Young african american woman having conference video call using laptop talking to coworker online audience sitting at office desk in evening. Consultation, webinar, tutoring on internet, telecommuting

Obtaining an Appraisal Report at a Distance

For those who reside in a remote area or who require an appraisal of personal property and an on-site inspection of the object is not possible, we have compiled the following answers to your questions. 

How can I obtain an appraisal of my personal property if there are no qualified ISA appraisers in my region?

Speak to a member of the ISA who is a specialist in the type of property you wish to have appraised. A conversation with a qualified appraiser can answer questions about the object, provide helpful information and propose the most appropriate course of action to obtain a valuation. 

Is there a fee to talk to an appraiser?

Most qualified appraisers will not charge for a consultation on the appraisal process or for providing basic information about your object. However, because a qualified appraiser bears responsibility for their opinions of value and must keep a record of any values they present to you, they will charge for their time and expertise. Appraisal fees are based on the time it takes to conduct the necessary evaluation and are not tied to the value of the object.

A qualified appraiser must keep evidence of the market’s activity as well as the resources accessed in order to provide an estimated value based on the purpose of the valuation. 

The fees charged by an appraiser reflect years of training and specialty courses undertaken to acquire the information and insight necessary to be knowledgeable about your object. These fees include expenses such as subscriptions to numerous databases and resources reflecting the markets for your objects, and the day-to-day costs of running a business. A qualified appraiser offers a professional service, you can expect to pay fees associated with providing you an expert opinion of value.

Can an appraisal be conducted using photographs supplied by the owner of the object?

Yes, appraisals can be performed using photographs for some objects. A qualified appraiser with specialty knowledge can provide you guidance on what photographs to take and what particulars to look for that will help them assess your object. If an on-site inspection cannot be performed, the appraiser will advise you if the object can or cannot be appraised by using photographs and provide direction on how best to move forward.

Appraisers prefer to inspect objects in person. Each category of personal property has unique characteristics that are not necessarily obvious to the owners. These characteristics are not always easy to find and can be difficult to capture in a photograph. 

Appraisers must conduct due diligence. This may mean that the appraiser needs to ensure the object does indeed exist or that the purpose of the appraisal is such that an in-person inspection is necessary. They may need to look at the object through a loupe or microscope. Important details can easily be overlooked without the appropriate equipment. Should one of the value characteristics go unnoticed or be recorded in error due to the information not being transmitted through a photograph, it could result in an inaccurate valuation. Through consultation, appraisers can advise you about using photographs and if this is appropriate for your personal property.  

What happens if the object no longer exists?

In some cases, an appraiser will be able to value an object that no longer exists by working from poor quality images or a verbal description provided by the owner. This is not an ideal scenario. However, when dealing with damage from a fire or a theft where the object is not available for inspection, an experienced appraiser can create a reliable opinion of value by applying available and relevant information, and by utilizing the tools and resources from which they work. 

If you require an appraisal for an object that is no longer in existence, record all information that you can remember about the object and look through any family or personal photographs that feature the object or show it in the background. 

As a best practice, we recommend that you take photographs and create an inventory of all personal property in order to assist in these types of cases. An appraiser can provide professional assistance with an itemized inventory to ensure the pertinent details are recorded and photographed properly.

If I have already worked with a qualified ISA appraiser, can my report be updated without an on-site inspection?

In most cases, yes. The appraiser with whom you’ve worked will have your report on file and an up-to-date report can be created. This type of valuation service is common in appraisal reports for insurance coverage. In addition to the objects included within the original report, an updated appraisal report is meant to reflect any market changes for those objects, include newly acquired objects as well as exclude any objects that have been given away or sold. The appraiser will instruct you on what type of information they require to generate a new report. 

The ISA recommends that insurance appraisal reports be updated every 3 to 5 years to ensure that your insurance coverage is adequate. ISA appraisers are required to keep all reports at least 5 years after preparation of the report or at least 2 years after the final disposition of any judicial proceedings in which the appraiser provided testimony related to the assignment, whichever period expires last.  

Why work with an ISA appraiser?

To become a qualified ISA appraiser, the appraiser has to meet a number of requirements including having a post-secondary education from a recognized college or university and have between 1 to 2.5 years of full-time and specific experience in market-related activities dealing with personal property. Additionally, they must have taken specific courses in personal property standards, methodology and specializations in order to maintain a current membership within a recognized personal property appraisal association such as the International Society of Appraisers (ISA).

Beware of online appraisal services. At best, they only offer fast sales estimates of your objects that may or may not be accurate for your objects and there is no requirement that these service providers back up their opinions of value. All ISA appraisers must adhere to a strict code of ethics and follow a recognized methodology that promotes and protects the public trust. Remember, you get what you pay for and in the end, it may cost you more to work with an unqualified appraiser. 

An ISA appraiser:

  • Ensures transparent and rigorous reports.
  • Guarantees dependable value justifications. 
  • Eliminates conflict of interest. 
  • Reduces potential for fraud.
  • Maintains public trust.
  • Is qualified. 

This article was prepared by: