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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

USPAP - My Pathway to Expert Witness

By Suzanne Sellers Houck, ISA CAPP, B.A. and M.A.L.S., ISA Board Member

Have you added expert witness testimony to your bank of services yet? If not, and a perceived lack of “expertise” is your reasoning, USPAP could be your solution. Throughout my career, my courtroom experience has been very limited. But all of that changed recently, when I had the opportunity to provide expert witness testimony in a class action lawsuit against a major insurance company.

The suit claimed that settlements for depreciable household items were being settled illegally, specifically by age depreciation only. I was skeptical about what role I could play given my limited experience in writing insurance claims appraisals. I’ve often considered specializing in an area but never did, and I still classify myself as a generalist; generalists, in my mind, don’t often provide expert witness testimony. But that was all before USPAP opened the door for more business possibilities for me.

During our initial conversation, the plaintiffs’ attorney told me he had found me through the ISA website. What surprised me most about our initial conversation was that he was most interested in talking to me about appraisal methodology, not necessarily my “product knowledge,” although that too was relevant. I had just taken the USPAP update a couple months prior, so I was feeling very refreshed and empowered. "Tell me more," I said.

The suit involved California Insurance Code 2051 2014. (I’m sure other states have similar laws.) This law addresses claims settlement procedures and focuses on the concept of physical condition at the time of loss without ever mentioning consideration of a specific marketplace, specifically payment of actual cash value. I explained that Actual Cash Value is considered an insurance term and that as an appraiser I deal with Replacement Cost New or Comparable.

I explained to him that all appraisals by definition consider the Intended Use of the appraisal (insurance, selling, estate planning, etc.) and Objective of the appraisal (determining fair market value, market value, estimating replacement cost, determining loss of value, etc.) and that each value definition has a specific market. There are four primary markets we consider. They are the retail market, wholesale market, orderly liquidation market, and distress liquidation market. Appraisers choose the market based upon the intended use of the appraisal, the object(s) being appraised and its many value characteristics: Type of Item, Size, quality, Age, Condition, Alterations and/or restorations, style, Materials, Authorship or manufacturer, Country of origin, Subject matter, Provenance, and obsolescence/usefulness. I explained how using just age or physical condition would result in different (often inflated) value conclusions, a fact that further emphasized the importance of considering multiple value characteristics within a specific marketplace.

He then asked for details about my training through ISA. I am proud of our extensive educational program and welcomed the opportunity to explain it. He had no idea certified appraisers went through such extensive training.

Moving forward, I prepared for my depositions by reviewing my ISA and USPAP manuals, concentrating on Standard Rules 7 and 8, as well as sections relevant to appraiser's use of marketplace. I highlighted and sent the attorney Standard Rule 7-3 (b) which defines and "analyzes the appropriate market consistent with the type and definition of value and comments the appraiser must recognize that there are distinct levels of trade (measurable marketplaces) and each may generate its own data."

In Standard 8, I highlighted 8 (a) iii which states: "Content of an Appraisal Report must be consistent with the intended us of the appraisal and at a minimum ... summarize information sufficiently to identify the property involved in the appraisal including the physical and economic property characteristics relevant to the assignment."

When you are providing expert witness testimony, you need to be aware that everything in your work file will likely become public. Mine was copied and, during the trial, my highlighted sections of USPAP were used as Exhibits and projected onto all screens in the courtroom. What great exposure for USPAP and ISA .

The information I sent might seem basic to you seasoned appraisers, but my observations were that this information was news to the attorneys present. At one point I was asked if I was "certified" in the state of California.

"No sir, I am not," I answered, observing the surprised glances between the attorneys before continuing. "I have a business license in the state of California, but I am a certified appraiser of personal property through the International Society of Appraisers and all my reports are compliant with the USPAP standards as set forth by the Appraisal Standards Board, a Congressional subcommittee."

After the trial, I was waiting by the curb for my taxi when the main defense attorney approached me and asked, “Where are you from?” 

“Southern California,” I replied, quickly adding, “Where I often write appraisals for your insureds and hope to continue to do so!”

He smiled and asked, “Do you have a card? I am looking for an appraiser.”

I don’t yet know the outcome of the trial, but I believe my concentration on USPAP and my ISA education helped promote my professionalism and hopefully that of the entire appraisal business for those present that day. Thanks, ISA, for providing that education and allowing me to expand my business practice in a very lucrative and exciting direction.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Top 5 Reasons to Use the artnet Price Database

The following is a sponsored post by ISA Affinity Business Partner (ABP), artnet. Learn more about the ABP membership

Édouard Manet
Le Printemps, 1881
Oil on canvas
29.1 x  20.3 in.
Signed and dated
Sold for US$65,125,000 Premium at Christie's New York
on Wednesday, November 5, 2014

1. Two Trusted Databases for Two Different Markets

The artnet Price Database Fine Art and Design contains auction results for all paintings, prints, sculptures, works on paper, installations, and design from the 20th and 21st centuries, while the artnet Price Database Decorative Art includes objects such as furniture, silver, porcelain, ceramics, glass, rugs, carpets, clocks, books, jewelry, watches, and more.

Both databases have become the most trusted art market research tool for auction houses, galleries, appraisers, collectors, art enthusiasts, and students.

2. Unparalleled Scope

Our data goes back 30 years, with over 10 million color-illustrated auction results from more than 329,000 artists—the most comprehensive archive of auction results ever recorded.

3. A Global Network

We currently cover over 1,700 houses in more than 50 countries, ranging from the largest international houses to smaller regional auctions. Users can access this global network to discover comparable lots to facilitate appraisals, or to gauge the current art market.

4. Precise Accuracy

Both databases have strict requirements in order to have lots included, ensuring both the quality and accuracy of our information.

All lots in the Price Database Fine Art and Design must have the following price requirements:
  • Original paintings, sculptures, works on paper, photographs, prints and multiples, installations, and contemporary mixed artist portfolios must have a minimum low estimate of 500 USD
  • Artists with a “qualified” name, (e.g., after, follower of, circle of, school of) or artists known only by their initials, nationality, or period; artists known as master or monogrammist; artists known only by first or last name (for whom the full name cannot be identified); and anonymous artists must have a minimum low estimate of 2,000 USD   
All lots in the Price Database Decorative Art must have must have the following price requirements:
  • All furniture, silver, porcelain, ceramics, glass, rugs, carpets, clocks, books, jewelry, watches, and other decorative art objects must have a minimum low estimate of 500 USD
5. Edited by a Team of Experts

The Price Database team consists of 15 multilingual specialists that study and edit each lot before posting it online. Every single lot is checked for accuracy against auction catalogs, and our team edits an average of 68,000 lots per month—allowing us to stay on top of global art market trends and to monitor developments in price range, international collector’s interests, local trends, top-selling objects, emerging artists, and upcoming art markets.

Discover the artnet Price Database for Yourself

Trusted by prestigious auction houses, galleries, buyers, and sellers all over the world, the artnet Price Database Fine Art and Design has always been the leader for art market research.

We invite you to discover (or rediscover) the power of the Price Database for yourself. Access ten free searches in the Price Database Fine Art and a two-week free trial of the Price Database Fine Art. Click here and enter code ISAPD4HH to activate your trial today.

Questions? Contact an artnet client service specialist at We are here to help.

Offer must be redeemed by January 31, 2016. A credit card is not required to activate the trial.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Antiques & Residential Contents Guide – Update Your Resource Library with the Newest Edition
Thanks to the tireless efforts of its current co-editors Libby Holloway, ISA CAPP, and Michael Logan, ISA CAPP, one of our primary texts, A Guide to the Identification and Evaluation of Antiques and Residential Contents, has received notable revisions for its 2015 edition. Previous versions were published in 1996 and 2011, with the latest changes in form and content ensuring that the current guide reflects industry trends, best practices, and ever-evolving appraising procedures. The 2015 edition features significant additions, including color photographs, as well as brand-new sections regarding the writing of reports, tips for research, and more.

The ISA Antiques & Residential Contents (ARC) course was developed to provide specialty knowledge to those appraisers who cover the world of general household contents, be they antique or contemporary. This manual, which contains extensive information on 19th and 20th century furniture and accessories that forms the basis for how appraisers examine residential property, is not a price guide but rather a how-to source for procedures that include identification, evaluation, and connoisseurship.

From the preface by Leon Castner, ISA CAPP, Director of Education:
This is one of the only texts that cover the contents of a house from attic to basement, wall décor to floor coverings. It provides the information necessary for anyone seeking to become an appraiser, dealer, auctioneer, or estate sale agent, or anyone seeking a comprehensive and thorough foundation of the world of antiques, collectibles, and general residential contents.

This book has proven itself to be a crucial guide to ISA members seeking reference to the world of antiques and residential contents. Purchase your copy of A Guide to the Identification and Evaluation of Antiques and Residential Contents from ISA’s online store.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Invitation from the President: Expand Your Appraisal Horizons in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas

By Christine Guernsey, ISA CAPP, President

It is my absolute pleasure to invite all my colleagues to my hometown of Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, April 15-18 for ISA's Annual Conference, Assets 2016.

Our conference theme, "Expanding Horizons," focuses on an ever-changing industry and finding new opportunities for your appraisal practice. By attending, you will gain insight into the new directions industry-related gatekeepers are taking with their clients and how appraisers can collaborate for increased business; learn advanced methodologies to solve unique and difficult appraisal assignments; discover how to forecast future trends and advance your connoisseurship; and identify new business strategies that will help expand your appraisal horizons.

This year’s conference speakers continue ISA’s tradition of bringing you top industry experts. They include, to name only a few, Michael Moses of the Mei Moses Index; Peter May of LinkedIn’s “Art Solutions…Best in Practice” and “Trusts & Estates Network” with a combined 25,000-plus followers; Michael Plummer of Artvest; Lark Mason of Lark Mason Associates and IGavel; and an inspiring keynote presentation by Dennis McCuistion, award-winning host of the PBS television news show, the McCuistion Program.

The beautiful, newly renovated Hilton Hotel in Fort Worth, will host ISA. Renowned for its celebrity guests including JFK, this downtown hotel is a few blocks walk from Fort Worth’s Sundance Square where you will find a variety of great restaurants, shops and entertainment which are all affordable, easily accessible and safe for walking at night. For $10 per day, the Trinity Railway Express (located one block behind the hotel) will take you all around the DFW area as well as the Museum District in Dallas. Fort Worth’s Cultural District, with three major museums and its historic Stockyards, are all just minutes away.

We have arranged two days of special tours for conference attendees. Thursday, enjoy a very special hands-on, behind-the-scenes tour at Heritage Auctions in Dallas. Friday, tours include a stop to the Design District in Dallas to visit Pittet Architecturals, one of the leading importers of European architectural elements in the United States, NorthPark Mall's Raymond Nasher collection, the Dallas Art Fair with over 90 exhibitors of Contemporary art, the Crow Collection of Asian Art, The Dallas Museum of Art (with both decorative and fine arts) and the acclaimed Nasher Sculpture Center.

You can’t afford to not attend Assets 2016. It is an investment in your future appraisal practice, a commitment to your continued appraisal education and a chance to network with some of the top professional peers in our organization.

I invite you to take a closer look at the Assets 2016 program and to register early for savings. It will be great to see you in my hometown. You will leave knowing it was well worth the trip!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

ASK LEON: Should I reject assignments due to my "competency"? If so, how do I gain experience in these appraisals if I'm required to reject them?

ISA members are invited to send in their questions on all things appraising and education to Leon Castner, ISA CAPP. Leon will share his answers on the ISA Now Blog. Please send questions to

I just completed another organization’s 7-hr. online USPAP course. I am very curious if something said was an organizational opinion or a general USPAP requirement.

While the instructor was talking about “competency,” she mentioned one must make the case in the cover letter as to why you are qualified to write this particular appraisal assignment. Particularly, she expressed concern that generalists don't know what they don't know and should be extremely wary before accepting assignments. She gave this example: if you are asked to appraise a Picasso and you have only appraised a couple, then you should NOT accept the appraisal. Only someone who has appraised hundreds of Picasso's would be qualified to handle this assignment.

This really freaked me out. So many questions ran through my head. How can you gain experience if we can't accept assignments? Doesn't the CV state appropriate information regarding qualifications? Why did I just earn my dual AM designation if I don't have enough experience appraising the "heavy hitters" to accept (if only I would be that lucky!) such an assignment?

Answer: Yes, the competency rule states that you have 3 choices when confronted with any assignment:
  1. You are competent to do it and tell the client you are.
  2. You are not competent and you refuse the job.
  3. You are not competent, but you will take steps to do the job competently. This means any number of options, which are left up to you and the client. You can take steps to become competent yourself (hard to do in a short time frame), work with a qualified appraiser or team to do the job, or a combination of the two. That’s how we gain knowledge in other areas: we accept challenges and then become proficient enough to finish the job. No one can decide how many items one must do to claim competency. I would venture to say that what the instructor said might have more to do with authentication than appraising, although her point is that a generalist is not an expert in everything (which I agree with completely). However, just because one is a fine art expert doesn’t mean they can automatically do every piece of art either. Everyone has limits. You must confront them when asked to do an assignment and then decide if you can take steps to do the job competently. You must disclose those steps to the client and in the report.
Question: What role does provenance play in valuing an item? I had an inquiry about an appraisal for insurance replacement of custom tailored textiles made for political figures in a local history collection.

Answer: Great question. It would take a book to answer it. Provenance is a value characteristic of an item that the market deems very significant. One of the problems, however, is that for insurance coverage it is very difficult to put a replacement cost on the item since, in a sense, it is not replaceable. One can either compare the item to other items (parallel market) or estimate the cost to replicate/duplicate them if lost. The owner might want to insure them for the potential market value based on what similar items bring in the marketplace. For example, the opera glasses Lincoln used at the Ford Theater are just $200 opera glasses. They could be replaced easily. However, the exact opera glasses that he held in his hands brought over $400,000 when sold. If you were the new owner, wouldn’t you want them insured at $400,000 rather than $200? That’s provenance.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The "Circle of Trust" Deepens the Collaboration Between the Major Appraisal Organizations with the Development of Formal Mission and Vision Statements

By Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg, ISA CAPP
COT organization leaders, including
Christine Guernsey, ISA CAPP, President,
Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg, ISA CAPP,
Immediate Past President, and
Todd Sigety, ISA CAPP

One of the goals of ISA's three-year Strategic Plan is to advance ISA's industry standing among users of appraisal services. As part of this directive, ISA is committed to working with peer appraisal organizations to raise public awareness and demand for meaningful personal property appraising credentials.

To help guide this initiative and frame the overall scope, ISA, AAA and ASA have furthered our collaboration with the development of mission and vision statements, announced Monday in a joint public press release.   

The mission of the Circle of Trust (COT) is: "To raise public awareness of qualification standards for credentialed personal property appraisers who are members of The Appraisal Foundation sponsoring organizations." The concept of limiting participation in this collaboration to TAF sponsoring organizations is, that for sponsors, adherence to the AQB qualifying criteria will now be mandatory. This protects the public from individuals who may be practicing to a lower standard and without organizational accountability.

The next meeting of the COT organizational representatives will be in April at the ISA Annual Conference in Dallas/Fort Worth. At this meeting, the COT intends to move the mission forward with activities geared toward educating allied industry users. The participating organizations believe that as a result of our unified efforts to raise public awareness, informed consumers and allied professionals will recognize, and increasingly demand, meaningful personal property appraising qualifications.

I am proud to be ISA's member representative in this effort, and invite your ideas and comments. Please contact me at: or 215 346-2799.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Partnering for Success: The ISA Affinity Business Partner Program

In business today, there’s a lot to be said for the company you keep. Is your company looking for an opportunity to become formally associated with the largest professional association of personal property appraisers in the United States and Canada? With the ISA Affinity Business Partner (ABP) level of membership, you can make it happen.

ABP members enjoy targeted access to ISA’s 800+ members, sharing the common goal of providing the highest level of professional and ethical service to consumers of appraisal services. ISA members are also encouraged to consult our ABP page when making client referrals, providing your company with an extra level of client exposure.

Additional benefits received from your annual dues ($600) include:
  • Listing on the designated ABP Webpage on the ISA Website, including linked company logo and up to 50 words of business description
  • Use of ISA Affinity Business Partner member logo
  • Single use of the ISA mailing list, or a guest post on the ISA Now Blog
  • A 20% discount on advertising in the ISA Annual Conference Program and Resource Guide
  • Collateral Table exposure for promotional material at ISA's Annual Conference
  • Inclusion in our listing of Affinity Business Partners in the Final Conference Program
  • Admission to our members-only, private networking group on LinkedIn

All funds raised by the ABP category of membership are specifically earmarked for educational programs, furthering the ISA mission of “advancing excellence in the personal property appraisal profession.”

Consider becoming an ABP member and see what an alignment with ISA can do you for your business. Learn more and apply.

P.S. Are you a member of ISA with business partners who might benefit from this relationship? Share this message with them or forward their contact info to ISA at

Thursday, November 5, 2015

ASK LEON: When a personal property appraisal has been done for an insurance coverage, how many years before it needs to be re-appraised?

ISA members are invited to send in their questions on all things appraising and education to Leon Castner, ISA CAPP. Leon will share his answers on the ISA Now Blog. Please send questions to

I have a question for you. When a personal property appraisal has been done for an insurance coverage, how many years before it needs to be re-appraised? And would a new appraisal raise the amount of the insurance premium?

Answer: Insurance coverage appraisals are done to provide adequate coverage of personal property either not covered under a standard homeowner policy or to establish a set amount of recovery in the event of a loss. The insurance company uses the amounts to set premiums to that end. Since most policies are in effect for one year, the amounts will remain in place for the stated amount until the anniversary when a new policy is issued or renewed. At that time the owner may wish to revise the coverage if a new appraisal is done, but most slide along, using the same figures assuming their coverage is still adequate.

If the economy or the markets are stable, this has proved to be somewhat acceptable, although not ideal. One can continue using the same appraisal amounts until the insurance company requests an update or they themselves institute a change. As far as I know, most insurance companies have their own internal standards for how long an appraisal can be utilized. (I’ve heard of people using the same appraisal amounts for up to seven years before changing.)

If there is industry guidance, it seems to be that three years is a good allotment, although, I haven’t seen this in writing. This makes sense in a slow moving economy where prices are rising only slightly per year. It does not make sense, however, in a volatile or fluctuating market where prices are rising or falling due to many reasons. If the market is widespread, such as the downturn in 2008, it would be wise to suggest an appraisal update on almost every item. On the other hand, if only some of the items are affected, then only they need to be appraised. For example, silver prices may fluctuate wildly and coverage amounts from a year ago may not be sufficient today, or vice-versa. Certain art may escalate rapidly due to the death of an artist, special gallery showings, or record prices at auction. It would be prudent to revise those appraisals as well.

Some insurance companies now have in place special coverage which will actually pay a homeowner up to 150% of the stated coverage amounts in the event of a loss. Others may increase coverage amounts on an annual basis at a stated amount. It might be wise to advise your client to check on their type of policy and how coverage is handled.

The best advice is to have clients check their coverage and appraisals every year, even if no revisions are made or suggested. Most will not.

An updated appraisal does not necessarily mean higher premiums – even if the stated amounts have risen. The insurance company may have changed their rates and lowered certain categories. They may have lifted restrictions. They may have designed new pricing features and add-ons. One never knows.

If I were an astute appraisal marketer, I would probably design a letter to go out automatically at the anniversary of every client’s appraisal suggesting that a review be undertaken. This would provide assurance that coverage amounts are adequate, that any additions or deletions are noted, and that the cost of such an update would probably be a lot less in the long run than having to do an entirely new appraisal in 5, 6, or 7 years. Hope this helps. I would welcome other suggestions.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Significance of Standards

By Todd Sigety, ISA CAPP

Last week, the president of The Appraisal Foundation (TAF), David Bunton, posted an article on the Huffington Post website about personal property appraising. ISA has been an active supporter of TAF for many years, requiring our members to follow and adhere to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) for even longer. After many years of supporting USPAP and participating on The Appraisal Foundation Advisory Council (TAFAC), in January of 2014, ISA became a full sponsor of TAF. In doing so, ISA is obligated to follow and adhere to the foundation's appraisal standards and qualification criteria.

The partnership between TAF and the personal property sponsors has been growing and gaining momentum through a collective process of developing further understanding of personal property essential elements. Through round-table discussions, intended user input, personal property only meetings, personal property task forces, updating of TAF website with a dedicated personal property resource page, and now this article, TAF and sponsoring personal property organizations reveal a strong commitment toward promoting professionalism and qualified appraisers. The publication of the article in the Huffington Post is important in the partnership with TAF, as it represents the intersection of interests, commitments and dedication of the foundation to the personal property community.

Members of ISA are all aware of the importance of USPAP standards, the 15-hour course, the exam and the update classes every two years. These important standards have been something ISA and our members have followed and embraced for many, many years. As a sponsor of TAF, in addition to adhering to USPAP standards, ISA is also required to follow the qualification criteria set by the Appraisal Qualifications Board (AQB). The criteria sets minimum hours for appraisal education, experience, and continuing education/requalification. ISA has been an active voice and advocate through membership in TAFAC, and as an Appraisal Foundation sponsor in developing – and now implementing – the new qualification criteria.

The new personal property qualification criteria are more than educational requirements, and the rationale behind advancing and promoting the criteria are central to the success of the profession. The qualification criteria are designed to advance the status and standing of qualified appraisers versus those who produce sub-standard work and are not qualified. David Bunton’s article in the Huffington Post is significant on so many levels, as it goes right to the core importance of standards and qualifications. As the title implies, What You Need to Know When Getting Your Personal Property Appraised, it seeks to inform and educate users of appraisals on what is involved in developing a professional, qualified appraisal report, while also informing on the importance of hiring an appraiser with the proper qualifications for credible assignment results.

In addition to ISA’s Appraisal Foundation activity, ISA has been both active and vocal in support of qualified appraisers, promoting our members and seeking excellence and advancement within the profession. ISA initiatives include:
  • Partnering with allied professionals such as our affiliation with Chubb Insurance in promoting qualified appraisers and educating users of appraisers
  • Developing the Circle of Trust (COT), the new coalition of ISA, AAA and ASA to promote qualified appraisers and the appraisal profession
  • Meeting regularly with allied professionals, educational providers, our compeer organizations and the IRS to discuss appraisal needs from users, and to promote qualified appraisers and appraisals
  • Hosting the finest personal property appraisal conference
  • Growing educational opportunities, mentoring and online programs
  • Developing and distributing marketing material for ISA members
  • Promoting the ISA Affinity Business Partner program to develop contacts and network with allied professionals
  • Partnering with the Foundation for Appraisal Education
The Huffington Post article written by TAF President David Bunton is one of the many important results from our partnership and cooperation with other professional organizations in promoting qualified appraisers. These relationships have become both valuable and significant to ISA from a strategic point of view to augment and enhance our ability to leverage our important message of promoting qualified ISA appraisers to the public.

If you have not already, please take a few minutes to read through the Huffington Post article by David Bunton. To the professional appraiser who follows USPAP and the important qualification criteria, it may not reveal much new information, as ISA has been engaged in promoting our members and the profession for years. However, to users of appraisers, such as collectors, trust and estate planners, wealth managers, accountants, insurance agents, bankers, accountants and other professional users of appraisals, it shows the importance of hiring a professional, qualified appraiser who writes and develops reports to the “generally recognized ethical and performance standards for the appraisal profession in the United States.”

Thursday, October 29, 2015

New ISA Board of Directors

We are so pleased to introduce the new ISA Board of Directors, who were officially seated during the ISA Board of Directors meeting in Chicago on Sunday, October 18. Please join us in congratulating them!


Christine Guernsey, ISA CAPP
Colleyville, Texas

Perri Guthrie, ISA CAPP
Woodside, California

Karen Rabe, ISA CAPP
Peoria, Arizona

Steve Roach, ISA CAPP
Dayton, Ohio


Hughene Acheson, ISA AM
Oakville, Ontario

Marian Aubry, ISA CAPP
Sarasota, Florida

Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg, ISA CAPP
Elkins Park, Pennsylvania

Suzanne Sellers Houck, ISA CAPP
La Quinta, California

Fred Winer, ISA CAPP
Baltimore, Maryland

Joseph M. Jackson, CAE
Chicago, Illinois

ISA would also like to take this opportunity to thank Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg, ISA CAPP, for her hard work and dedication during her two-year term as ISA President. Special thanks are also due to Libby Holloway, ISA CAPP, who retires from the Board after six years of service as an officer and director. Their contributions have been instrumental in the growth and success of the organization!

Newly elected President, Christine Guernsey, ISA CAPP, states: "I am honored to be elected President of the Board of Directors for the International Society of Appraisers, by my colleagues and peers. I humbly accept the position which follows in the footsteps of some 'legendary shoes' worn by recent past presidents who have made ISA the premier professional personal property appraisal organization! I intend to continue the path of promoting and educating the public to the importance of hiring credentialed and qualified personal property appraisers, while providing new opportunities for our members' professional growth."

The ISA BOD looks forward to continuing to work hard on behalf of the membership!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The ISA Forum: A Refresher

For many years, the ISA Forum has served as an integral resource for members in obtaining expert advice and getting answers on tricky appraisal questions. It houses a wide range of discussion topics, with new discussions and questions posted daily.

Back in 2010, Todd Sigety, ISA CAPP, compiled a four-part screencast series on how to use the Forum. If you aren’t yet using the Forum to its fullest, take a look at these posts for a quick refresher. (Please note that these screencasts were done before ISA revamped the website and ISA logo. While those have changed, the functions of the ISA Forum have not.)

Friday, October 9, 2015


ISA members are invited to send in their questions on all things appraising and education to Leon Castner, ISA CAPP. Leon will share his answers on the ISA Now Blog. Please send questions to

There are always ways to make a report better, whether in content, form, or persuasion. A better report is one that is readable, easily understood, and conveys the answer to the client’s problem in a meaningful way. Read my latest ISA Now blog post for five suggestions to consider when improving the transmission of the appraisal.

1. Clarity
A report should be clean and orderly, both in textual content and in appearance. It should clearly state the client, the intended use and users, objectives, and all the elements on the ISA checklist. Whether a report is narrative, like a letter addressed to a client, or a chart type form with repeated boxes or tables for information, it should flow in a logical and methodical way.

Any intended user of an appraisal report should be able to understand what the appraiser did and what steps were taken to reach the final value conclusion. The scope of work should be addressed sufficiently so that even the research and analysis performed will be evident.

Clarity involves the written report appearance as well. It should follow grammatical rules and be free of punctuation and spelling errors. The numbers, when given, should be plain and not confusing. Parts of the report should be labeled and follow the steps of the process from beginning to end.

2. Headers or Footers
A report can be custom tailored for every assignment. This includes a unique header and footer with specific information that identifies the report. Some use a footer to include company and client name, effective date, addresses, emails, and phone numbers. Due to the ease of word processing programs, these effects are no longer difficult or time consuming.

3. Report Segments
It is relatively easy to construct an ISA report that includes a cover section, a body, and an addendum. Although we do not normally label these segments, it is wise to differentiate between them in the text. Starting a report with the appraiser’s qualifications is usually not a good idea since it is part of the addendum. Addendums, for a very good reason, normally fall at the end.

The USPAP/ISA certification is part of the cover segment of a report. It can follow the itemization and valuation, but should be labeled to separate it from the rest. Often it is included in the narrative as the ending to a cover segment. Remember that the cover section is appraisal specific. The body is item specific.

Use the addendum in an expanded fashion. It is a great place for an item-specific glossary, a grading scale, artist biography, and supporting documentation. It would not be out of line to have an addendum that contains more pages than the rest of the report.

4. Photographs
Photographs are not a requirement for any report, even an IRS one (the taxpayer is only responsible for providing a good photograph of an item for donation if it is over $20,000). However, particularly in an age of digital photography, you should include photos whenever possible.

Learn to use your camera well. Make every attempt to deliver sharp and realistic photos, including close-ups of signatures, hallmarks, and specific identifying characteristics. Use white space to enhance the presentation and label the photographs when possible. Put them in the body, next to the item description. If one is using comparable sales and a reasoned justification, adding pictures of the comps is extremely beneficial. Do not cut corners using photography.

5. Avoid Needless Repetition
Many appraisers use templates. Some templates are not appropriate for all intended uses and may contain information not required or useful in a specific circumstance. Proofread your reports and delete unnecessary and/or duplicate information. This is particularly true when people try to follow checklists and often duplicate material to ensure it is present.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why 7 Days in Illinois is Totally Worth It

Appraising can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to fine art or antiques, but it doesn't have to be.

ISA’s specialty survey courses on Fine Art and Antiques and Residential Contents, both coming up this October, are the best way to learn the terminology and research practices for these types of appraisals. After seven days of hands-on, interactive instruction from ISA's most experienced instructors and respected certified appraisers, you will leave equipped with the skills you need to expand your appraisal practice.

Don’t miss ISA’s two upcoming specialty courses next month. Registration deadlines are quickly approaching!

ISA’s Appraisal of Fine Art Course
October 19 – 25, 2015
Northern Illinois University - Naperville Campus
Naperville, Illinois
$1,300 ISA members / $1,585 nonmembers
Course instructors: Richard Casagrande, ISA CAPP; Cathy Peters, ISA CAPP; and Meredith Meuwly, ISA CAPP
Registration closes October 9

Description: The Appraisal of Fine Arts course emphasizes the primary categories of fine art frequently encountered by appraisers and dealers: paintings, sculpture, works on paper, frames, and photography. Course participants will learn how to identify, research, and evaluate various forms of art work; distinguish various print processes, properly describe art works using the correct vocabulary; and will also receive an overview of art history and art conservation. A field trip to local museums provides students with close exposure to the property categories being studied. For those seeking accreditation, a post-course appraisal assignment is required, and an exam will be held on the final day. Breakfast and lunch each day is included in the course fee.

ISA’s Antiques and Residential Contents Course
October 26 - November 1, 2015
Northern Illinois University - Naperville Campus
Naperville, Illinois
$1,300 ISA members / $1,585 nonmembers
Course Instructors: Valerie Hale, ISA CAPP; Michael Logan, ISA CAPP; and Intern Instructor, Libby Holloway, ISA CAPP
Registration closes October 16

Description: The Antiques and Residential Contents Course provides information necessary to properly identify and value items within the broad category of antiques and residential contents. Focus is on skill building around analysis of construction and manufacturing; as well as identification of quality, age, and design characteristics of periods and styles. Concepts discussed in class will be reinforced with hands on exercises.  Research, identification, inspection and report writing tips for the appraiser are also discussed. Course sections include furniture (English/American focus), ceramics, glass, silver, toys and dolls, prints, books, textiles, vintage fashions and general household contents among others. The course includes an off-site field trip. For those seeking accreditation, a post-course appraisal assignment is required, and an exam will be held on the final day. Breakfast and lunch each day is included in the course fee.

And remember, successful completion of the Fine Art or Antiques and Residential Contents courses can be used as credit toward fulfilling the required classroom hour requirements for ISA accreditation.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

New ISA Members

The ISA is proud to introduce you to our 22 newest members (through August 2015). Please join us in welcoming them to the Society!
Brooke Baggenstoss
Seattle, WA
Tiffany Beasley
Montgomery, AL
Heather Blume
Harwichport, MA
Anita Chavez
Albuquerque, NM
Lori Cohen
Philadelphia, PA
Eileen Cornell
Lilburn, GA
Bruce Davie
Rochester, NY
Donna Davis
Marietta, GA
Wendy Dych
Romeo, MI
Jeff Figler
Poway, CA
Laurent Gache
Los Angeles, CA
David Goranson
Lakewood, CO
Mircea Granescu
Chicago, IL
Michele LaRocco
Richmond, TX
Patricia Manzo
Riverside, CA
Maria Masse
Olympia, WA
Jessica May
Portland, OR
Alison Petretti
New Canaan, CT
Phoebe Seward
Houston, TX
Mercedes Taboada Sola
Dollard-des-Ormeaux, QC
Angele Taylor
Jackson, MS
Jonathan Vincent
Norwich, VT

Tips on Getting Started and Starting Over

Karen S. Rabe, ISA CAPP
By Karen S. Rabe, ISA CAPP

I started appraising in 1987 before joining ISA in 1990. And in those 28 years, I have relocated my appraisal practice five times. I have become very proficient at starting over.

I did not know I was destined to become an appraiser. I started as an antiques dealer in Columbus, Indiana. I went to auctions on a weekly basis. I started building my reference library and reading voraciously about antiques and decorative arts. Soon enough, I was a groupie at the estate sales and auctions and was befriended by one of the local appraisers. He was an American art pottery collector and dealer. He asked me to accompany him on one of his appraisal assignments, knowing I had just attended a furniture authentication class at New York University. He felt I may be able to identify some potential period pieces in the estate of the team doctor for the New York Yankees in Mickie Mantel’s heyday. 

The day of the assignment arrived. The appraiser brought his full appraisal kit along, a yellow legal pad of paper and a pen. He made a laundry list with values of the estate items on the spot. There was no room for his signature on the bottom of the list, so he turned the pad sideways, signed the document, and handed it to the estate attorney. My light bulb went on! There was something wrong with this picture.

I had never entertained the idea of appraising, but I immediately decided there had to be a more professional way of doing appraisals. I read Henry Babcock’s book "Appraisal Principles and Procedures." It was like watching paint dry! I needed professional, accessible training. I researched the big three appraisal organizations and chose ISA.

Setting up the Business the First Time: Advertising Tips & Going to Court
Really, setting up the business in each location was essentially the same. In Indiana, I took out the then-mandatory yellow page ad, visited every antique shop in a 50 mile radius and left my business cards, joined the local antique club, and became a member of the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA). I was elected an officer on the board of IMA’s satellite gallery in Columbus, which allowed me to meet art lovers and collectors. I gave talks on appraising to small groups and clubs interested in antiques and art. I joined the ISA Chapter in Indianapolis, which became a valuable resource. I created a packet of promotional items and mailed them to the banks, attorneys and auction houses. ISA even provides promotional tools for you now.

Your ISA credentials are important for your credibility. Keep them up-to-date. My big break came when I was asked to do a divorce appraisal for a local attorney. I did the appraisal for the wife. A local auctioneer appraised the same items for the husband. I was asked to appear in court to defend my appraisal and was terrified. I was grilled by the opposing attorney as to my lack of experience.  After all, the auctioneer has been working in the area for over 30 years, and I had had just recently earned my credentials and lived there just 3 years. I responded that I had ISA training and my values resulted from attending many area auctions, estate sales and a great deal of research. I also commented that the auctioneer had no appraisal training, had only attended his own auctions, and was using that for the basis of his values. The judge threw out the auctioneer’s appraisal and my client prevailed. I was subsequently hired by the opposing attorney for all of his divorce work. I was in! My business flourished as the word spread about that case. Moral of the story: Don’t be afraid of going to court.

The First Move: Expanding Connoisseurship
After eight years, we were transferred to Charleston, South Carolina. I was very excited to be working in such a historic area, but I knew that I had to enhance my product knowledge to gain the respect of the local curators, auctioneers, dealers and clients. I attended both Winterthur’s Winter Institute and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts Summer Institute. I was in antique heaven in Charleston, visiting every shop on King Street at least once a month to examine their inventory. After the dealers realized that I was genuinely interested in learning, and I posed no threat to them, they were eager to show me their wares. I often consulted with them on appraisal projects and, in turn, sent my clients to them to buy and sell.

There are numerous opportunities to build your product knowledge. Join the English Ceramic Circle and attend a few of their summer schools in England. Attend Sotheby’s Decorative Arts program in London. Attend ISA’s annual conference or the Foundation for Appraisal Education Seminar. Connoisseurship education is never ending in this profession and builds your credibility as an appraiser. You don't necessarily have to travel in order to learn. Attend local antique shows, view ISA’s webinars, take advantage of your local chapter presentations, use the ISA forum for both appraisal and product knowledge questions, or go to auctions to get hands-on exposure. MESDA, Colonial Williamsburg, Winterthur, The Historical National Trust, American Friends of Attingham, and many regional museums offer programs to boost your knowledge of the decorative arts. The Foundation of Appraisal Education offers scholarships for these learning opportunities.

The test of my new product knowledge came when I was asked to reevaluate a huge estate on the Battery in Charleston. The heir felt that the established Charleston appraiser had misidentified some items, resulting in incorrect values. I did extensive due diligence. I first learned everything that I could about the items and then as necessary reached out to my contacts at Winterthur, MESDA, and the antiques dealers on King Street. An appraiser cannot know everything, but his or her greatest expertise should be knowing who the experts are. I also learned that you should never consult with these experts until you have exhausted all of your own resources and know as much about the item as you possibly can when you contact them. It turns out the heir was right, and there were major valuation issues with the initial appraisal. As the news spread, my business grew. And, when it was time to leave Charleston, I was able to take my expanded product knowledge and new contacts with me.

Moving to a Locale with Many Qualified Appraisers can be a Good Thing
My next move was to Lake Forest, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, one which had many established ISA and ASA appraisers. Here, in addition to all of the usual procedures, I sought out opportunities for wider exposure. For the first time, I set up a website, a necessity for an appraiser in today’s market. I did monthly appraisal fairs for the local community center and worked as an appraiser on "The Appraisal Fair," an HGTV program hosted by Leslie Hindman. Both experiences brought in a great deal of lucrative work. While local and regional appraisal fairs can be time consuming, do not discount the exposure that they can bring to you, particularly if broadcast on television or radio.

In every city, there is an antiques "underground," a network of individuals you should get to know while establishing your business in a new area. These include the obvious: attorneys, trust officers, auction house staff, museum curators, dealers and collectors. But do not forget your local ISA appraisers! The Chicago Chapter was a great resource and helped me quickly learn the "underground." We were also able to refer business to one another. Get to know your fellow ISA appraisers; sometimes, they may be your best resource.

Moving Yet Again: Connoisseurship, Again! And, the Internet Age
Moving to Arizona posed new challenges, in that I had limited knowledge of Native American items, a category of personal property common in this state. Fortunately, the ISA has many members who are knowledgeable in this field. Remember to offer compensation for consultations. The local dealers have been a great resource as well. My daughter, Kirsten Smolensky, ISA CAPP, retained a reputable Scottsdale dealer to give us a hands-on course on Native American rugs, basketry and pottery. This experience did not substitute for consulting on important items, but it at least gave us an idea of what to look for and where to start. Network with the dealers in your area. Gain their respect.

I no longer advertise in the yellow pages. I find it is expensive, and it does not bring me the type of clients I want. Instead, the best advertising tool is a great website. Keep it up-to-date and fresh, using keywords that will assist with search engine optimization (SEO). If this is Latin to you, do not be afraid to hire help. Join Angie’s List. Create a business page on Facebook and LinkedIn. Network with businesses that have a great Internet presence and ask them to link to your website. For example, I was asked to be an appraiser on the Arizona PBS TV show "Arizona Collectibles." Not only did I get great exposure from the show, but my name now appears higher on the search engines because I am listed on their website. I have gotten many calls through Google searches by appearing on this program.

ISA membership makes it easy to get started as an appraiser. Starting over in a new location has  frequently forced me to expand my product knowledge, network extensively, and build a solid reputation in the industry. Feel free to contact me if you have questions about getting started or starting over at I look forward to connecting with you!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Ask Leon: A Question of Intended Use, Limiting Conditions, and Opinion of Value

ISA members are invited to send in their questions on all things appraising and education to Leon Castner, ISA CAPP. Leon will share his answers on the ISA Now Blog. Please send questions to

A Question of Intended Use

I'm working with a city parks department to appraise their art collection. It was previously appraised in 1999 and they want it updated. I assumed they would want an insurance appraisal, but they said they have insurance coverage for everything, so it’s not necessary. But when I ask them about the intended use of the appraisal, they are vague and say they just want to know the current value. They don't plan to sell, and in fact and are interested in current condition reports as they want to get a few outdoor sculptures repaired. What should I suggest to them in terms of a type of appraisal? Any thoughts on other questions I should be asking?

Answer: Well, you must have an intended use to form an objective to provide a scope of work, etc. If it's for their own knowledge or for financial considerations or whatever, have them state it in a letter to you. If it's any of those, you can provide a market value or a market value range. In the report you will say it can't be used for any other intended use like insurance coverage. Although it's a little too vague for my liking, as long as you can match the objective to an intended use and then develop a scope of work, it's ok. Make sure you get something in writing, however, since they may think they can use it for anything.

Limiting Conditions

A quick question: where do I put a limiting condition in my appraisal? Do I write it in body of the appraisal or the cover document? There was one bedroom closet that I couldn't get into because a mattress and box spring was against it. I have no idea what was in the closet.

Answer: The quick answer is that a limiting condition is stated in the cover document. It is also referenced in the certification where you state that “the reported analyses, opinions, and conclusions are limited only by the reported assumptions and limiting conditions…” The interesting point of a non-accessible closet is that it could be empty or it could contain all the good stuff. (I once did an appraisal where I got into a closet and found all the artwork which had been piled up from the walls of the house. After I did the report and sent it in, they told me I wasn’t supposed to do that closet. They were items “not belonging to the estate.” Right! (That’s another story.)

You should have asked the client or owner to move the bedding to gain entry or asked what they thought was in there. If they said, “Nothing,” or something to that effect, you could make a critical assumption that they were being truthful and put down no value. I would still explain this in your cover document and give the limiting condition (couldn’t gain access) and critical assumption (it had no value).

Appraisal Not Needed…or Is It?

I have a bank that just needs an estimate of value – can I write that as an appraiser? Just one page report with values or does it need to be an appraisal?

Answer: This question is covered by USPAP. An “opinion of value,” whether it’s called an estimate of value, a determination of fair market value, or estimation of costs or worth, is still an appraisal. Since you are acting as an appraiser in providing this service, you must follow USPAP. That includes all the rules and the standards. This should probably be an “appraisal report” rather than a “restricted report”, but it falls under USPAP. You must follow all of the ISA report writing standards as well. The bank should know better. Shame on them.

Jewelry Hallmarks

Does ISA require that jewelry hallmarks be identified rather than just noted?

Answer: No. ISA does not specifically require that hallmarks be identified rather than noted, but information relevant to the appraisal process, including physical and value characteristics, must be included in appraisal reports. If the hallmarks identify the country, standard, date, or maker, they are extremely significant – just like an artist’s signature on a painting. Not knowing or misreading a mark, or signature, could be a serious problem and lead to an incorrect valuation.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

What is the Difference Between the Distance Education Formats

ISA members are invited to send in their questions on all things appraising and education to Leon Castner, ISA CAPP. Leon will share his answers on the ISA Now Blog. Please send questions to

Question: What is the difference between all of the Distance Education formats that ISA has to offer?

Answer: ISA offers three types of distance learning experiences for our students, all of which are excellent venues that provide a class catered to their specific needs. They include the following: regular “Distance Education,” “Self-paced Online,” and “Live Online.”

Regular Distance Education

Regular Distance Education is the “old” version or original version of the process. Students receive their textbooks, a tracking sheet for assignments, and are assigned an instructor who will communicate with them on a regular basis, answering questions and grading lessons. These communications are done via email at the pace of the student. There are numerous assignments or lessons that must be completed after reading chapters in the manual. They are sent to the instructor for grading and are returned as a PASS or a REVISE. The student may not continue until each section has received a PASS. The instructor will offer guidance and review the material on a timely basis. The instructor may be available for a review prior to the final exam, which is usually given via proctor at a local university or institution.

Generous timeframes for the courses are set at the outset with the possibility of extensions. Students proceed at their own pace and are not reminded (pestered) to proceed. Most students have some difficulty in completing these quickly since outside influences often conflict with study time, but they do provide an easy option for those not able to take an on-site offering of the same class. The Core Course in Appraisal Studies, the Requalification class, and the two specialty courses (Antiques & Residential Contents and Fine Art) are all available in this format.

Self-Paced Online

Self-paced online is basically the typical home study version that allows the student to read the material, watch a short video, and then answer assessment questions according to their own schedule. Interaction with an instructor is minimal, but a few assignments are still required that need instructor’s personal approval. A final exam is given, usually administered through the learning program.

We call this the Online Learning Center. Students may send messages through an online forum and progress is tracked automatically as the student continues. The Core Course in Appraisal Studies is currently the main course presented in this manner.

Live Online

A live online class is a webinar type program that uses your computer and/or phone lines to join the class with other students. It is done at specific set times with an instructor who lectures using video chat. Students can usually see the instructor and watch a side screen at the same time. The instructor may use video, power point, or other documents to enhance the presentation, just as on does in a classroom.

Students will be asked to participate by answering questions posed by the instructor. Short breaks may be given during the presentation, especially if the class is over one hour in length. If an exam is given, it may be administered in an online fashion, although most of these courses at present do not include exams, except for the 15-Hour initial USPAP. Attendance is kept by tracking participation by the instructor. This format only requires the use of a computer with microphone/audio capability. The ISA Requalification Course and the USPAP 15- and 7-hour courses are presented in this fashion.

Regarding Yesterday's ISA Now Technical Error

Dear Subscriber,

Yesterday, you received an email from ISA Now containing a blog post that was published in February of this year. The platform that we use to publish these posts, FeedBurner, has a glitch in its system that has been known to occasionally resend outdated posts. While this error is simply technical and is not the fault of anyone associated with ISA, we sincerely apologize for the confusion this has caused. We are well aware of the error and are working to ensure that it remains a one-time occurrence.

We assure you that neither Perri Guthrie, nor the ISA board or staff, had a hand in the resending of this outdated post. Please note that ISA staff is addressing the issue with FeedBurner and is investigating alternative distribution sources.

We thank you for your patience and understanding.


Joseph M. Jackson, CAE
Executive Director

Thursday, July 23, 2015

ISA President Attends Valuation Profession Meeting in Chicago

The ISA is committed to working with fellow appraisal organizations and industry agencies to advocate for and advance the credentialed personal property appraiser.

On July 9-10, ISA President, Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg, ISA CAPP, was honored to attend a meeting with the International Valuation Standards Council (IVSC), hosted by the American Society of Appraisers and the Appraisal Institute in Chicago. Participants included representatives of 11 professional valuation organizations, assembled to discuss crucial topics facing the valuation profession around the world.

The IVSC is Chaired by Sir David Tweedie (center, front, Picture 3), former Chairman of the International Accounting Standards Board, renown for leading the successful effort to establish uniform international accountancy standards. President M. Lance Coyle, MAI, SRA, and CEO Frederick H. Grubbe, MBA, CAE, represented the Appraisal Institute.

Learn more about ISA's advocacy and collaboration efforts in the ISA President's New Year's Message from Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

It’s Not Too Late to Be a Presenter

Libby Holloway, ISA CAPP
By Libby Holloway, ISA CAPP

It has been fun reviewing presenter applications for the Chubb Webinar project. Our organization has some interesting people with unique skills, but we certainly have room for more participants. Do you have a passion for luxury watches? How about vintage motorcycles or bikes? I know there are members out there who could wax poetic about art glass. One of the greatest benefits I’ve found in being an ISA member is the diversity of the knowledge that my colleagues possess. 

Don’t be shy about applying. Current ISA Board member Steve Roach, JD, ISA CAPP, was among the first who applied. "Applying was easy and took 15 minutes," he said. "It's exciting to have an opportunity to introduce people to a subject they might not know much about - in my case, rare coins - and breaking down a complex topic in a presentation within this webinar model." When asked what advice he would give to someone who is considering applying, Steve said, "It's a good opportunity to do some outreach, both for my appraisal practice and for ISA." 

The webinars will be viewed by Chubb brokers, so this is our chance to tell them a little about the things we appraise and their clients collect. Suggestions for your presentation would be value identification tips, an overview of what a collector should understand about the subject, exciting market get the picture. 

If you fear having to create the webinar, don't worry any longer. Experts in our home office are happy to help. Catherine Toupin, Account Coordinator for Meetings & Education, will be on hand to help you get your talk polished and ready to roll. We even have a branded template for your slides, one that will help you create the professional look you want. I am also happy to talk with you if you need someone to run your ideas by.

I am so excited to be a part of the process of creating this outreach to potential clients and fellow professionals that helping you shine is my priority. And remember, the sample you send along with your application doesn’t have to be perfect, or even about your presentation topic. Your goal is to communicate your ability to share your expertise with enthusiasm and authority. The webinars will be presented live throughout the fall and early winter, so if time is an issue, rest assured: Your final webinar may not have to be ready right away.  

Show me your creative side and apply today! Call me, Libby Holloway, at 843-379-0130 or email at if you have any questions or want to run ideas by me.