Appraisal Basics – Appraisal Costs
Beware the Free Appraisal!
You may run across websites, galleries, dealers or other members of the professional art and antiques community who offer free or very low-cost appraisal services. These offers may be convenient and affordable, but they have significant problems and limitations. They are not in compliance with the requirements set forth by the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), they are typically not provided by certified and qualified appraisers, they are often grossly inaccurate, and they are rarely bias free. They will also not meet the rigorous requirements for estate tax, gift tax, probate, non-cash donation, insurance, and equitable distribution appraisals.
So, what are they good for?
Quick valuations like these may possibly be good if you are just trying to get an idea of what something might sell for. They can help you to decide if something needs to be sold separately from a planned estate sale or if restoration on a damaged item will be worth the cost. Or it might give you a clue if an artist or item you collect is appreciating in value or not.
But caution is still strongly advised!
Think about why an individual or company would give this service away to you for free. What’s in it for them?
Whether by accident or by intention, free “appraisals” are almost always biased. Antique dealers may want to purchase your items at a considerable discount and may provide you with a low “appraised” value to justify their low offer to take them off your hands. Galleries, on the other hand, may value a work by an artist they carry on the higher end to keep the value of their own inventory high. An auction house may want to include your item in their auction and may give you an overly optimistic auction estimate to consign with them. And some websites offering free appraisals may simply be trying to boost their search engine optimization ratings or drive traffic to other sites with more expensive services. Just be conscious when you get a no or low-cost “appraisal” like this of who is providing it and what their motivations and qualifications might be.
If you decide at this point that a full, professional personal property appraisal is what you need, you need to understand why they are not inexpensive!
What Goes Into a Professional Personal Property Appraisal Report?
Professional personal property appraisal reports must meet the rigorous requirements of USPAP as well as the report writing standards dictated by professional appraisal associations like the International Society of Appraisers (ISA). Typically, each appraisal report is required to address in detail:
The objective and intended use of the appraisal.
- The definition of value and valuation methodologies used for the appraisal assignment.
- The scope of work conducted for the appraisal assignment.
- An identification and analysis of the health of market in which the appraised items are bought and sold.
- Full descriptions of the items appraised in the report based on physical, onsite examinations including their makers, mediums, sizes, origins, subject matters, condition issues, and ownership histories.
- Thorough photographs of the items and their value characteristics.
- An explanation of the value conclusion – sometimes including a detailed comparison of the comparable properties utilized in arriving at those conclusions.
- Current, complete descriptions of the appraiser’s professional qualifications.
- Definitions of key terms used in the appraisal report.
- Identification of sources used in the preparation of the appraisal report.
Even appraisal reports written for relatively low value items must address all these requirements. Those including items of greater value or rarity usually require more research, in-depth analyses, and justifications to support their appraised values.
Can you begin to see why professional appraisal reports even for a single item can be over 20 pages long and take several hours to prepare?
What Goes Into an Appraiser’s Rates?
Those of us who are truly dedicated to being certified personal property appraisers are as serious about our expertise and credentials as our clients are about their collections. And our fees reflect it.
To even become entry level appraisers, we must complete extensive coursework, submit projects for review and pass rigorous exams. To become accredited and then certified, we must complete even more highly specialized courses plus put in a certain number of hours each year. We must then maintain our certification with additional required update courses, continuing educational units (CEUs), peer reviews, and more exams. Many of us also have undergraduate or advanced degrees and years of experience in related fields. And if we are truly advocates in our profession, we will additionally belong to and participate in professional personal property appraisal associations.
In addition to investing in ourselves, we must invest in the tools of our trade and in our professional relationships. We pay membership fees to professional associations and business groups. We subscribe to multiple industry reports, auction house records, and sales databases. We accumulate libraries dedicated to specialized knowledge in our fields of interest and expertise. We visit museums, attend auctions, participate in conferences, peruse galleries, and wander antique shops. We network with fellow appraisers and other professionals in our field such as authenticators, specialists, restorers, insurers, auction houses and estate sales companies. These business costs typically add up to thousands of dollars each year.
The bottom line is that the rates we certified appraisers charge are a reflection of our commitment to our expertise and professionalism, our level of achievement, and our costs of doing business.
Average appraiser rates vary by location and the qualifications of the appraiser. Depending on these factors, hourly rates can run between $50 – $500 an hour. In most US cities, typical rates are between $125 – $300 an hour. And the minimum cost of a single item appraisal report is $250 – $350.
What Does a Worthwise Appraisal Cost?
The answer is, of course, it depends!
WorthWise Art and Antiques Appraisers maintains hourly rates that are very competitive within our region of operation. Our single item appraisal reports currently begin at $300 and go up from there depending on the type and number of items appraised and the needs of the client. For reports with multiple items, sometimes a few items can be valued in a single hour. Other times, an item might take two or more hours to value. When several items of a similar nature are being valued, they can often be done more quickly than the same number of vastly different items. All hours spent conducting onsite inspections, researching markets, analyzing comparable items, consulting with other experts, valuing items, and writing up results in a USPAP compliant appraisal report are charged to the client. Out-of-pocket costs incurred during the appraisal assignment such as travel expenses, printing, consulting fees, etc. are also charged to the client. We often require retainers on larger projects or payments for onsite work before leaving the site. In all cases, we require full payment for our appraisal services before releasing our appraisal reports.
At WorthWise, we get lots of requests every day for free appraisals of all kinds of items. It’s important to note that we don’t ever perform free appraisals. Appraising is our business, and we charge for our business services just like all other business professionals do.
We ask our clients to carefully consider the costs of an appraisal before making a decision to contact us with appraisal requests. This is particularly true when items are purchased for low prices at estate or liquidation sales, inherited from a relative as part of a typical estate, or found in a purchased storage unit. Such items may include used or vintage furniture with typical signs of wear, china sets, tableware, collectible figurines, toys, record albums, books, miscellaneous coins or stamps, clothing, linens, printed reproductions of art or posters, office equipment, old cameras, tools, etc. And while there are exceptions to every rule, these types of items are not generally worth the cost of being appraised.
Sometimes, you can get an idea of what less expensive items are worth by looking them up yourself on eBay’s sold listings. This is particularly true when you know your item’s maker and perhaps even have a model name or number. Click on the small “advanced” link to the right of the big search box on eBay’s home page, then type in your item and check the box that says “sold listings” before clicking on the search button. The resulting list of sold items with their actual sold prices are a much better predictor of the value of your item then asking prices will be on current eBay auctions.