Appraisal Articles 2018 Free Appraisal Articles for Appraisers and the Public
Assignment perparation and the creation of a well organized work may offer appraisers the best expert witness experience. Follow these basic rules and you will be able to find all of the items that you relied upon to develop your opinion of value when you reach the witness stand.
Based on my experience there are two theories regarding the development of appraisal reports for litigation purposes, the minimalist theory that says that you give the opposition attorney as little as possible to attack and the "kitchen sink" theory that says you provide every possible piece of information that you can in your appraisal report.
Depositions reveal just how strong an appraiser is as a potential expert witness. How well the appraiser presents his arguments will let the opposing attorney know what to expect at trial and give them a sense for how well the appraiser will be received by a jury. Appraisers often do not know what they are getting themselves into when they accept a litigation assignment. It usually begins with an attorney asking you about your qualifications, then he or she will decide if you meet their criteria. Attorneys are listening to you carefully when they are shopping around, if almost any appraiser will work they may focus on your fee. If no one wants the job, they just want to hear that you will accept the assignment. Most appraisers think it only has to do with only with their education, experience or designation, but while important those things are not always the focus of the search.
Appraisals of real property for condemnation purposes are generally originated by private firms or governmental agencies that have the power to condemn. Usually the firms or the governmental agencies evaluate a number of appraisal firms based on their experience in the condemnation area since there is specific state and or federal case law that details how an appraisal is to be completed. When an entire property is being taken a eminent domain assignment is simplified since there is no remainder to consider. Partial takings of real property can become very complex court cases. I have been involved in taking cases that required the condemning authority, due to their pressing need for a property, to engage prominent scientists, physicians, marketing experts, psychologists and engineers for their opinions / expert opinion testimony.
Many an appraiser has been tempted into providing an appraisal for a court case. An attorney calls and tells you that he needs your opinion and then asks "how much would you charge?" Maybe you have even taken a short course on being an expert witness there are a number of them being offered. At first the employment offer sounds like a great opportunity to make more money for an appraisal than you would normally charge. You tell yourself "I have been trained, I took a course," but there are many downsides that don't occur to appraisers until after they have accepted a litigation assignment.
Make sure when you have a trial date, time and location that you check and double check your information. Showing up late when you have a room full of attorneys, jurors, your client and the judge kept waiting is as bad a start as you can imagine. While preparation is of utmost importance, you can't defend your appraisal if you can't remember what you wrote in it, trial situations are stressful and not what appraisers are used to. When you get the first 20 trials behind you it will get easier, but even then there are some cases in which the attorneys and judges are difficult to deal with.
While appraisers are in most circumstances seeking market value, usually we are using the same definition of value the purpose of the appraisal can be radically different. In some cases the appraisals are for civil litigation, condemnation, contract disputes, deficiency judgment disputes, probate, bankruptcy and in some cases the appraisals are for a divorce. Appraising real estate for divorces is at times one of the most contentious of the lot since it is a husband, wife, attorneys and usually their families who can't stand to be in the same room together for 5 minutes without becoming emotional. If you have done this kind of work before you know that the yelling, screaming and unruly gestures sometimes spill into waiting rooms, hallways and elevators. While you want to be there to defend your appraisal report in court the circus atmosphere that develops can be a challenge.
Litigation assignments are not the same as other appraisal assignments, and it's better to have your understanding with a client and / or the attorney spelled out in detail. Otherwise you may spend many more hours than you originally anticipated trying to get an assignment successfully completed. All of my engagement letters spell out; my business information, the clients name, property identification, the interest to be appraised, date of value, turnaround time and the appraisal fee. If there are multiple dates of value, extraordinary assumptions or hypothetical conditions those facts are also discussed.
In Southeastern Michigan it has been my experience that appraiser's bid or set their assignment fees for their litigation appraisals in the same way that they do for most appraisal assignments that they complete, or on a flat fee basis. Appraisers tell me that they do however consider the fact that litigation appraisals take them more time and attention to detail than their typical appraisal. Thus flat appraisal fees for litigation related assignments are generally higher. Appraisers are usually asked to quote an hourly rate for additional research or to consider new issues related to the case. I offer a reasonable fee for this service. Complex issues can take several hours to resolve and write about, so you want to advise your client in writing what the estimated turnaround time will be. You don't want to put several hours in and then have your client say "I would never have agreed to that," litigation is difficult enough, you don't need to have the client turn against you. No
If you have been deposed more than a few times you know that the deposition can go easy or it can go hard depending on the attorney that you are dealing with and what they try to accomplish. Many attorneys just want you "on the record," they want to know what you will be like when they get you on the witness stand. Will you come across as a cool, collected expert witness that strengthens his opposition case or does he think you are weak in some way that he can capitalize on. For an appraiser, you are focused on defending your report and just answering with short yes and no answers, get through it with the least amount of pain.