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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Ask Leon: How Do I State My USPAP Compliance?

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: Could you please let me know, unequivocally, how I’m supposed to state that I am up to date on my USPAP?

Answer: This is one of many versions of the same question that seems to be foremost in our members’ minds. USPAP is a set of minimum standards-not a certification or accrediting organization. One belongs to ISA-an appraisal organization that mandates their members write appraisals according to USPAP and ISA Report Writing Standards. This requires members to take an initial 15 hour USPAP class and a 7 hour update every 2 years. If you have, you are in compliance with those requirements. You are required to write your reports in conformity with those standards and provide an attestation (a signed certification) that is an integral part of the appraisal.

Since we have previously discussed the fact that taking the USPAP class (15 hour and/or 7 hour updates) does not provide any kind of “certification” to the appraiser, it becomes important to be able to demonstrate and express to the public and our clients that we are following the rules and are current in our ISA membership and the requirement that we attend USPAP courses on a regular basis. This is done by including the attestation (certification) in our report.

Often, however, this is not sufficient for advertising or explaining our credentials to the public. I would suggest a declaration similar to the following that states exactly your position.

I am an ISA member (either member, accredited member, or certified member) in good standing, having fulfilled all the membership requirements including the completion of mandatory USPAP classes. My reports are done in compliance with the current version of USPAP and the ISA Report Writing Standard.

(Frequently Asked Appraisal Questions)

Question: Are photographs required for estate appraisals?

Answer: To my knowledge there is no requirement for photographs for estate appraisals. It is always a wise idea, particularly if it is a significant estate. Remember that a picture is worth a thousand words. It will certainly clarify your descriptions and allow the IRS to decide whether the comparable sales are indeed comparable and accurate. (I would use common sense in my use and placement of the photographs. Not every single item needs one, particularly if they are nominal items. Room shots would be appropriate in those cases.) It’s always better to have more than necessary – even if they are only kept in the files.

Question: One of the guardians that I do work for needs a letter of opinion. I usually do this instead of an appraisal due to the fact the contents of the condo are pretty much worthless (everyday items totaling less than $500, if sold at an estate sale), but the probate court needs a letter. I usually state in a letter to my client that the contents should be donated or disposed and I don’t put down a dollar amount. 1. Should I put down a dollar amount? 2. If I don’t put down a dollar amount is it still an appraisal?

Answer: According to both USPAP and ISA, an appraisal is an opinion of value. This can be expressed as a single number, a range of numbers, greater than or less than, or something in relationship to a previous value opinion or numerical benchmark. For example, if you say something is worth more than zero but less than $500 (or use the term “junk”), it is still an opinion of value from someone calling themselves an appraiser. As such it must include all the elements of a properly prepared appraisal.

There’s no reason, however, that you can’t provide this to the client in a form or template. This would contain all the elements, including the USPAP certification. The “body” of the report would be a short description of the property (could be the entire houseful) with an opinion of the value-even if it is “worthless.” It wouldn’t take that much extra effort to provide this to your client, still keeping expenses low. This would provide the client exactly what they need and make your performance a lot more professional.

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