It was one of those houses. You know, the kind where you utter a few choice words under your breath when you first pull up. I knew there was a good chance of it because I knew the neighborhood, but it was a recently finished construction, and no preliminary data was available. Though I had asked the client for a fee increase before I got there, I immediately knew it was not going to be enough when I saw this Mc-mansion.
I met the caretaker at the door and then began my measuring of the outside. It became immediately apparent, and I am not shy to admit it… I was way over my head! This place had so many odd angles (and several of them would need to be measured from the inside of the house due to the new landscaping) that I just knew I would get it wrong. We are not talking 90⁰, 45⁰, or even 30⁰ angles. They were more like 19⁰, 62⁰, and even 38.62⁰ angles! The master of the house was some fancy-pants engineering firm owner back East, and this was his idea of a tribute to the world of architecture.
After measuring about 3 sides, and sinking deeper into despair, I returned to the front door. “Do you happen to know if there are plans and specs on this place that I might be able to obtain?” I asked. I admitted my dilemma, and he chuckled a bit.
“Yeah, it ain’t exactly an easy one to measure,” he retorted. “Of course we have plans! In fact, give me your business card, and I will email you the .pdf.” Ahhh, sweet relief! I completed the rest of the inspection with full confidence that my life just got a lot easier. While at the property, I did measure the majority of the walls (most of them from the inside) so that I could verify the lengths against the plans which were on their way to my inbox but knew I would be better to trust the angles rather than my own ability (or inability as the case was) to accurately measure them.
Back at the office, the plans had arrived, and I went to work. The lengths I had measured matched up, and the plans looked strikingly like the house I had just been to. I felt confident that they were correct, but took one additional step… I called the architect to confirm that the house had been built to the specs which were on my monitor and to verify the GLA. Everything checked out. The plans were placed in the report, and the following statement was written (in bold) in my scope of work section: “Though I personally measured the subject upon inspection, the angles encountered and difficulty in reaching certain areas from the exterior caused my own measurements to be unreliable. Instead, I have included the architectural drawings which show all lengths, angles, and room placements. I have verified the lengths of the major walls, confirmed the accuracy of the plans with the architect, and I am making an extra-ordinary assumption that the sketch included in this report reflects the final build.” Pretty good, eh? I thought all that up myself!
Three days later, the revision request from the AMC was as follows: The sketch provided does not meet the standards required by the client. Appraiser to provide a personal sketch of the subject with all exterior walls and internal room placement…” Blah. Blah. Blah. Where do these underwriters come from?
So, what do you do when complying with the ‘requirements’ from the AMC would cause you to do something you are uncomfortable with? Have courage, my son, and stand your ground! It is in these situations that you must remember who the appraiser is and ultimately whose license/reputation is on the line. There are many requests that come from our clients which may be a pain in the butt, but are not a violation of USPAP. In those cases, it may be best to comply, take note, and then decide if you really want to work for that company in the future. In this case, however, my response was as follows: “The client has requested that a personal sketch be included with the report rather than the architectural drawings. However, and as stated above, the subject has a series of unusual angles and unreachable areas which would need to be measured from the interior. Though I verified the major walls through individual measurement, a personal sketch would be considered inaccurate and inferior to the sketch which is already provided. As USPAP requires an appraisal report to not be misleading, I am deferring to the blueprints provided in lieu of a requested personal sketch which would be far less reliable.”
Naturally, it took a few more back-and-forths before they were convinced, but they received a better product for it in the end. Sometimes standing up to the hand that feeds us can be intimidating and scary. What if they know more about this than I do? What if they decide to yank this order and assign it to someone who will do what they want? What if they never hire me to do another appraisal again? What if… What if… What if… The fact is, the ‘what ifs’ do not matter in the end. What ultimately matters is that you do what is right and document your reasonings. In the end, you will be a better appraiser and highly respected for it.
Now, go create some value!
Dustin Harris is a multi-business owner, but he has found most of his success as a self-employed, residential real estate appraiser. He has been appraising for nearly two decades. He is the owner and President of Appraisal Precision and Consulting Group, Inc., and is a popular author, speaker and consultant. He owns and operates The Appraiser Coach (www.theappraisercoach.com) where he personally advises and mentors other appraisers helping them to also run successful appraisal companies and increase their net worth. He is also the Founder and President of Your Appraisal Office (www.yourappraisaloffice.com) which implements some of the systems he has developed to help lower costs and free up time for real estate business owners. He and his wife reside in Idaho with their four children.