What is a generalist appraiser?

A generalist appraiser is an appraiser who has expertise in appraising a wide variety of personal property, usually furniture, decorative objects, rugs and art, pottery and porcelain, silver and silver plate, linens, and more.

But, most reputable appraisers know the extent of their expertise and will always call in a specialist appraiser for assignments where they have items beyond the scope of their ability.

How do I know if I need an appraisal?

You need an appraisal IF:

  •             The value of your personal property exceeds the compensation you would receive from your insurance company in a disaster like fire, flood, vandalism, or theft; OR
  •             You are distributing personal property among heirs or the heirs are in contention with each other; OR
  •             Property is being split between divorcing parties who are in contention; OR
  •             You are donating property worth $5,000 or more; OR
  •             You need a loan collateralized by your personal property; OR
  •             You are contemplating the liquidation of your property and you suspect that you may be undervaluing it

Are you licensed?

Surprisingly, there are almost no requirements for any appraiser to be licensed in the United States.  However, increasingly attorneys, fiduciaries and bank officials, and CPAs are asking that the appraiser they use be certified, something that can only be done through the organization to which the appraiser belongs (ISA, AAA, ASA).

And increasingly, the IRS expects that appraisals that are submitted for estate tax returns and donation be written by qualified appraisers, a stricture that is likely to be tightened in the future to avoid a challenge by that body.

How long will the appraisal take?

While it would be wonderful to know in advance how long an assignment will take from beginning to completion, it is actually hard to estimate the time involved in developing the appraisal product for a number of reasons, among which are:  conditions that create a physical hazard or make it difficult to perform an adequate examination; time constraints; unforeseen problems finding appropriate valuations for special or rare property; and more.

In all cases, an appraiser is charged to perform an appraisal with due diligence.  While all reputable appraisers will work as quickly as possible, they are always aware that their work product may be used in legal situations.  Therefore, they strive to be as detailed and thorough as possible in their research and report.

Can you supply references?

Appraisers operate under the same confidentiality agreement and ethics code that attorneys and doctors, CPAs, and bankers and brokers operate under.  That is to say, unless we have the consent of our clients, we cannot use them as a reference.

It is not unethical, however, for a client to recommend us.

If I hire an appraiser, do they work for me?

Although you are technically the appraiser’s client, in an adversarial situation like a damage claim, divorce dispute, or tax situation, she or he cannot and will not be an advocate for you or the other side.

An appraiser should at all times be impartial and find for the facts.


Our fee structure is available upon request and is generally based on a sliding scale.  The fees are usually flat rate for one item or a group of related items (no more than five) examined in our office; by the hour with a cap for several items that are unrelated; or hourly for an extensive appraisal on site that requires research.

All the above appraisals include an examination of the subject property, research, and an extensive report including pictures and measurements.

Other fees are based on verbal estimates of value for property not deemed valuable enough for an extensive appraisal or performed simply because of client curiosity.  The client in these cases will be asked to sign a release form.