At Fast Appraisals we have a lot of respect for all our fellow real estate appraisers and we know that going to court to provide expert witness testimony for an appraisal report you prepared can be very intimidating. I’m in and out of court a few times a month to provide testimony on appraisals we’ve prepared for tax appeals, bankruptcies and divorce and although I like the break-up of normal appraiser monotony, I see other appraisers who look petrified or distressed, so I’ve prepared a few tips for fellow appraisers being called to testify on one of their reports. (Inspired by Appraisal for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy: Providing Expert Witness Testimony, providing testimony against another appraiser with a very different value.)
1) Use Professional Courtesy
Don’t attack the other appraiser. Instead, focus on analysis of the other report – the facts and experiences. In my case I had actually talked with the other appraiser prior to the hearing in the waiting room. I have a lot of respect for our appraiser peers and he didn’t want to even be there. And although we’re two people with conflicting agendas, meaning we’re both explaining why our report is more credible, it’s best to remain professional and there’s no need to take things personal. I actually don’t mind going to court at all – I consider it part of my professional outreach and appreciate the change in scenery from time to time.
2) Expert Witness Testimony
As appraisers we are not obligated to testify as an expert witness as part of providing the report. We are the most qualified to testify about the report we prepared and I would recommend you do, but make sure to get paid as an expert witness. We don’t have to show up to court without a subpoena and if we are subpoenaed we still get paid as an expert witness. If we are not getting paid as an expert witness, we are obligated to only discuss the report in front of us from a factual standpoint. However, the party requesting your support on their behalf should be happy to pay you a professional rate. In this case neither one of was was subpoenaed and the other party, if they did not show up (on three days notice) would have either resulted in a continuance and long delays or they would have had to go without their expertise.
3) Have Confidence in Your Appraisal Report
As long as a credible, quality, appraisal report is provided from the beginning, we as appraisers should have confidence in supporting our decisions in court. Remember, it’s not our job to arrive at a predetermined value but to look at all the data and help people make decisions to move on and resolve issues – whether it’s to appeal tax values, settle a divorce, an estate or a bankruptcy. The system, although not perfect, seems to work very well.
4) Be Prepared but Not Over-Prepared
Overall, knowing what to expect is important to helping the hearing go smooth. Prepare yourself mentally to be a confident witness who’s objective is to deliver helpful information for the court to determine the value of the property. But don’t over-prepare or over-analyze your report or beat yourself up or second guess a decision to use a comp or make an adjustment. Just relax and explain why you made the decisions you made that resulted in the value you delivered. In this case when I didn’t have the answers in front of me or on the top of my head, I simply said so. I did feel sympathy for my peer in this case. It was his first time appearing in court as an expert witness on his own appraisal report and he knew my credentials were superior than his in this particular case – which can certainly establish you as a superior witness when it’s one expert’s opinion against another.
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