All You Need To Know About Appraisals

Is it worth $10, $1,000 or $100,000? Here's what you need to know to find out:We've all heard the story. Someone buys a painting at a yard sale for $3. The art sits in storage for years until one day that person moves or runs out of space. The painting is nearly thrown out as trash until, on a whim, the owner decides to take it to an appraiser. Miraculously, the appraiser says the painting is a long-lost piece of work by a famous artist worth $3 million — not $3!

It's a modern fairy tale akin to winning the lottery. While most appraisals yield predictable and modest results, this fantasy has taken hold of our imaginations. Now appraisals are trendy and even entertaining, as evidenced by the pop culture hit Antiques Roadshow. However, finding a respectable appraiser and getting an accurate appraisal is serious business. Doing it the wrong way could cost you, well, $3 million. Here are a few simple tips on the appraisal process.

The Appraiser
There is no legal licensing for appraisers, but there are different levels of certification that can be obtained through two trade organizations Appraisers Association of America and American Society of Appraisers. The websites of these organizations are a good place to find names of respectable appraisers in your local area. Another resource are professionals who deal with appraisers on a regular basis, like trust managers or estate attorneys. The appraiser of goods should not be the buyer or seller of goods. No conflict of interest should exist. Most legitimate appraisers provide a service for a flat hourly fee that can vary from $100 in rural areas to $300 in urban areas. If you need the skills of a specialist appraiser, the hourly rate can get much higher. Although, there is no need to go to a specialist for most goods. The notable exceptions are high-value art, jewelry or antiquities. Never get a piece appraised over the internet. In order to make an accurate appraisal, the piece should be seen and handled. Also, it can be prudent to get several opinions if you have a mystery piece with the potential for significant value. Appraiser opinions can vary wildly depending on the good.

The Appraisal
Before the appraisal, get a written estimate of how long it will take to complete and what the appraisal will cost. The value of a good can change based on the purpose of an appraisal. Therefore, it's important your appraiser knows the reason for the appraisal, like whether you want to sell something or insure it or donate it to charity. Do not try to "fix" an item before it's appraised. Often the scratches and dents of piece are tell-tale signs of it's value or the "flaws" carry vary themselves. When you receive your official appraisal, make sure you get it in writing. The written appraisal should follow the industry-standard guidelines outlined by the Appraisers Association of America. Finally, an appraisal is only good for 3 to 5 years because the value of items are constantly changing. For example, artwork value can shift dramatically within 24 hours due to an artist's death or a recent acquisition by a museum or gallery. If you plan on selling a good, it's best to get an appraisal directly before you put it on the market.

Does anyone have other good advice?

Image: Arizona Foothills Magazine

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