How To Find An Appraiser

By Victor Wiener

Executive Director

Appraisers Association of America

December, 1994


At this time of year, when one traditionally takes stock of life and possessions, many people may concludethat it is time to have their personal property appraised. But finding an appraiser may be problematic. Unlike real estate appraisers, personal-property appraisers are not required to be licensed or certified by any state or federal governmental agency. At the moment personal property appraisers belong to what is euphemistically known as a "self-regulated profession."

The federal laws that do exist provide little help. For example, taxpayers wishing to receive a tax deduction above $5,000 for art or antiques donated to charitable institutions are required to submit, with their tax returns, a "qualified appraisal" written by a "qualified appraiser." The definition of a "qualified appraiser" offered by the government leaves room for improvement, since such as appraiser is defined as one who holds himself out to be qualified until he or she is proven to be disqualified by the IRS. Although this may sound like double talk, the government claims that it is the best definition it can arrive at without showing preference to one group of appraisers above another.

With so few guidelines, where does one turn? Just as in finding other professionals, recommendations from friends and from those who use the professional services of appraisers on a regular basis, such as lawyers, accountants, trust officers and museum officials, are most important.

Following the Savings and Loan crisis, professional expectations for appraisal-report writing have become much more stringent. Today, many appraisers are choosing to belong to professional appraisal societies which provide them with educational opportunities to expand their expertise and to learn about the many changes which are taking place within their profession. Membership requirements vary greatly, as do the numbers of personal property appraisers in each organization. One should check with the societies themselves about what professional skills the appraiser has to demonstrate before being accepted as a member.

When evaluating the requirements of the professional organizations, one should be sure to verify that it is a tax-exempt non-profit entity. Although appraisers are not regulated, tax-exempt organizations are. They must guarantee to the government that, if they apply strict membership requirements to appraiser candidates, these requirements are applied equitably to all prospective members. In other words, favoritism, within a tax-exempt association, is against the law. Organizations which are not tax exempt are not subject to the same governmental oversight. Consequently, when examining the credentials of an appraiser one may wish to employ, or when seeking a referral from an association, it is also prudent to check the credentials of the association as well, ascertaining such facts as the year in which the organization was chartered and its status as a tax exempt non-profit. In this way, one can feel reassured that the credibility of the appraiser and the appraiser's credentials have been scrutinized carefully before contracting with the appraiser to examine your personal possessions.


Copyright Appraisers Association of America, Inc. 1996

Republished with permission of the author and Appraisers Association of America

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