Appraisers Working with Attorneys
by Administrator on May 20, 2019
Attorneys generally don’t want to hear an appraiser’s thoughts about their case. Even if an appraiser’s planned conversation is about their appraisal report or about the valuation completed by the opposing appraiser they may not answer your phone call. Unless an attorney has a deposition of the opposing appraiser scheduled in the near future they often don’t want to hear what you have to say. If that deposition of the opposing appraiser is looming they may decide in a panic that they want you to become an advocate for them when you thought you had been hired as an independent appraiser. “Yeah but . . . My engagement letter says . . .” is one of the reasons that attorneys don’t generally want engagement letters from you and if you sent one they probably didn’t sign it.
I don’t usually hear from attorneys about assignments until they realize that they absolutely have to have an appraisal which means it’s a week or two before it’s due to be delivered to the court. What’s not so great about their business is that to do your best job as an appraiser you may needed 4 to 6 weeks and they put you in a 2 week box. You can do your best in 2 weeks, and it may be credible and better than most other appraisers could without your experience could do, but you just can’t do what you would have done absent the pressure of that deadline.
Appraisers think that they have real, strong relationships with attorneys, but after they do one or more assignments with them they may not hear from them again for years. Even the firms that use an appraiser for every case they do can’t be relied upon for repeat business. They may come back to you after a few years and act like they want to pick up with you where they left off but it’s a lie. When you can’t remember the names of their staff you are seen as a pariah. Sorry guys, but I don’t really care.
The fact of the matter is that an attorney’s business and an appraiser’s business don’t follow many similar paths. An attorney is looking to take care of their client needs first above all else, while an appraiser is generally trying to do the best he can to provide an unbiased and accurate appraisal report without bias. There’s not a lot of common ground there. If you don’t look at their needs you may find that you are not going to conclude a value that they “need” for their case.
Working with attorney needs is often 180 degrees out of sync with being an independent fee appraiser. When I’m doing typical appraisal work I like to discover where the property value falls, that’s the whole point, right? I don’t want to have a client or his attorney tell me at any time during the assignment period that they “need a value of $ 2.25 million or it’s not going to work.” That kind of comment usually comes from an attorney’s client and not from the attorney. Attorneys know better than to step into that hole.
It’s not unusual for an attorney to have his client contact you (the appraiser), and the client often attempts to bias the outcome of an appraisal report. It’s not the attorney who is doing it and he or she takes no responsibility for the conduct of their client.
An attorney can really only work with an appraiser if the appraiser has come to a value opinion or conclusion that falls near the attorney’s needed result. The attorney doesn’t really care how the appraiser got to the needed value he or she only cares that the appraiser gets there. If you are using an approach that may not be that well accepted by the appraisal industry, it doesn’t matter to the attorney, the case may never go to trial. In fact, the appraisal analysis / report often just becomes grist for the legal mill. There are some analyses that are actually attacked and thrown out or defeated via cross examination, but many more are left to stand and defended to a jury that isn’t full of appraisal experts.
For appraisers working with attorneys is always a slippery slope, you do the research and you find that you will conclude a value near the value that an attorney needs and you agree to do the work. Then after a week into your two week deadline the attorney calls you up and say “oh yeah, that market value is for the subject property as of the filing date which was 2 years ago.” I always ask about the date of value before I begin the assignment but it’s amazing how attorneys control when information is provided.
If you have a date of value incident like the one described your market value in most instances will be radically different after the disclosure is made. So you ask yourself “who do I charge my 1 week of intensive research and writing work that has brought me here?” You also again likely asking yourself “why didn’t the attorney sign my engagement letter that stated the date of value was as of the current date?”
And here’s a word on the trial. If things are not going your way the Judge may find that he has a problem with the appraisal or the person who completed it. If you think being an expert witness affords you some special protection you had better think again.
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