The Independent Appraiser: Not Just a Pretty Title

In cases involving the issue of valuation of real property, the parties usually turn to an independent appraiser. Generally, this means that the appraiser is free from influence, guidance, or control of another or others.  We know that the appraiser will be somewhat biased in favor of the party who retained the expert.  But the Court will have some confidence that the appraiser will use good judgment and abide by a professional code.  The independent expert is also presumed not to have any conflicts in the assignment.

Mostly importantly, the appraiser is required to be honest and not commit perjury.  The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) set forth mandatory standards for the appraiser who must not only be aware of the rules, but complete mandatory USPAP Certification.  Appraisers also must be licensed in the state where they practice, but can still testify, if qualified.  One of the best appraisers in Staten Island was a broker who never obtained a license, but was familiar with every sale that took place on the Island.

Appraisals are exchanged long before trial.  A competent cross-examiner will read the appraisal very carefully.  Also, to be reviewed is the appraiser’s qualifications.  In one case, the appraiser had a very impressive C.V.  But in verifying the information, it turned out that all of his qualifications were bogus.

An appraiser who is not independent will be worthless in aiding the Court to determine value.

A witness who works for the agency has a fatal conflict problem.

Clearly, an employee of a party is biased and adds nothing to the essential issue.  For example, putting a staff attorney on the witness stand to support an assessed value is suicidal.  Don’t waste the Court’s time and just settle the case.

Posted in Condemnation, Conflict of Interest, Independent Appraiser
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