What Makes an Appraisal Worthy of Belief? USPAP!
(by William M. Novotny, AQB Certified USPAP Instructor) The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) establish minimum requirements for appraisers in order that they are better able to act ethically and competently when serving the public. By complying with USPAP, appraisers can clearly demonstrate to clients that their opinions, analyses and conclusions are worthy of belief—a benchmark by which public trust in the appraisal procession is measured.
But more than appraisal skill and expertise are required to render credible appraisal assignment results. In order to consider the assignment results credible enough to be relied upon, clients must believe that the appraiser has performed the assignment in an ethical, competent, objective and unbiased manner. By complying with USPAP and certifying in the assignment report that they do so, the appraiser provides the client with reason for having such a belief.
The Structure of USPAP
The requirements of USPAP are established in its following sections, each of which requires compliance:
Additional guidance that illustrates how USPAP applies in the real world is provided by the Advisory Opinions (AO), Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and the Master Index, which allows the reader to fully research a topic by means of references to the various parts of the USPAP document in which the topic is addressed.
USPAP establishes what is referred to as the “appraisal process,” which is a systematic process for solving valuation problems. All appraisers follow this process in order to resolve valuation problems regardless of the type of property being appraised, be it real property, personal property, or a business enterprise and intangible assets.
STANDARD 7 of USPAP follows the appraisal development process that is applicable to personal property appraisals, and it can even be used as a checklist to ensure that none of its following seven steps are overlooked:
Step 1: Define the Appraisal Problem. This step requires that the following assignment elements be identified:
Step 2: Determine the Scope of Work
Step 3: Select the Appropriate Market, Collect Data
Step 4: Apply Approach to Value
Step 5: Analyze Listings or Prior Sales
Step 6: Reconcile Value Indicators, Arrive at Final Value Opinion
Step 7: Report Assignment Results
Step 1, defining the appraisal problem, is critical to the appraisal process. Problem identification forms the foundation upon which the appraiser determines the scope of work, i.e., the extent of inspection, identification, research and analyses necessary to develop his or her opinions, analyses and conclusions. In other words, defining the problem drives the entire appraisal development phase of the assignment.
An appraisal assignment begins when a would-be client presents a valuation problem to an appraiser who must then identify the various elements that define the problem. Because of the critical role problem identification plays in the appraisal process, USPAP gives it prominence by integrating and referring to problem identification throughout the USPAP document.
Scope of Work
Appraisers have broad flexibility and significant responsibility in determining the scope of work necessary to develop credible assignment results (relative to the intended use of the appraisal). For the scope of work to be acceptable, the appraiser’s actions must be consistent with the actions peers would take in similar assignments and must meet or exceed the expectations of typical users of appraisal reports resulting from similar assignments.
No one benefits from there being too much or too little research and analysis—too little causes unreliable opinions while too much wastes time and incurs needless expense. The appraiser’s responsibility is to do the amount of work deemed necessary to ensure the development of credible assignment results. The scope of work actually performed should result in a credible and meaningful answer to the appraisal problem posed in the form of either an oral or written appraisal report that complies with USPAP’s STANDARD 8.
USPAP requires that the appraiser be capable of performing the assignment, i.e., the appraiser must be “competent.” Only after determining that he or she can complete the assignment competently can the appraiser accept the assignment.
The COMPETENCY RULE of USPAP states:
The appraiser must determine, prior to accepting an assignment, that he or she can perform the assignment competently. Competency requires:
Comment: Competency may apply to such factors as, but not limited to, an appraiser’s familiarity with a specific type of property, a market, a geographic area, an intended use, specific laws and regulations, or an analytical method….
Competency requires the appraiser to be capable of evaluating, understanding and identifying:
USPAP is specifically designed to address ethical issues—the compliance with which is so essential to establishing and maintaining public trust in appraisal practice.
Historically, ethical violations by appraisers have resulted in abuses costing taxpayers billions of dollars. Public trust requires that the appraiser has an ethical mindset and performs competently. There can be no public trust without the appraiser strictly adhering to the ETHICS RULE of USPAP which requires the appraiser to conduct him or herself in a manner that is objective, independent, impartial and in conformance with the requirements of USPAP.
USPAP Not an Afterthought
USPAP is an afterthought for some appraisers—it is frequently regarded as a dry, boring, time-consuming, irrelevant and burdensome obligation that is hard to understand. This attitude undermines the frame of mind that allows USPAP to come alive and become exceedingly relevant to each appraisal assignment.
Many personal property appraisers do not realize that USPAP represents the minimum requirements with which they are obligated to comply. Without satisfying the minimum requirements of USPAP an appraiser is unable to be confident that his or her report is worthy of belief by the client.
The goal of this article is to help the appraiser understand how the various parts of USPAP apply throughout the appraisal process and to every appraisal assignment, and in so doing, to encourage the appraiser to apply the requirements of USPAP to their daily practice.
Before finishing up an assignment, ask yourself:
Signing the USPAP certification statement, is, in effect, attesting to your opinion that the answer to these questions is an unqualified “Yes!”