The Appraisal Process


Many times, clients have a mistaken impression of what an appraisal is and what a personal property appraiser is required to do in order to form and convey an opinion of value. This process needs to be conveyed to the client up front so they understand the reasons for the cost of the service. Below is a point by point description of what a personal property appraiser does for a typical assignment. 



  • The start of the appraisal process always begins with the first contact. That can be a phone call, email or personal meeting in a public or private setting. Several things need to occur during this initial meeting. 
  • Identity and contact information needs to be exchanged. 
  • The reason why an appraisal is needed. The potential users of the appraisal need to be identified. 
  • The nature, quantity and locations of the assets should be discussed. 
  • Any limitations to access or time lines need to be stated and provisions made to work through those limitations. Items mounted up high, stored in remote locations, tightly packed in storage, stored in remote locations or no longer available due to fire or thefts are some examples. 
  • The client needs to be informed of any requirements by the appraiser that might be necessary to facilitate the inspection process. The client or their representative might need to be on site for the inspection. Expectations of the appraiser and the client need to be fully explored. 
  • A contract for services may submitted by the appraiser at that point or later and it should define the client's and appraiser's contact information, reason for the appraisal, locations of the property, date range for inventory and inspection, research and processing time, report writing, type of report delivered (type written on paper or digital), type of delivery (personal, snail mail, email, digital down load), and payment terms. 
  • At time of contract signing the appraiser may require a retainer be paid before the process can begin. The contract will usually stipulate payment terms for the appraisal and other services that may be rendered including phone calls for further explanations, working with attorneys, depositions and court testimony that may occur in the future. 

Inventory and Inspection

  • The appraiser arrives at the specified location for the inventory and inspection process and the client or their representative should be on site to meet them. The client or their representatives can then provide access and guidance during the inventory and inspection process. 
  • Appraisers will generally take notes on the location of each item, write down a general description with specific identification if applicable of each piece or a number of pieces. They will copy or photograph identifying numbers or characteristics, count the quantities of general classes of assets and note any condition characteristics that affect value. 
  • Many types of property may need to be opened and even operated to assess condition and if so the client should have been notified prior to the inspection and be able to provide whatever is necessary to facilitate that operation. 
  • Clients need to be cognizant of the appraiser's time on site. For the most part the appraiser will ask questions concerning the assets that pertain to its value. Many times, a client will start to reminisce about assets as the inspector inventories and inspects each asset. Remember, you are usually paying by the hour for the inventory and inspection. If you think there is something that affects value for any item, bring it up directly and the appraiser will respond. Try not to dwell for too long though as it may add time to the job and possibly take time away from inspecting other items. 
  • The other side of this is pushing stuff on the appraiser before they are finished with the current item. Going too fast may cause the appraiser to miss something. 

Processing Information

  • This part of the appraisal process involves inputting the handwritten notes into a computer. Transcribing notes from tablet pages or typed forms takes time. 
  • Photographs are also down loaded from cameras and captioned for later inclusion into word processing files. Captioning involves matching the photos to the handwritten notes and making sure the right photo goes with the right description. 
  • When the inventory part is finished the research begins. 
  • A professional appraiser is required to provide facts to back up their opinions. This requires research to find verifiable information that may or may not be included in the report depending on the reason for the appraisal and the client's needs. This takes time and resources to find and document the information. Markets that fit the function of the appraisal and the types of properties being appraised need to be found and researched. Comparable sales and asking prices may generally be found on the internet but need to be backed up as much as possible by other relevant markets. That information is usually copied in some form that is recorded in a computer file and held in the client appraisal file for referral and possible input into the appraisal report. Value opinions are then formed for each asset and recorded. 
  • A report is then written that conveys the results to the client. 

The Appraisal Foundation has generated a standard for appraisal reports named the "Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice" that most professional appraisers adhere to. It requires certain things to be addressed in the appraisal process and the appraisal reports. Written appraisal reports will include; some kind of cover page or executive summary which explains the process and prosecution of the appraisal, a USPAP certification page stating specifics of the appraisal process, a body of the report with pertinent information on each asset plus the value opinion. An addendum is also in the report and will have any information not included in the body of the report such as comparable sales and asking prices, outside sources of information and the appraiser's or other professional's qualifications for completing the appraisal.


Report Delivery


Delivery will be accomplished as specified in the contract. Many appraisers prefer to hand deliver reports and require full payment for the service before the report is actually handed over. Other times some type of credit terms can be established and the client is billed when the report is delivered. Some types of appraisals are delivered in digital files that may be emailed or down loaded from cloud server-based web sites. 

The elements and process of appraising personal property have many similarities to appraising real property. The big differences in the process are; 

  • The number of items in an appraisal 
  • The assessment of condition 
  • The Appraiser's wide and in-depth knowledge of multiple types of property.
  • The amount of research necessary to document confirmed sales and asking prices 
  • The time to write the reports to accepted industry standards. 

All of these steps in the process can make a personal property appraisal a time consuming and expensive service to complete. 


Written and edited by John C. Craughan, CSA, Bette Bell, ISA CAPP, Nicole Roberts, ISA AM and Greg Brown, ISA AM.

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