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Do I Really Need An Appraisal?

As an appraiser, and one who does a lot of “Appraisal Fairs” and “Roadshows” for antique malls and shops in the Atlanta area, I am often asked that question.

Let’s get the nasty business of terminology out of the way. What you receive at one of my “Roadshows” (and even the ones on TV) are not appraisals in the true sense. They should be correctly termed “Estimates of Value”. A true appraisal is done through research on the item included “comparables”, just like in real estate. A good written appraisal is a document that will hold up in court or with the IRS or your insurance company.

It should contain the following:

  • A cover letter stating the purpose and use of the appraisal.
  • A statement of the methods used and sources for obtaining the value.
  • A section giving a detailed description of the item. It should be good enough to describe the items even if photos were not included (but they should be).
  • Where and when the inspection was done.
  • A statement from the appraiser they they have no interest in the value of item.
  • The list of the appraiser’s qualifications.

Do not accept an appraisal that does not cover at least these points.

Appraisals can be needed for:

  • Insurance policies
  • Estate settlement
  • Divorce or bankruptcy
  • Donations and tax purposes

Written appraisals can be expensive, some appraisers charging by the hour or by the item. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER have an appraisal done where the appraiser’s fee is based on the final value!

What you may need is just an estimate of value, to see if the item needs a written appraisal. If you have many items, or even a whole house full of stuff, a ‘walk-through’ may be the best place to start.

You can get free estimates of value at one of my or others “Roadshows” or some appraisers will give them free or for a small charge. These are just educated opinions and are not binding. You can get a ‘walk-through’, which where someone qualified goes through your house or shop and gives advice on each item. This can include approximate value, where to dispose of it to get the most for it, or even that an item should receive a written appraisal. ‘Walk-throughs’ are done on an hourly basis and are an excellent idea if you have a lot of items to dispose of.


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