Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ask an Instructor: Updated USPAP Standards and Webinars

ISA members are invited to send in their questions on all things appraising and education to ISA's instructors. One of ISA's instructors will share answers on the ISA Now Blog. Please send questions to directorofeducation@isa-appraisers.org.


Question: To which USPAP standards do I write if I start an assignment in the Fall of 2017, but my final report is completed in January 2018?

Answer: Thanks for asking a great question. This is a very common question we instructors receive every fall/winter when the USPAP standards change. Even if your assignment starts in 2017, even if your effective date is in 2017, and even if your inspection date is in 2017, if the issue date of your report is in 2018, then you must write to the 2018-2019 USPAP standards. You are responsible for knowing and abiding by all of the 2018-2019 standards as of January 1, 2018, regardless if you have taken the USPAP update course or not and regardless if you have in hand the current manual or not. But don’t panic yet! Your ISA Education team will make sure you are aware of the changes coming so that you will be prepared.

Question: What are the webinars being scheduled for 2018? Have you thought about having one about (fill in the blank)?

Answer: We have six webinars being scheduled for 2018 that can be on a variety of topics. Have a specific topic or speaker in mind? Let me know! Want to present a webinar for the organization and earn more Professional Development Credits (PDCs)? Let me know too! Our best presentations have been recommendations from the membership, so let me hear from you.

- Meredith Meuwly, ISA Director of Education

Collecting Information for Appraisal Reports

Libby Holloway, ISA CAPP
“A picture is worth a thousand words” is a saying that we are all familiar with. It isn’t clear to cliché historians whether this phrase was coined in 1911 by newspaper editor Tess Flanders, earlier from a paraphrased comment by Napoleon Bonaparte or even earlier by Confucius. But, the statement rings true no matter who said it first.

In the Core Course, you are instructed to take clear photos and write descriptions that are thorough enough to enable the reader, who may not be familiar with art or antiques, to pick the item out in the room. Different objects require different levels of detail in their descriptions. For example, there is no need to write three sentences to describe assorted used pots and pans, nor is there a need to photograph each separately. However, you will likely need to take multiple photos of a piece of art. Make sure you are qualified to appraise the types of items you are tasked with valuing. If you are, you should be able to determine the detail needed to adequately describe the objects.

When you are on-site collecting information for your appraisal report, make sure you take the time to take the right number of good quality photos. Luckily, digital photography has made it affordable to take enough photos to insure you have gathered the information needed. I generally take 4 corner shots of each room, then methodically work my way around with group shots of less valuable items and singular shots of more important pieces. Practice working with your camera so you can adjust for different light levels, different finishes and small details such as silver marks. Learn to take photos of items under glass or with shiny surfaces. Carry solid dark and light cloths that can be used as a background for close photos. If you need more help with photographing objects, online tutorials can be a great resource and should be available for almost every type of camera.

No matter how much experience you have in the field you appraise in, there will be times when you aren’t sure about a piece. If you think you may be seeking help from someone else, you should take lots of photos from different angles and capture details such as marks, signatures or other characteristics that can be used for dating and identification. Be aware of what those characteristics are for each type of property you are inspecting. Did you know the number of toes on a dragon can be important? Did you know that some flaws show up in a photo taken with a flash that you might not be able to see in lower light? Your photos can give hints to an expert that you might not even have the words to express. ISA's Fine Arts and Antiques, Furnishings and Decorative Arts specialty courses include photography and description writing tips for that purpose.

Ceramic pieces may include markings that
will help you or another expert identify the piece.

Since condition is important to determining value, make sure you know how to properly photograph and explain condition issues or terms for types of damage. You might say that a finish is bleached from light exposure, silver is scratched from improper cleaning or that a print has suffered from exposure to moisture. Take clear photographs of the damage showing the extent of the damage and the overall condition of the piece. A scratch on a piece of art glass may not affect value if there are also large chips in the rim.

Speaking of words, in addition to informational photos, remember that you must use terms that make sense to your reader to describe the object. If your client is a knowledgeable collector, then pull out the ten-dollar words that you both know. If your client is an attorney who may know the law but not technical fine or decorative art terminology then use words they can relate to. Or, if it is necessary to use technical terms, include precise definitions in a glossary in the report addendum. Avoid using flowery, subjective language in appraisal writing. You shouldn’t describe something as beautiful, tasteless, tacky or glorious (yes, I’ve truly read those in appraisals before). Be careful using terms such as rare or one-of-a-kind unless you are sure that the industry considers that to be true. For information on important terminology in modern design, see our recent blog post by Valerie Hale, ISA CAPP.

Here is a new saying for you: “A picture is worth a thousand words, but a thousand words can’t replace a good photograph.”

- Libby Holloway, ISA CAPP

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Importance of Continuous Learning for Appraisers

By Kelly Juhasz, ISA AM
Whether you’ve been an appraiser for 20 years or two years, acquiring new knowledge is important not only to your business but also to your own well-being. We often conveniently put this notion out of mind, but what truly and deeply motivates us isn’t money. It’s knowledge.

As a qualified appraiser, I am required to stay current with USPAP and ISA’s membership criteria, thus ensuring a high standard of appraisal service to the public. So, I am continuing to learn. But is being required to learn enough to keep me motivated and engaged? Not for me. I’m guessing it’s not enough for you either.

Why Keep Learning New Skills?

Many of you who know me as an appraiser likely don’t know that I am an expert in adult learning. For corporations and higher educational institutions throughout North America, I have designed courses and tools to increase performance and motivation in the workplace. I also have helped many arts organizations design programming to engage audiences and expand their purposes.

From a professional viewpoint, I would like to share three key factors that motivate students of all ages to continuously learn and acquire new skills.
  1. Mastery: By building your competencies and skills, you can more easily establish credibility and trust with your clients, two critical components of the appraisal business. By gaining a deeper understanding within your current specialty or expanding your specialties, you will challenge and reward yourself with new knowledge and increased confidence.
  2. Purpose: Acquiring new knowledge will help you solve problems for your clients and colleagues. By providing solutions, you will be heard and recognized for what you know. It will provide opportunities for new business and it will keep you relevant.
  3. Enjoyment and Engagement: As an appraiser, you have a high degree of independence that most people in their work do not have. You have the control to direct your own learning in areas that interest you. You have choice. Create an environment for yourself that is rich, rewarding, and highly satisfying while running a successful appraisal business. 
Realizing successes focused on these three motivating factors starts with a commitment to continuing to learn and acquire new knowledge.

Five Ways to Continue Learning Right Now

Here are five ways to continue your learning in a meaningful way that you can do anytime as a member of ISA:
  1. Volunteer with your local chapter, present at the ISA annual conference, or become an ISA Ambassador. By donating time and expertise in the appraisal community, you will learn from other appraisers. Together, you will solve a problem or create a quality event, workshop or working group and, in return, help to increase the overall expertise of all ISA members. (Purpose)

  2. Add or expand your area of specialty. ISA offers many opportunities to expand your knowledge into other appraisal specialties. If you appraise art, you can take courses to learn more about prints or Asian art, or expand into antiques and modern furniture. I know that I prefer online and self-study courses so that I don’t incur travel expenses and don’t have to leave my office. The Foundation for Appraisal Education also offers annual scholarships for courses; don't hesitate to apply.

    Remember, everything works in cycles. Although some specialty areas seem to be shrinking, and though there may be objects you don’t currently receive many calls about, you’ll always have the chance to use your new knowledge. The cycle will change, market demand will increase for items, and you’ll be confident, armed with your new knowledge, and ready to apply it in your appraisal practice when those calls do come in. (Mastery)

  3. Join a community board, advisory group or committee for an organization focused on your area(s) of specialty. We often think that we will be the ones providing the benefits by sharing our knowledge sitting as an expert, but, in fact, it works both ways. Getting involved will help you notice trends in the market, consumer interests and tastes, and also expand your list of contacts. It will also lead you to new business. You will find that you will learn and receive more than you give. (Enjoyment and Engagement)

  4. Attend Chapter meetings and presentations. With the help of colleagues, for example, the Canadian Chapter of ISA features invited guest speakers as opportunities for new learning. And even more rewarding, fellow appraisers prepare detailed presentations based on their areas of expertise for other Chapter members. These presentations create a bridge between ISA members from across the country and from various specialties, and provide an opportunity to learn together and get to know each other better. There is nothing more challenging than presenting to a highly skilled and knowledgeable group like our appraiser colleagues. (Mastery and Engagement)

  5. Increase your business skills. Find courses and programs directly tied to small business management, marketing and finance (such as calculating blockage discount equations). You will be able to focus your time on tasks that matter and learn when to bring in outside expertise that isn't your core strength. Also, check out the ISA Means Business! Toolbox for resources that can help you increase your business acumen. You will reduce your stress and enjoy running a business better. (Mastery and Enjoyment)

As an appraiser, you may feel like you are on your own, but with ISA, you are never alone.

Kelly Juhasz is an Accredited Member of the International Society of Appraisers, President of the Canadian Chapter, and a certified expert in adult learning. Her work in professional development has improved the performance of thousands of adults across North America and her appraisal knowledge is recognized by government agencies and cultural institutions nation-wide. She holds a Masters in Archival Science from Canada’s highest ranked university and a degree in Art History. She has worked on a range of artwork from Dutch Masters such as Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn and Gerard Dou to contemporary works by William Kentridge and Peter Doig. Kelly was the winner of the 2017 ISA Rising Leader Award. 


Recommended Reading:
Pink, Daniel. (2009). Drive. Riverhead Books.


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Thursday, September 7, 2017

How Do I Make the Most Out of Networking Events?

Cris Drugan, ISA AM, MIPAV[OS]
Are you trying to grow your appraisal business but unsure how to market yourself? My advice is to attend networking events to start spreading the word about yourself and what you do.

Studies have shown that it takes at least six touches before customers consider using your product or service. Wouldn’t you like to double up on those touches by having others mention you in their conversations? Attending networking events gets your pitch to a number of people at one time and allows you short one-on-one time to begin developing relationships.


People need to know and like you before they trust you enough to purchase or recommend your service. Remember, by recommending you, they are putting their name and brand on the line too. It will take time to reach the “trust” stage with your potential customers, but when you get there, the work you put in will be worth it!

Finding the Right Event for You


If you are just starting your appraisal business or are developing your marketing plan, look for the following types of events. Some may work for you better than others and fees range from <$10 per event to yearly memberships costing hundreds of dollars.

Here are some suggestions:
  1. Local Chamber of Commerce – membership-based 
  2. Business to Business groups (B to B) - membership-based 
  3. Business Network International (BNI) - membership-based
  4. TEAM Network groups - membership-based
  5. Eventbrite groups – individual and membership-based groups
These types of events are a great starting point. Once you have attended a few and made some connections, you can find other private networking groups to join.

How to Survive (and Thrive) at Networking Events


There are many strategies to working a networking event. My suggestions here follow the “Know, Like, Trust” approach I mentioned earlier.

Here are some important tips to remember:

Listen: Take stock of your interactions with other event attendees and make sure you’re using your time to pitch effectively. Think: What does the other person do? Are you satisfied with their knowledge and expertise? Can your clients use their services? Do you trust them enough to represent themselves and your company professionally? Get to know your potential customers and how you can help them.

Don’t be a chicken: Hurry around to as many people as you can with a fist full of business cards. Introduce yourself, your business, hand them a business card, and ask for theirs in return. Quick and to the point, right? But I’m sure you can spot the drawbacks – you won’t ever reach the stage of “Like” in your relationship with your customers. It’s much more effective to take the time to make a good impression and a real connection with individuals.

The Elevator Pitch


Many networking groups will have events where businesses and individuals can give a short, direct summary of their business for attendees. Developing your pitch can help you not only at these events, but can also ensure you’re able to talk positively about your appraising business at any given moment.

They call it an “elevator pitch” for a reason – you never know who you’ll have the opportunity to meet! Not to mention, being able to speak about your appraising business is an important step in building trust with potential clients.

Here are some tips for developing your elevator pitch:
  1. Keep it short. Due to the number of people who attend some networking events, there may be a time limit on your pitch. Be considerate of others and make sure you stick to that limit. You’ll also benefit from keeping people engaged and wanting more!
  2. Practice makes perfect. Pre-write your pitch, time it and practice it. You’ll sound much more confident when you know what you want to say about your appraising business.
  3. Change it up. Don’t try to list everything you do in 30 seconds. Change it up now and again. Talk about the different services you offer in separate pitches. If you don’t keep listeners engaged, they’ll quit listening!
Having trouble getting started? Take a look at these different styles of pitches, courtesy of the Cuyahoga Falls (Ohio) Chamber of Commerce:
  1. The Trainer: Present as if the attendees are new employees and you’re training them on how to market your service.
  2. The Target Market: give specific names of companies you want to talk with, ask them who they know or describe specific types of business you want (or don’t want) to do business with.
  3. The Storyteller: Tell a specific story without using names of someone you helped and what the result was. (Remember, maintaining client confidentiality is part of being a USPAP-compliant appraiser!)
  4. The Comparison: Compare your business to another, without naming them, and show specifically how you're different. Give a list of benefits, quantify them if possible.
  5. The Rambler: Ramble on about unrelated subjects. Win a narcissist award. People will listen, but it won't help you grow your business.
Starting a business as an appraiser can be intimidating, but I hope this post took some of the guesswork out of networking. Remember, it takes at least six touches to make an impression, so keep attending those networking events, building your relationships, and making meaningful connections.

- Cris Drugan, ISA AM, MIPAV[OS]

Chris is the principal of Emerald Art Services LLC in Akron, Ohio. Contact Cris through his website at www.emeraldartservices.com or by phone or text at 234-207-8686. 

Looking for more information that will help you build and grow your appraising business? The ISA Means Business! Toolbox provides tips, marketing guides, advertising materials and more to all ISA members.