Todd Huttunen began appraising more than 20 years ago with a few years off in between to pursue a career in cabinet making. He relegated that to hobby status and is currently an appraiser in an assessor’s office. His best friend dubbed him The Hall Monitor because of his rigidity and respect for rules. He offers Soapbox readers tongue-in-groove insight on appraisal issues.
Todd’s suggested changes for USPAP (with tongue in cheek) simply…rules…
As a fan of “Real Time” with Bill Maher, especially New Rules I think it’s time to rewrite USPAP into something USEFUL. Let’s start by getting rid of the term USPAP and replacing it with something simpler, like New Rules!
New Rule: Use different size fonts and/or typeface.
Let’s face reality. When it comes to writing, most appraisers are somewhat challenged. That’s why most of the report consists of boilerplate identical to that found in every other report. So the first new rule is that the boilerplate must literally be written in fine print and the two or three statements that are actually unique to that report must be oversize. I don’t think it’s fair to ask the user of the appraisal to read something the appraiser himself didn’t proof read before he (electronically) signed the report. The fine print makes it more likely that the client won’t notice the myriad misstatements that appear in the addenda of most every appraisal. Who has not sent out a report, at least once, with the statement “this appraisal is intended for financing purposes only” when in fact it was written to settle an estate? Such oversights as “the client is ABC Bank” rather than “the client is John Q. Public” will more likely be forgiven if they’re only in the fine print. Why? Because, since you didn’t read it when you wrote it, your client shouldn’t have to read it either! After all, your clients are just as busy and stressed out as you are.
New Rule: Fewer words, more pictures.
There are way too many words, especially adjectives, in appraisals and not nearly enough pictures. Think about it words like fair, average, good, modern, updated, or deferred, are totally subjective. So instead of narrative description that doesn’t describe anything, all appraisals will have interior photographs of every room and bathroom in the house. The appraiser’s words should be limited to a caption underneath a photograph, like “kitchen”. Wouldn’t that be easier and more informative than a statement like, “The kitchen, which was renovated in 2006, has cherry wood frame and raised-panel cabinets and black granite counters?”
New Rule: Photographs will be “maximally productive” and not misleading.
Most houses have a front, rear, and two sides to them. With detached houses in suburban neighborhoods, the picture of the front of the house should illustrate – not just the front – but the front and one of the sides of the house. Ideally, the rear photo should illustrate – not just the rear – but the rear and the other side of the house. These days, when so many houses have been expanded to twice their original size and the expansion has been out the back, a front view without the context provided by the elongated side is indeed misleading. Granted, due to site conditions or topography it is not always possible to show two sides of the house with one photo. In that case, take another photo.
New Rule: The “Street Scene” is not supposed to be a picture of the street, and nothing but the street, taken by some schmuck standing on the double-yellow line in the middle of the street!
Everybody knows what pavement looks like. The focal point of the street “scene” photo should be the improvements alongside the street, and not the vanishing point.
New Rule: There must be at least one declarative sentence in every appraisal.
So much appraisal verbiage consists of what the appraiser is not. “The appraiser is not” an expert in environmental contamination, an engineer, a surveyor, etc. For reasons of building self-esteem if nothing else, every appraisal must include a declarative statement. It shouldn’t have anything to do with the appraisal. But it must say something about what the appraiser is, versus what he is not. It can be as simple as “the appraiser is tall.”
As the original USPAP was the result of a collaborative effort, so too should be its successor, “New Rules” and in that spirit I welcome reader’s suggestions.