read and WOW them with your knowledge!

Gear it Up

I always have my appraisal bag at the ready. Contents include:
  • A decent digital camera (with a charged battery, even though most of us have a phone with us if we run out of camera battery)
  • Two measuring tapes (one retractable and one without metal at ends for measuring art or scratch-able items)
  • Pens and pencils
  • A small flashlight
  • Magnifier
  • Loupe
  • White cotton gloves (available at CVS)
  • Mask (you never know when you’ll need one)
  • Pointer (if you use a pen or a pencil to point out a condition issue you may leave a visible mark)
  • Extra batteries
  • A package of hand wipes or sanitizer (if there isn’t running water to wash your hands before or after)
  • My notebook and client file.
I like to put my client form in a manila file for confidential purposes. More than once I have caught clients snooping on what I wrote! Business cards are a must and a pocket-size Hallmark book may be helpful. You'll also want to include client contracts, invoices and other relevant paperwork for the assignment.

Bag contents may change if you’re an art or jewelry appraiser (a black light, scale, and acid test kit may be added). I cannot stress enough how important it is to be prepared. Having everything you might need at your fingertips makes you look professional and prepared. The client form has space for the client’s address and the owner’s address. Where are the items located? Are they at the deceased mom’s house or moved to the daughter’s house? Make sure you know where the items are located to save time and trouble.

Waze It

I use an app (which I found thanks to my millennial children) called WAZE. I can put in a client’s address and when I’m traveling (day and time) and it will calculate how long it will take me and will send me a ping when it’s time to leave! It considers time of day, traffic and construction. Let’s face it, it’s a lot less stressful to be a few minutes early rather than late. If you’re early you can take those few minutes to scan your intake form once more before meeting the client.

Dressing the Part

Depending on the client and situation, dress the part. For instance, in July, I had a client that had no air conditioning, no fans, and no open windows. Besides that, I had to trek into a gravel sub-basement and several out buildings through grass and one-can-only-guess. Since I had been there previously, I was thankful for my capris and ECCO shoes. Wearing the right clothes and shoes for the situation adds to your professionalism, not to mention, your comfort!

Your Gut (Feeling, That Is)

Safety is very important in any profession and ours is no exception. The Waze app allows you to send an “ETA” to family and friends. It’s the last thing I do before I ring the doorbell. My family, then, has the time and address of where I am located. Generally, I am alone on appointments going into a stranger’s home. Use your instincts and go with your gut feeling. It will never let you down. If you feel uneasy about the situation, drive to a safe location and reschedule when someone else can be with you. If everything feels and looks right, have your business card ready to hand to the client along with a big welcoming smile!

Janet Madrigal, ISA AM, has been a member of ISA since 2014. She is located in Joliet, Illinois and owns the company Attic to Appraisals, where she assists homeowners in finding their everyday items that may have more value than they think. She earned her MBA from Lewis University.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Less is More: How Appraisers Can Assist You in Your Downsizing or Minimalism Journey

Courtney Ahlstrom Christy, ISA CAPP
You are ready to downsize.
A spring-cleaning is overdue.
It’s finally time to go through that storage unit.
You have decided to donate your prized collection.
The family is about to move across the country.

Many of us have a large quantity of belongings that must be sorted and evaluated. Whether it is because you are moving to the other side of the country, helping a loved one downsize into a smaller home, or simply in the mood to declutter, dealing with a houseful of items can be a daunting task to undertake on your own. What is an excellent early step to alleviate some of the burden? Hire a professional appraiser who can both catalog and provide an unbiased opinion on the value of the property.

The Minimalism Trend

Less is More, More or Less
Poster, Etsy
Downsize, minimize, de-clutter, tidy up, let go – whatever buzzword you wish to use, having “less” is a trend in today’s culture. But what are the origins of this trend?

Baby Boomers Downsizing: With more baby boomers preparing for the retired life, there is a large population in the midst of downsizing. They have transitioned from acquiring to disposing. Many struggle with deciding what to do with their lifetime accumulation. In addition, younger family members often do not want to inherit everything, especially if their own closets are already full. One common route is to rent a storage unit for the assortment of items that they aren’t quite ready to part with. This limbo state for belongings can last for a few months to several years. The general ambivalence towards inheritance has resulted in a flood of goods in the secondary market that outweighs current demand. Choosing how to handle unwanted possessions is a growing dilemma that families will face for years to come.

Millennial Taste: Some say minimalism is the influence of the millennial generation. Due to growing up in post-recession America, millennials often choose to spend their money on experiences over material goods. They will also more likely reside in smaller dwellings with no space for formal living rooms, like an apartment in the city, and own objects that can have multiple uses, such as modular furniture. Their taste has veered away from previous generations, who typically enjoyed acquiring the antique look. Instead, millennials generally prefer the streamlined aesthetics of midcentury and modernism. They are also considered to be an eco-conscious group with the philosophy of using what already exists in the world. This attitude makes retro and vintage items alluring to the green-minded shopper, which can be helpful to know when determining what to sell during the downsizing process.

Design for a dining room,
Chris Williams, 1976
Victoria and Albert Museum,
De-Clutter and Change Your Life: Increasingly there is a belief in the correlation between decreasing materialism and increasing happiness. If you declutter your physical surroundings, then you will achieve mental clarity and emotional contentment. The popularity of Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing highlights how a minimalist lifestyle has indeed gone mainstream. Clearly Ms. Kondo has tapped into the American psyche by connecting the desire to materially purge with the desire to declutter the mind. In addition, there is the phenomenon of the “small house movement” which advocates living simply in smaller homes (between 100 to 400 square feet). Of course, a tiny house with a closet that can only hold ten articles of clothing is an extreme example, but nevertheless, the small house movement indicates a widespread trend to pare down one’s belongings in the pursuit of well-being.

How Appraisers Can Help

Whatever your reason is for sifting through a large amount of personal property, hiring a professional appraiser during the early stages makes deciding what is worthwhile much easier.

An Objective Professional: You know the personal significance of each object, but what about its monetary worth to the rest of the world? A professional appraiser has not only years of experience in the field, but also formal education in appraisal methodology to determine appropriate values. An appraiser will also conduct valuations without bias. While professional organizers and liquidation companies can certainly be helpful and efficient, they are not necessarily qualified to discern the quality, rarity, and current desirability of pieces. Unlike a liquidator or a dealer who expects to receive a commission from the sale, a qualified appraiser will not base his or her fee on the percentage of the property’s value. This objectivity and ethical standards of a professional appraiser means that the opinions of value are provided with no other incentive than to be truthful to the best of his or her ability.

Preliminary Walkthrough: If you are unsure as to which items should be appraised, a preliminary walkthrough may be beneficial. In a preliminary walkthrough, the appraiser will visit onsite to get an overall sense of what the property entails. Through a cursory examination and conversation with the client, the appraiser can provide non-monetary opinions and give you a better sense of what may need further evaluation. Although a preliminary walkthrough as described is not considered an appraisal since no values are given, it can be a useful way to figure out what needs to be appraised for your particular needs. Another option is to email the appraiser an inventory list and/or images beforehand so that you can both agree on the scope of the assignment.

My Work Room, Cassel by William Orpen,
1917. Oil on canvas.
Imperial War Museums
Take Inventory: Do you even know what you have? An inventory is a complete listing of the property and is a great record to have for a variety of purposes including estate planning. Having all items noted in one document will give you a much better sense of the entire picture. Most appraisers offer inventory management as an additional service so that items may be properly identified. You can request items be listed in the inventory either by room or by category. Descriptions will typically include details about the maker/artist, material, measurements, model/serial numbers, known provenance, etc. Many will also include a thumbnail image of the item (or group of items) catalogued. Since the appraiser is already cataloging, why not take it a step further and request an appraisal to be performed at the same time?

Items That May Surprise You: Not every home or storage unit contains an unknown treasure, but the appraiser’s eye will always be on the lookout. Often, there is a space like a closet or attic that has evolved into a receptacle for overlooked items that may be worth something. Here are just a few examples:
  • Silver – Is it silverplate or sterling silver?
  • Handbags – Are those really haute couture?
  • Art – Is it a giclee print or an original painting?
  • Books – Is it a first edition or first printing of a collectible volume?
  • Vintage – Are all those pieces from the 50s to 70s worth something?
  • Toys – Is it a rare and popular Star Wars figure?
A generalist appraiser can help with a large variety of residential contents. And a good generalist will know his or her limitations and communicate when outside consultation is needed. If you feel strongly about a specific item or collection, consider contacting an appraiser who specializes in the particular category.

When Google Fails You: Performing some preliminary internet research is how many start to figure out if an item may have significant worth. But keep in mind that not all sources are created equal. Listed asking prices may not accurately reflect current market trends. Understanding the various factors when looking at prices and sales results is a skill that appraisers hone daily. In fact, appraisers frequently use paid subscription databases in their research that are not accessible to the public. After you have exhausted your own web searches and still believe that something could be valuable, call a personal property appraiser for assistance.

The Etching Amateur, Honore
Daumier, c. 1860
Petit Palais, Paris
Preparing for the Appraiser: In order to expedite an upcoming appraisal, consider the following suggestions:
  • Decide which items you want to have appraised. A previous preliminary walkthrough (see above) may help with this decision.
  • Ensure that items located in the attic, basement, closets, drawers, etc. are unpacked, unwrapped, and ready for viewing. You don’t want to be charged hours for someone to open all the boxes and unwrap all the china.
  • Put all things of like kind together such as flatware, crystal, and dinnerware services. This will not only help the appraiser group items appropriately but also give you a better idea of what exists.
  • Gather any receipts, sales slips, or relevant documentation near the appropriate items.
  • Gather any historical information or family history that relates to the items being appraised.
If you don’t have time or unable to do these suggested preparations prior to an appraiser’s arrival, there is no need to worry. Most appraisers will manage and are used to expecting the unexpected.

Keep in Mind

Sifting and moving a sizable amount of items can easily become overwhelming. It may even feel like you have become an archaeologist excavating layers of content that represent a lifetime of memories. In addition to hiring an appraiser to help you determine value in the marketplace, what else will help in your minimalism or downsizing journey?

Have the Right Attitude: It’s probably the moment you’ve been dreading for years – figuring out what to do with it all. Whether the items belong to you or someone else, you have become responsible for determining their fate. But keep heart and momentum. Remember the good that you are doing and how you will feel when all is complete. This too shall pass.

Manage Your Expectation: Cultural taste has changed and so have values. Even if your grandmother told you time after time that her Victorian sofa is worth a great deal of money, furnishings and décor that have been in the same home for thirty years or more may not be in vogue anymore. The current fashion for a modern look along with the waning popularity of antiques are reflected in current prices. The items that achieved top dollar decades ago may not perform as well today.

Portrait by Jo Spence, 1989
Color photograph, Victoria
and Albert Museum, London
The Swiss Cheese Approach: You walk into the room or storage unit and just see too much too handle. Looking at the totality of what needs to be down can quickly lead to panic. Instead of hyperventilating, tackle a smaller task that you feel is manageable. Then take on another small project, and then another. As you work your way through your property, start making piles of items you plan to keep, sell, donate, and toss. Avoid “maybe” piles. Why handle the property more than once? If you hesitate to keep an object, then it is probably not necessary to own any longer. This can be helpful to keep in mind if you are helping a loved one choose what to take during the downsizing process. Remember that the items you sell or donate will be finding new homes too.

Avoid the “Just in Case” Syndrome: Sometime the “maybe” pile can transform into a “just in case” pile. Nevertheless, consider parting with items that fall into the “what if” or “someday I might need this” category such as water skis in Arizona or a snow blower in Florida. This is especially true for duplicate items. When on the path of minimizing, one must let go of keeping two vacuums just in case the other one breaks.

Consider Giving Now: Take the time to decide if you want to donate both big and small in the near future. Perhaps you wish to gift a wristwatch to your nephew or a valuable painting to the local museum. Why not now when you can decide? If you are not sure if you need an appraisal to claim a tax deduction for a donation, consult your attorney or accountant. They should let you know when an appraisal report by a qualified appraiser is required by the IRS.

Digitize: Have an assortment of family photos, paperwork, old letters, kids’ drawing, or even manuals for electronics? Digitizing may be your best option. Thanks to technology, ephemera can be scanned and saved onto a hard drive or a cloud-base system. Younger family members can usually guide you in the right direction for current software. If rebellion from sentimentalists ensues, you can argue that you are still keeping the nostalgia but just transforming it so that posterity may continue to cherish it.

Enlist Help: You don’t have to do it alone. It likely took years to acquire the contents you are sorting therefore it’s no wonder you will need a few helping hands. Assistance from family, friends, and professionals (from appraisers to movers) will lighten the burden.

Ready to find a professional personal property appraiser?

Check out the International Society of Appraisers' Find An ISA Member page. You can search by location, category, or name. May your journey to a less-is-more lifestyle be a successful one.

Courtney Ahlstrom Christy, ISA CAPP, is a personal property appraiser who has in-depth knowledge when investigating the value and past life of objects. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in fine art history at University College Cork in Ireland and a master’s degree in the history of decorative arts from Smithsonian Association/Corcoran College of Art. In addition, she is a Certified Member of the International Society of Appraisers, an Accredited Member of Appraisers Association of America, and in compliance with USPAP. Along with an education in the arts, Courtney has worked in museums, galleries, and auction houses, all of which have provided great opportunities to examine works ranging from the antique to the contemporary.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The ISA Ambassador Program's First Anniversary

Jan Robbins Durr, ISA CAPP
Membership Retention Chair
As we approach the first anniversary of the Ambassador Program, I would like to thank all our ISA appraiser volunteers who have participated in making it a success. If you remember back to your first years, beginning an appraisal career can seem a daunting task. Wouldn’t we all have been more confident in our business decisions with an experienced person as our sounding board?

The Ambassador program brings strength to our members and organization by:
  • Providing connections to our membership
  • Supporting our newest members in a tangible, consistent manner
  • Forging friendships with like-minded colleagues in multiple disciplines
Our Ambassadors are AMs and CAPPs assigned to all new members. The Membership Retention Committee provides a short manual for reference to guide the Ambassador through our member benefits, membership levels, ISA Means Business! Toolbox, and maneuvering the ISA website. Ambassadors refer all educational questions to the Director of Education, Meredith Meuwly, ISA CAPP, at

Please consider volunteering in 2018 as one of your New Year’s Resolutions! We are an organization that prides ourselves on our strong networking. Attending Assets is proof of the camaraderie that develops when we share our knowledge and passion for this career. Contact ISA's Senior Account Coordinator Michelle VanAlstyne at to serve as an Ambassador.

"Joining the Ambassador Program has been a life saver. I live in a remote area and the connection and support from Cindy [Charleston-Rosenberg] has been invaluable. Her generosity in sharing her experience and ideas has made me feel more comfortable and confident with my new appraisal aspect of my business. I can't thank her and the ISA enough for this support, and hope that one day I'll have enough knowledge to share with a new appraiser." - Larissa Wild Gould, ISA

- Jan Robbins Durr, ISA CAPP, Membership Retention Chair

Friday, October 20, 2017

Protecting Your Collection and Your Wallet: What You Could Lose If You Suffer a Loss Without an Appraisal

Kirsten Rabe Smolensky, JD, ISA CAPP
As an appraiser, I have worked on a lot of insurance claims, including losses due to fire, theft, transit damage, and flood. The number one mistake most insureds make is not being prepared in advance.

Imagine that your house has burned to the ground and everything inside it destroyed. The insurance company requests an inventory of EVERYTHING inside. Do you know how many kitchen pots you have? Shoes? Tools? Most people remember the large, expensive items, but forget numerous smaller items. These items add up quickly.

And, those large, expensive items? They may or may not be covered depending upon how your policy is written and whether you have the appropriate riders in place. Most insurance companies will require an appraisal to insure these items.

This article will help you prepare for a potential loss. Some steps you can take on your own, but others will require the assistance of a professional appraiser.

Understand Your Homeowner’s Insurance Policy

The biggest problem I see after a devastating loss is underinsurance, meaning that homeowners suffer a loss yet fail to recover tens of thousands of dollars just at the time when they have lost everything they hold dear. How do you prevent this?

Every insurance policy is different and you should work with your insurance agent to understand how your policy works. However, there are a few common traits most homeowner’s policies share. If you understand these commonalities, you can ask the right questions to ensure that your coverage is adequate.

Take steps to insure your home - and its contents.

Most homeowner’s policies have a total coverage limit for household contents that is based upon a percentage of your home’s value. For example, if you have a $400,000 home, you might have 50% in personal property coverage ($200,000) or you might have 75% in personal property coverage ($300,000). You need to know what that amount is and feel confident that you can replace every item of personal property in your home, from fine art to furniture to clothing, for that amount. If you are buying furniture from designers, have some nice rugs and fine art, or are a collector, these limits can be easily exceeded. If you have expensive tools or lawn equipment in your garage, you should also consider those items.

Next, even if that limit appears sufficient, your policy may have special limits for certain categories of items. Most homeowner’s policies have dollar limits on jewelry, fine art, rugs, silver, collectibles, antiques, guns, etc. The limits generally range from a few thousand dollars to $5,000 or $10,000 per category. However, if you have two or three nice rugs or pieces of fine art in your home, you can quickly exceed those limits.

For example, assume that you have three nice, original paintings in your home. You inherited one and are unsure of its value, you purchased one ten years ago for $3,000 and you recently bought a third painting for $4,000. At this point, you know you have at least $7,000 worth of fine art. If you have a $5,000 special limit on fine art, you will need a rider adding coverage to your homeowner’s insurance. Otherwise, in the event of a loss of the three paintings (and any other fine art you may own) you will only be reimbursed up to $5,000, regardless of the total value of the paintings. So, if the inherited painting turns out to be worth a fortune, you just lost it. Adding a rider, or additional special coverage, to your homeowner’s policy will protect against that loss. And, it will often require a professional appraisal of the paintings in advance. Understanding your policy and making sure you have adequate coverage is crucial to protecting yourself against such unanticipated losses.

Be sure to keep track of all your antiques and collectibles,
not just fine art.

The most common mistake that I see clients make is that they remember to get their jewelry appraised but forget about their rugs, silver, antiques and collectibles. Make sure you ask your insurance agent the right questions and fully understand your homeowner’s policy.
I recommend having a conference call with an appraiser and your insurance agent so that everyone can be on the same page as to which items need to be appraised. Many competent, ISA-trained appraisers can help facilitate a discussion with your insurance agent to ensure that you get the necessary items appraised and properly insured.

Create an Inventory

Create an inventory of items that you own. This can be done on your own or with the assistance of a professional appraiser. A written, photographic, or videoed inventory can mean the difference between coverage and non-coverage.

The purpose of an inventory is two-fold. First, it proves to the insurance company that the items existed and were in your home. Second, a good inventory will provide details about the items (type, style, quality, condition, brand, etc.) that will ensure accurate replacement should replacement become necessary.

If you do not want to do this yourself, or fear you may not know what information to capture, many appraisers will create an inventory for you. If you know you have valuable items that will require a rider, then ask the appraiser to create an inventory for you while they are already on site appraising your other items.

Take stock of all the contents of your home and garage -
You may be surprised at how much you own.
Many appraisers can photograph every room of the house in an organized, orderly fashion that is easy to follow, and focus on the more valuable items. Appraisers generally have a good eye for value and quality and will know what objects to focus on and what types of photographs to take, but we never want to miss anything that is important to you. Make sure that you point out items in advance that you know are particularly valuable or important to you so the appraiser knows what to capture.
Photographic inventories can be invaluable in the event of a loss, and I generally recommend clients store photographs on a flash drive (or two) and keep at least one flash drive off site in a secure location.

Keep Good Records

For those expensive purchases, including jewelry, fine art and the riding lawn mower in the garage, make sure that you keep receipts. Insurance companies will often ask for proof of purchase price for expensive items, particularly if they are not listed on a rider prior to the loss and/or you paid cash for them. Keep copies of the receipts in a secure location offsite or digitize them and save them in the cloud. Alternatively, you should be able to look up major purchases on your credit card statements. Insurance companies will often accept those records as proof of purchase.

For items such as fine art or an important antique, keeping the receipt may also help prove provenance. Provenance is an item’s record of ownership that is often used to help determine authenticity, quality and ultimately value. An item with a good provenance often has more value than an item without a provenance. Keeping good records should become a habit whenever a substantial purchase is made.

If the Worst Happens

Unfortunately, claims sometimes happen. Here are a few things you should keep in mind if you need to file a claim:

  1. File your claim as soon as possible. Do not miss the deadline for notice. If you do, you may not be covered.
  2. Make sure that when you file a claim it is as complete as possible. If you’ve had items damaged in a move, take an extra day or two to make sure you’ve listed EVERYTHING as long as it won’t cause the claim to be late. If you find items later and add them to the list, it may look suspicious.
  3. When asked how old an item is and what was paid for it, be honest and reasonable. When possible support your statements with receipts and/or credit card statements. If you are unsure how much was paid, just say so and explain why. Perhaps the item was a gift or it was inherited.
  4. Once you open a claim, keep a file for that claim. The file can be electronic or printed, but it should include all correspondence, any photos, any receipts, all emails, etc. Ideally, you should also keep a notepad handy to record every verbal interaction with the insurance company. Include the date of any call, who you spoke to, what was discussed and how long the call was. Keep a copy of the insurance policy handy too. If you do not have one, ask for it. If you need to hire an appraiser, it may be helpful for the appraiser to see the policy. This will let them know the type of policy and any special limits, etc.

What You Should Do TODAY

Call your insurance company and make sure that you understand your policy. If you have items that need to be put on a rider, call an ISA appraiser and have them assist you in:
  1. Figuring out which items should be appraised 
  2. Creating an inventory
  3. Writing an appraisal for high-value items.
A little bit of work up front can save you LOTS of time, money and frustration should the worst happen.

Kirsten Rabe Smolensky, JD, ISA CAPP is the owner of Minerva Appraisal, LLC, a general personal property appraisal firm offering a full range of professional appraisal services in the Nashville, TN area. She appraises antiques, fine art, silver, furniture, ceramics, etc., and considers herself a "general contractor" of appraisal services.

For more information on the importance of working with a credentialed ISA appraiser and to search for one by location or specialty, please visit the Find an ISA Member page.

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ask an Instructor: Office Hours and Appraising Experience

ISA members are invited to send in their questions on all things appraising and education to ISA's instructors. One of ISA's instructors will share answers on the ISA Now Blog. Please send questions to

Question: When is the next Office Hours webinar?

Answer: The next Office Hours with the Director of Education will be held on December 5th at 2pm CST. It’s a free webinar open to all ISA members for a lively question and answer session on the topics of your choice. Mark your calendar now!

Question: I’m having a little bit of trouble obtaining my 700 USPAP-compliant hours to reach the ISA Accredited Member (AM) level. Any suggestions for ways to gain more appraisal-specific experience hours?

Answer: Yes! I can certainly help. There are lots of ways for you to gain qualified hours. Remember that the hours must be towards the development and report of a USPAP-compliant appraisal. Thus, the hours can be your actual time spent performing the appraisal, both billable hours and non-billable (gratis) hours. Contact me today at to discuss a plan of action that would work best for you

- Meredith Meuwly, ISA CAPP
Director of Education

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Signing Your Appraisal Report

Meredith Meuwly, ISA CAPP
I was recently asked about where you should sign your appraisal report. It may seem like a silly question, but it’s actually not. Although USPAP does not dictate the form, format, or style of how to prepare an appraisal report, it is very specific in that the written appraisal report must include a signed certification statement. See USPAP 2016-2017 Edition Standards Rule 8-2(a)(xii) for Appraisal Reports and Standards Rule 8-2(b)(xii) for Restricted Appraisal Reports, which each state, “include a signed certification in accordance with Standards Rule 8-3.”

The ISA Appraisal Report Writing Standards states that “the appraisal must contain the appraiser’s signature plus the signatures of non-dissenting collaborating appraisers, if any.” See Lesson 17-4 in your Core Course manual, revised April 2016 edition. Thus, USPAP requires the certification statement be signed, and ISA requires that the appraisal report be signed. Thus, “where do you sign your appraisal report?” becomes a really good question.

The answer is one of two ways:
  1. Include the certification statement in the Cover document of your appraisal report as a separate page with its own signature. Then you can continue writing and sign the report again.
  2. Include the certification statement at the very end of the Cover document and sign immediately thereafter, so that you have a signed certification. There is no need to sign the report again.

The key point to remember is that you cannot have other text after the certification and then sign the Cover document. You need to be sure to sign the certification statement. With this information in mind, most appraisers choose option 2, as it kills two birds with one stone by allowing them to sign the appraisal once, right after the certification statement.

And let’s not forget that USPAP also specifies in Standards Rule 8-3 that “An appraiser who signs any part of the appraisal report, including a letter of transmittal, must also sign this certification.” As such, anyone signing the report must also sign the certification statement, whether that is in one place or two places in the Cover document.

As the requests for charitable donation and other types of appraisals are likely to increase as we near the year’s end, now is a great time to review your appraisal formats to make sure you are signing your appraisal report in the right place.

For questions and/or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at

Meredith Meuwly, ISA CAPP
Director of Education

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

California, Here We Come!

I am delighted to invite you to my home state of California, March 9-12, for the International Society of Appraisers’ annual conference: Assets 2018 - The Gold Standard: Innovation & Valuation.

California’s mild climate and bountiful landscape are as appealing as the full slate of exceptional educational opportunities being offered. With in-depth and hands-on presentations, Assets 2018 is designed to both enrich and strengthen our professional appraisal practices.

K2 Intelligence’s Senior Manager, Jordan Arnold will share innovative technology and advancing new standards related to authenticity and provenance; Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Decorative Arts and Design Assistant Curator, Staci Steinberger will explore innovative California design from missions to Modernism; Heritage Auctions’ Director Holly Sherratt will discuss Post-War and Contemporary Fine Art trends; and Brooke Sivo, Bonham’s Director of American Furniture and Decorative Arts will provide an analysis of good, better and best examples in American furniture and silver.

Do not miss Ansel Adams Gallery Director of Photography Sales, Brittany Moorefield’s good, better and best discussion, Bruce Orr’s talk on studio glass, Tim Luke’s expertise on Street art and Rosalie Sayyah, aka Antique Roadshow’s Rhinestone Rosie’s guidance on costume jewelry. These are only a few among many other worthwhile presentations scheduled for conference.

Consider signing up early for a one-day Advanced Appraisal Methodology Course. This fresh and compelling new class is being prepared and presented by ISA’s Director of Education, Meredith Meuwly, ISA CAPP and ISA’s Core Course Instructor, Kirsten Smolensky, JD, ISA CAPP with focus on relevant personal property case studies. And while in California, you may also wish to enroll in ISA’s onsite 7-hour USPAP Class and/or our two-day onsite Requalification Course, both available immediately following conference.

Gardens at the Huntington Library

Customized tours include exploration of one of the world’s great cultural, research and educational centers, The Huntington Library, Collections and Botanical Gardens. Tour the Gamble House, an outstanding example of American Arts and Crafts style architecture with house and furnishings designed by architects Charles and Henry Green; or see the acclaimed exhibit: Taking Shape: Degas as Sculptor at the Norton Simon Museum, an institution known for its encompassing collections of 19th and 20th century art.

I know you will enjoy the quintessential California style and surroundings in Pasadena at the Westin, near stunning gardens, first-class art and historic architecture. Pasadena is within proximity of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Hollywood; and not too far from the beach communities of Santa Monica, Venice and Malibu. It is a perfect venue to network with fellow colleagues, friends both old and new, as well as industry experts.

Please take a moment to look at ISA’s comprehensive Assets 2018 program and to register early for savings.

Looking forward to seeing you in California. Don’t forget to bring your sunglasses!

-  Perri Guthrie, ISA CAPP, Vice President of ISA

Monday, October 2, 2017

What's This Print Worth?

Daniel W. Deyell, ISA, MA, MTS
Inevitably, art appraisers get the email or text message: “I have this art work on paper; what’s it worth?” Just about as inevitably, I have to say, “the value of the frame!” I may be exaggerating, but potential clients can have trouble discerning original works of art from reproductions, and may not understand that reproductions tend to be worth far less than the original.

As an appraiser, it helps to understand the basic processes of printmaking in order to determine whether the item you’re appraising is a reproduction or not. In this post, I will describe the main techniques and touch on some important developments in the world of printmaking so you’ll have a better understanding next time you see one of these items.

What Is a Print?

The original print is an image that has been conceived by the artist as a print. It is produced as a print, not as a drawing, painting, or three-dimensional work. Each print is considered an original; no one print or drawing or painting is considered the original prototype from which other prints are made. The size of the edition, or the number of prints produced, is decided by the artist and the prints (after a small number of artist’s proofs) are numbered sequentially. Subsequent production of any prints or print editions should be differentiated by “states” of the prints and suffer corresponding depreciation of value.

Note: the blanket statement, “[just] the value of the frame,” may not be always accurate for reproductions if they gain value outside the field of art (as a recent auction of movie posters demonstrated), but if the appraiser’s focus is works of art rather than collectibles, reproductions are substantially less important than any object directly created by an artist. Additionally, some prints by artists (think Paul Gauguin's monoprints or works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec) may be of significant value. Appraisers are encouraged to do research and approach the topic of prints with care when assigning value to an item.

Printmaking Processes

While the field of printmaking and multiples today has become muddier as contemporary artists explore techniques of photo-mechanical processes for their own art creation, it’s important for appraisers to get acquainted with the classical processes of creating multiple art images first, before venturing into contemporary artistic multiples processing.

Printmaking processes
(courtesy of the Printers' National Environmental Assistance Center)

Classic methods of processing multiples (like etchings, engravings, relief prints, lithography, and serigraphy) and even contemporary processes (like some giclée prints) result in works of art because the artists intentionally use those processes to create individual works of art unique to the medium. The fact that a work is created in multiple numbers of prints or sculptures is a result of the artist’s intention, not a result of the efficiency of the process.

Based on this criteria, an artist who employs offset lithography or giclée printing to reproduce the image of a painting does not create a new work of art; if an appraiser can reference a framed picture back to an identical painted picture, the subject of investigation is a reproduction and deserves the evaluation, “only the value of the frame!”

The traditional forms of printmaking include:
  • Intaglio (also known as “gravure” to commercial printers). Includes etching, engraving, drypoint, aquatint, and mezzotint. Images are created on a metal or plastic plate by direct incisions, or by using acid to incise lines or pits into the plates. These incisions or pits are filled with ink, which is then transferred to a medium such as paper to produce an image.
  • Relief. Includes wood block, lino cut, and stonecut. In relief printmaking, material is removed from a base of wood, linoleum, stone, or even potato to leave a relief that is then inked and pressed against a medium such as paper to produce an image.

    Relief carving for stone cut print

  • Planographic. Includes lithograph, serigraph (aka silkscreen), and stencil. Lithographic stones or metal plates are prepared to receive oily or greasy drawings which adhere ink to the drawings, and are then transferred to a medium such as paper to produce an image. Stencils can be created using a variety of media, and are sometimes attached to screens (now usually fine nylon screens), through which ink is pressed with a squeegee onto a medium like paper to produce an image. Planographic printmaking usually does not include offset (or photo) litho, inkjet, or giclée, although some conceptual artists have deliberately used those processes for creating multiples.
Pulling an image from a lithograph stone

Printmaking through History

Prints from the 14th and 15th centuries to the early modern era were not usually numbered. They may carry the names of the printer as well as the artist in the image.

Since the early 20th century, traditional prints have usually included signatures in pencil with notations of print number out of (/) a numbered edition. Signatures however, do not guarantee authenticity of a traditional process, nor do they guarantee a limit on the number of works in an addition or numbers of editions or states. (For instance, a very well-known twentieth century artist issued editions of 5000 silkscreens each for a number of regions of North America and Europe). Any work containing a signature added (in pencil or pen, for instance) to an image that already has a painted signature is more than likely a reproduction.

Passing ink through a screen with a squeegee

In the past few decades, a number of artists have begun to explore computer-generated art, including digital printing with processes like giclée (which confusingly is more often a popular process to produce high-quality reproductions). Photography, which also can result in multiple images, is considered a completely separate field of artistic process.

What to Remember About Printmaking

The differentiation of original works of art as multiples from reproductions occurs when the artist is directly involved to some degree in the creation of the works of art. If the work being examined is directly the result of the creative process, it is an original print.

If the work is a copy of an image created at another time, in another size, in a different medium whether by the artist or not, whether signed (again) or not, it has been produced to be marketed more broadly without further artistic contribution and it is a reproduction.
Artist wiping an etching plate with ink

Daniel Deyell is a member of the International Society of Appraisers, He has twenty years’ experience in the field of fine arts and earned degrees in art and art history from University of Regina and University of British Columbia supplemented with professional museum and arts management certificates from Banff Centre and American Law Institute/American Bar Association. He has worked with public art galleries across Western Canada, including Mackenzie Art Gallery, Mendel Art Gallery, Glenbow, Alberta College of Art Gallery, Muttart Art Gallery, Penticton Art Gallery, Vancouver Art Gallery and International Museum of Cultures in Dallas in varying roles from preparatory to curatorial to managerial. At the Mendel, he prepared condition reports and digitized the catalogued collection of 4,400 objects for inclusion in a museum collection database.

Recommended Reading:
Glossary of commonly-used terms related to printmaking

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Announcing Your 2017-2018 Board of Directors

Voting for ISA's 2017-2018 Board of Directors has ended and we would like to congratulate our three recently elected members.

Joining the Board of Directors for a second 3-year term:

Perri Guthrie, ISA CAPP and Fred Winer, ISA CAPP

Beginning his first 3-year term with the Board of Directors:

Robert Hittel, ISA CAPP

These three members will join the returning members of the Board of Directors for the 2017-2018 year:
Christine Guernsey, ISA CAPP
Hughene Acheson, ISA AM
Michelle Conliffe, ISA CAPP
Monica Fidel, ISA CAPP
Suzanne Sellers Houck, ISA CAPP
Terry L. Oldham, ISA AM

ISA would like to specially thank Elise Waters Olonia, ISA AM, who is concluding her term on the board in November, for her significant contributions to ISA and the Board of Directors.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Ask an Instructor: Updated USPAP Standards and Webinars

ISA members are invited to send in their questions on all things appraising and education to ISA's instructors. One of ISA's instructors will share answers on the ISA Now Blog. Please send questions to

Question: To which USPAP standards do I write if I start an assignment in the Fall of 2017, but my final report is completed in January 2018?

Answer: Thanks for asking a great question. This is a very common question we instructors receive every fall/winter when the USPAP standards change. Even if your assignment starts in 2017, even if your effective date is in 2017, and even if your inspection date is in 2017, if the issue date of your report is in 2018, then you must write to the 2018-2019 USPAP standards. You are responsible for knowing and abiding by all of the 2018-2019 standards as of January 1, 2018, regardless if you have taken the USPAP update course or not and regardless if you have in hand the current manual or not. But don’t panic yet! Your ISA Education team will make sure you are aware of the changes coming so that you will be prepared.

Question: What are the webinars being scheduled for 2018? Have you thought about having one about (fill in the blank)?

Answer: We have six webinars being scheduled for 2018 that can be on a variety of topics. Have a specific topic or speaker in mind? Let me know! Want to present a webinar for the organization and earn more Professional Development Credits (PDCs)? Let me know too! Our best presentations have been recommendations from the membership, so let me hear from you.

- Meredith Meuwly, ISA CAPP
Director of Education

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Collecting Information for Appraisal Reports

Libby Holloway, ISA CAPP
“A picture is worth a thousand words” is a saying that we are all familiar with. It isn’t clear to cliché historians whether this phrase was coined in 1911 by newspaper editor Tess Flanders, earlier from a paraphrased comment by Napoleon Bonaparte or even earlier by Confucius. But, the statement rings true no matter who said it first.

In the Core Course, you are instructed to take clear photos and write descriptions that are thorough enough to enable the reader, who may not be familiar with art or antiques, to pick the item out in the room. Different objects require different levels of detail in their descriptions. For example, there is no need to write three sentences to describe assorted used pots and pans, nor is there a need to photograph each separately. However, you will likely need to take multiple photos of a piece of art. Make sure you are qualified to appraise the types of items you are tasked with valuing. If you are, you should be able to determine the detail needed to adequately describe the objects.

When you are on-site collecting information for your appraisal report, make sure you take the time to take the right number of good quality photos. Luckily, digital photography has made it affordable to take enough photos to insure you have gathered the information needed. I generally take 4 corner shots of each room, then methodically work my way around with group shots of less valuable items and singular shots of more important pieces. Practice working with your camera so you can adjust for different light levels, different finishes and small details such as silver marks. Learn to take photos of items under glass or with shiny surfaces. Carry solid dark and light cloths that can be used as a background for close photos. If you need more help with photographing objects, online tutorials can be a great resource and should be available for almost every type of camera.

No matter how much experience you have in the field you appraise in, there will be times when you aren’t sure about a piece. If you think you may be seeking help from someone else, you should take lots of photos from different angles and capture details such as marks, signatures or other characteristics that can be used for dating and identification. Be aware of what those characteristics are for each type of property you are inspecting. Did you know the number of toes on a dragon can be important? Did you know that some flaws show up in a photo taken with a flash that you might not be able to see in lower light? Your photos can give hints to an expert that you might not even have the words to express. ISA's Fine Arts and Antiques, Furnishings and Decorative Arts specialty courses include photography and description writing tips for that purpose.

Ceramic pieces may include markings that
will help you or another expert identify the piece.

Since condition is important to determining value, make sure you know how to properly photograph and explain condition issues or terms for types of damage. You might say that a finish is bleached from light exposure, silver is scratched from improper cleaning or that a print has suffered from exposure to moisture. Take clear photographs of the damage showing the extent of the damage and the overall condition of the piece. A scratch on a piece of art glass may not affect value if there are also large chips in the rim.

Speaking of words, in addition to informational photos, remember that you must use terms that make sense to your reader to describe the object. If your client is a knowledgeable collector, then pull out the ten-dollar words that you both know. If your client is an attorney who may know the law but not technical fine or decorative art terminology then use words they can relate to. Or, if it is necessary to use technical terms, include precise definitions in a glossary in the report addendum. Avoid using flowery, subjective language in appraisal writing. You shouldn’t describe something as beautiful, tasteless, tacky or glorious (yes, I’ve truly read those in appraisals before). Be careful using terms such as rare or one-of-a-kind unless you are sure that the industry considers that to be true. For information on important terminology in modern design, see our recent blog post by Valerie Hale, ISA CAPP.

Here is a new saying for you: “A picture is worth a thousand words, but a thousand words can’t replace a good photograph.”

- Libby Holloway, ISA CAPP

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 entrée 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.