Its late, I’m tired, and I’m thinking, what type of appraisal work do I enjoy most?

A neutral appraisal in a divorce case. Really?

In divorce matters, appraisers have the opportunity to build a business that is less dependent on interest rates.

Thats my mantra – focus on business opportunities that will keep the volatility down and most importantly, find a client base that appreciates your expertise.

Mortgage related business is generally very easy to get. However, the margins are low, turn times are fast and the client generally wants a form filled out.

In the New York , the courts refer to an appraiser who is court appointed as a “neutral.” I do a lot of this type of work. I appreciate it because I am paid fairly for my services, I get paid in advance, I usually have several weeks to complete the assignment, and I generally find that attorneys are easy and professional to deal with.

What is a neutral appraiser? Here are some thoughts and guidelines.

  • An appraiser who is hired by both parties, usually ordered by the court, to appraise a property.
  • Neutral means that no bias in any way can be shown to either party, whether actual or perceived. All communication should be with both attorneys only and on a conference call or by email with every cc’d.
  • Neutral means the property should be inspected with either both parties in attendance or neither party in attendance.
  • Do not accept phone calls from a specific party.
  • The fee should be paid in advance so no leverage can be placed over you.
  • The reports should be delivered to both parties simultaneously.
  • The results should only be discussed with both parties at the same time.
  • Remember the goal is to be fair and go right down the middle in every aspect of the case you are involved in.
  • Don’t be afraid to testify, although its rare in neutral matters. I love to. You don’t want the attorneys to be stuck with an expert that won’t go to court. If you have reservations about it, give it a chance. Its not that bad.

How do you develop this business?

Over the years, I have always recommended it to the lawyers or individuals that call me to represent them. Its a compelling argument because it saves each party from hiring their own appraiser. I’d estimate that 90% of the time I make the suggestions, I am proposed as an expert to the other side.

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One Response to “Neutral Is A Place I’d Rather Be”

  1. John Philip Mason says:

    There are two other great selling points when presenting yourself as a potential neutral appraiser. 1) The big money saved for each side of the divorce (or any value dispute between various parties), is not the appraisal fees. It’s the legal fees running into five and six figures, trying to figure out which appraiser was straight and which was “making a number”. 2) It greatly reduces the emotional tension between the parties, as they focus more on resolution and less on blaming each other and/or getting even. This is most important when couples have young children and will be forced to deal with each other, years after the divorce takes effect. And that, as a popular commercial says, “is priceless”. In the short run anyone can make more money by adding fuel to the fire and adding “billable time”. But in the long run, I believe the professionals most adept at conflict resolution, end up with more lucrative work and less angst.