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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Urgent News: Proposed Legislation in New York Would Strengthen the Ban on Ivory

Our colleague Lark Mason, of Mark Lason Associates and IGavel, has asked appraisal organizations to inform their members of new legislation being proposed in New York that would strengthen the ban on ivory to include criminal penalties. This legislation could have a significant impact on how ARC appraisers do business. Lark has provided the following information:

"This was unexpected, so let me be brief. The New York State Senate took up SB 4686 in recent days. As written, this bill would ban POSSESSION, sale, offering for sale, import and transportation of any part of an elephant, lion, leopard, black or white rhino. This is inconsistent with and would supersede the New York Ivory Ban already in place!

If you live in New York, visit This page will give your state senator's phone number and some quick talking points. If you are not from New York, you can contact the state senator where you do business, travel, or have any other connection in New York. A full list of state senators can be found at

If passed, this bill wipes out exemptions in the previous ivory ban and leaves musicians as exposed as everyone else. There is a narrow exemption for items possessed in New York prior to this act, but you need to get a certificate from the NY Secretary of State to qualify for this exemption. If you travel into New York with something that contains ivory, you're out of luck. Law enforcement is given sweeping new powers under this law, it is punishable by two years imprisonment, all items shall be seized, and upon conviction, destroyed.

Don't delay! Act now!"

Monday, June 22, 2015

New ISA Members

The International Society of Appraisers is proud to introduce you to all of the new members since the beginning of 2015. Please join us in welcoming them to the Society!

Melissa Arnold
Malibu, CA
Dana Arvidson
Lakeville, MN
Janet Bethay
Merritt Island, FL
Andrea Brehm
La Jolla, CA
Alison Butler, ISA
St. John's, NL
Katheryn Campbell
London, England
Joshua Carden
St. Augustine, FL
Robin Caton
Cathedral City, CA
Tracy Chalhoub
Seattle, WA
Barbara Chapman
Lake Oswego, OR
Colleen Deemer
Wilmington, DE
Susan Douglas
Guelph, ON
Maureen Downey
San Francisco, CA
Robert Fay
West Palm Beach, FL
Katherine Fogelman
San Ramon, CA
Stephen Foo
Addison, TX
Shawn Gannaw
Lefroy, ON
Karri Brooke Guigui
Cincinnati, OH
Mary Beth Haas
Owings Mills, MD
Inga Hazen, ISA
Portland, OR
Julia Henri
Ann Arbor, MI
Kelly Juhasz, ISA
Toronto, ON
Sanjay Kapoor
New York, NY
Patrick Kearney
Chicago, IL
Kate Kombos
Tyler, TX
Catherine (Kate) Lilly, ISA
Austin, TX
Karen Longfield, ISA
Toronto, ON
Mary Alice Manella
Dania Beach, FL

Regan Masi
Santa Rosa, CA
Holly Mazar-Fox, ISA
Toronto, ON
Eleanor Muir, ISA
Toronto, ON
Philip Pruitt
Venice, FL
Tara Quell
Houston, TX
Gwendolyn Reasoner
Hackberry, LA
Jere Rush
Rochester, MI
Liana Schwaitzberg
Houston, TX
Patrick Sheehan
New York, NY
Paige Sillcox, ISA
King City, ON
Anna van Blankenstein
Vancouver, BC
Mary Walker
Tempe, AZ
Chantel Wilson, ISA
Tallahassee, FL

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Keep an Open Mind: Checking Our Biases At the Door

Marian R. Aubry, ISA CAPP
By Marian R. Aubry, ISA CAPP

At conference, a young woman pursuing a career as an appraiser confided in me. She said that she was having a difficult time convincing potential clients that, although she was young, she was competent and qualified. She had worked in internships and was passionate about the subject even before she ever considered completing an advanced degree in it (which she since had, she told me). She was articulate, obviously bright, and more than competent. I pointed out that she was already doing many things that help garner respect from colleagues and clients, such as getting involved with an organization that regards superior education and ethical conduct as the high water marks of the appraisal profession. I recommended that she continue to focus on proficiency and assured her that she would soon gain attention as an industry professional who is smart, reliable and consistent. I urged her to take all the jobs that came her way – big, small, unusual and the seemingly difficult jobs – and she would soon find herself gaining confidence, as well as clients.

Considering her youth as the determining factor for her competency was certainly unfair. Seniors, if they own up to an inconvenient truth, know that being older doesn’t automatically make you wiser. And yet, “ageism” exists on both sides of the life line, as I had an individual at conference suggest to me that I might not be aware of the market in some currently popular art form because of my age. Really? I’m sure my young colleague meant no harm, and, although it was less than subtle and mostly short-sighted, it got me thinking about the biases we sometimes unwittingly hold. First impressions are not always the right impressions.

There is no question that we conveniently rely on first impressions. Is there anyone who can deny being totally surprised by the powerful voice that came from a middle-aged woman in sensible laced shoes, a matronly dress, and that “Bette Davis” hairdo? Probably not those who knew Susan Boyle well.  

Researchers often talk about ‘availability bias,’ which refers to the practice of obtaining data from the most obvious sources. This often means that we come to conclusions without digging as deep as we should, or without looking at something from a new angle. However, removing a bias also removes our reasons for not getting to know something on a deeper level. When we look beyond the most obvious answer or our preconceived notions, we might find a whole new way to think about something or someone. Of all people, appraisers should be committed to being un-biased and open minded, a truth that extends beyond the items that we appraise.

Fine Art appraisers are not any more dedicated than ARC appraisers, and ARC appraisers do not practice a more complicated discipline than Fine Art appraisers. Yet biases exist among us as professionals. I know I’ve heard them come up at conference on occasion. Perhaps you have too.
One way we can get to know one another better is by sharing (who said sharing is caring?). As a mentor, I have been sharing some of the software apps that I use with my new mentee. He was so happy to discover these tools. Because he is much younger, I had assumed that his skills would be beyond mine when it came to technology. Clearly, my assumption was incorrect. And he, in turn, has used his background in business to teach me new ways that I can save time and money by being more efficient.

Mentoring is definitely a two-way street. There is no end to what we can accomplish when we share with one another. As ISA appraisers, we are all seeking greater proficiency and professionalism, no matter what we appraise, or what stage we are in our career… or even in life, for that matter. Perhaps we all need to remind ourselves to check our biases at the door. I urge you to get to know your fellow appraisers on a deeper level. You may be surprised by what you find.

Learn more about the ISA Mentor Program.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Does the IRS require photographs for an Estate Appraisal?

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: I have talked with several of my fellow appraisers about how best to include photographs with an estate appraisal…It seems a waste of trees, my time, and the client’s money to try to print a large numbers of photographs in a report. Can the photographs be put on a disk and appropriately numbered or named so that they reconcile with the items in an appraisal? As you’re well aware, when photographs of appraised items are reduced in size to fit an item description in a report, they frequently become unreadable.

Please give us the definitive answer. What does the IRS require?

Answer: The IRS regulations do not address the issue of photographs in an estate appraisal. They do address the issue in a donation appraisal but state that the taxpayer is responsible for submitting a clear photograph if the item claimed for a deduction is over $20,000.

However, the appraiser is responsible for providing a fair market valuation based on the facts that support it, including sales comparisons with other pieces. Identification is the first part of an appraisal process. Descriptions may be incomplete or inadequate. A good photograph will assist in clearly visualizing the piece. In addition, part of an analysis is certainly the comparison of item being appraised with items that have actually sold. Comparisons without photographs are sometimes difficult. It’s always better to have a photograph of the item and, if warranted, photographs of any comparables.

Often an estate consists of rooms of general household furniture and items of minimal value. It makes no sense to do individual photographs. I would suggest group or room shots. Items having significant value should have individual shots. Those of even higher value might require numerous shots including those of comparables. Use your common sense.

I wish I could give you dollar levels or thresholds, but there are none. One must decide if or how many photographs support the claims. On the other hand, if photographs are not clear or distinct, what point is there to including them?

The ISA Report Writing Standard currently does not require photographs for appraisals. It does require a statement be made about the use of photographs, if applicable. I would suggest that a change in this standard is imminent. I think that every assignment warrants the use of good photographs, unless otherwise specified. It makes no sense in the world of digital photography to skimp or ignore their importance or use.

What Happened to Multiple CAPP Designations?

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 happened to multiple CAPP designations?

Answer: The CAPP designation awarded by ISA is the highest level of membership within our organization. It has been earned through education, experience, and testing. All CAPP members have either come through the “ranks” or levels of membership (full member and Accredited Member) or bridged to ISA through another appraisal organization (there are specific requirements for those candidates). The designation is no longer awarded in a specific category.

The Accredited Member (AM) status is achieved by taking a specialty class or proving expertise (Advanced Studies Committee) and by taking an exam and providing a replacement cost report in their declared field. This does not limit the member from appraising in other fields, nor does it require additional AM designations to do so.

The CAPP level is awarded based on experience, professional development credits, passing a general methodology and principle exam, and by submitting a broad evidence report to be graded by their peers. (We ask the report be done in the area they received their AM.) The designation signifies a certified appraiser of personal property, but does not designate the specialty area.

In the “old days,” a CAPP would be awarded in a specialty or product knowledge. CAPPs were awarded in Appreciable Residential Contents, Depreciable Residential Contents, Fine Art, Gems & Jewelry, or through Specialty Studies (a SCAPP [Specialty CAPP] in silver, historical documents, etc.) One would endeavor to gather CAPPs in every area they wished to add to their arsenal. The CAPP designation would be followed by the wording, “in the area of…” This made the process extremely onerous and difficult to maintain or manage. (Imagine trying to keep up multiple CAPPs through requalification for each one.) It also made the process impossible for the accrediting organization (ISA). Every desired specialty would need an approved course and exam before announcing competence in a specific area.

The change to the present system was not a recent one. The CAPP is no longer awarded in a specialty. One does not have to achieve multiple CAPPs to appraise in different categories. The appraiser must be competent and work competently in every assignment (USPAP Competence Rule). Just because one has a CAPP does not make him or her competent for every assignment, however. Each task must be judged on its own merits, as must the appraiser’s qualifications.

Advertising one’s credentials must be accurate and true. A curriculum vitae should include all applicable qualifications for a specific assignment. Just being a CAPP may not be sufficient.