Attorneys are advocates. Attorneys need appraisers who are
the opposite of that, who are objective and without bias. The
only advocacy that is appropriate for an appraiser is advocacy for
his or her opinion of value. To be shown to be biased is the
undoing of an appraiser and, so, of the appraisal. Bias in an
appraiser is everyone’s pitfall.
Attorneys need appraisers who can get on the same page with them.
An attorney may need to know what a property is worth not as it is
but as it would be if the house hadn’t burned down, if the
contamination hadn’t migrated underground, or if the town were to
allow a Dunkin’ Donuts to go in next door. To discover that
the appraiser has not fully understood the “what if” questions is a
pitfall. The Daubert decision and the precedent it sets for
expert witness qualification are pitfalls. To find that the
appraiser who has been hired lacks the expertise a court requires
and to learn that when the appraiser is on the witness stand is a
Apart from the pitfalls of the courtroom are the pitfalls of estate
and other appraisals. Is the appraisal dated as of the date of
death? Does the appraisal include the whole property – the parking
space in the garage, the storage space in the basement, or the extra
lot off to the side?
Attorneys sometimes look for an Appraisal Bible that will allow them
to determine whether an appraiser has done the job “by the book.”
The pitfall in that search is that appraisal texts primarily teach
techniques but mandate very little. Most of what the Uniform
Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice requires of an
appraisal is that it be credible. “Credible” may sound vague.
But, in fact, it is a high standard. Above all, attorneys need
appraisers and appraisals that are credible.