Sounding Bored is my semi-regular column on the state of the appraisal profession. We are a complex cast of characters. Even the media doesn’t understand us…

Last week I was mentioned in a new New York celebrity type site called Cityfile. For gossip sites, it’s design and content is very good. They get a little creepy on some of the profiles – one of my friend’s past dating history was chronicled (incorrectly).

I traded a flurry of emails with the founder/editor Remy Stern after this post was published. Remy was responsive and tweaked the extracurricular stuff, save one. He finally cut me off after the last batch of emails despite promising to reconsider, likely because he was sick of me.

Here’s an excerpt from the post in question:

A reporter wants to know how much an apartment in so-and-so building in such-and-such neighborhood will fetch on the current market? Real estate appraiser Jonathan Miller can guesstimate the price of any residential or commercial Manhattan property based on public property info, as long as you squeeze his name and firm (Miller Samuel) in the paper.

I sent him this response (cut down to spare the drama):

I do not give reporters prices of apartments or someone who calls me. EVER!…You are clearly saying I am telling someone how much a specific apartment is worth and that is against my state certification indicating I break the law to people in my appraisal circles. It takes one crackpot to file a complaint…

He responded with a subtle rub using a recent quote of mine in FT:

Thanks, Jonathan. I actually do understand. That’s why is says “guesstimate” and not “will give you a number you can take to the bank.” You’re taking it a bit too literally. Just like I won’t assume that you’ve conducted extensive, quantifiable research on the future value of having Orlando Bloom as a neighbor when you give quotes like this to the FT.

Anyone who reads this post will realize that it’s intended to be humorous and is not intended to be a precise analysis of what you do day-in and day-out. If someone doesn’t understand, that’s their issue. Again, thanks for your email.

He’s a smart guy but didn’t get my point.

A reporter I know called me about their post, saying it came up on their google search. She said the original post was pretty mean (pre-tweak) but given the source, actually thought it was complimentary to be recognized.

Bottom line is Cityfile sees values and numbers as one big fuzzy picture.

I don’t give reporters market values of specific properties. Never have, never will…that would violate my license. While I am protective of my name (after all, Miller is the seventh most popular last name in the US) where does one draw the line with writing like this?

Friends of mine who run other sites are presented with cease and desists on a regular basis. I opted to take a pass since the source determines the damage. Besides, I like the site.

A few years ago, while surfing I came across a generic appraisal directory that listed me as “Member Appraisal Institute” or something along those lines that would give the impression I was an “MAI.” I don’t know where they got this information. My business partner in our commercial valuation company is an MAI. I am not an MAI (not smart enough) and don’t list that information anywhere. In fact, since I am a residential appraiser, I do not see that as an advantage if I had an ethical lapse. Some of the worst individual condo or co-op appraisals I have ever seen in litigation cases I have been on were completed by MAI’s who should have stuck to the commercial valuation assignments that they complete competently on a regular basis.

I digress

It was simply a mistake on the appraisal directory web site’s part. I sent repeated requests to the site to take it down or change the text but got no response. Then some anonymous (wacko) submitted a complaint to the Appraisal Institute (had to be an appraiser) and I got a terse form letter from the chair of “Ethics Administration.”

Gotta love our profession – like field reviews – many of us are dying to stick it to our colleagues. In other words, I was assumed “guilty until proven innocent.” I called AI and they were actually pretty nice about it. I had to send them a letter explaining my situation and all was fine again.

“I’ve just found the Internet!”


Tags: ,

2 Responses to “[Sounding Bored] Missing (And Surfing For) The Point: It’s Not About Getting The Story Right”

  1. Justin says:

    It’s crazy how appraisers spend so much time going after each-other, when they’re time could probably be better spent going after the consumers/lenders/brokers who are pressuing them to reach value.

  2. Edd Gillespie says:

    “He’s a smart guy but didn’t get my point.”

    I suspect that your observation of the acuity of the reporter applies likewise to many appraisers, particularly those who keep their weapons at the ready just in case another appraiser comes into range.

    What a story. Jonathan’s experience with the AI is outrageous. I’ve been trying to decide if there is any appraiser organization that is functional and trustworthy enough to join. I let my AI membership go. I joined because I thought it was an organization that had the ability and will to improve the profession and the lot of appraisers. I quit because it did none of that and is too expensive. Have any of you got some advice?