2015 : May Notes From An Appraiser

As many readers of The Ark Newspaper know, I have multiple sclerosis diagnosed in 1992 and now in wheelchair.  As all readers of The Ark Newspaper know, I love my work.  I needed to adapt my business plan to my mobility restrictions. Since I can no longer do a Walk Through, a service previously listed on my website, I developed a desk job approach.  Now my service page lists Litigation Support.

Today, more of my work is as an Expert Witness. I was hesitant to work with attorneys; I have thin skin, take things personally and blurt before pausing and answering. I did mock examinations with my two brothers who are attorneys, at times leaving me speechless.

My first expert witness experience involved drama, last minute cancelled meetings, and unfounded accusations. The attorney who retained me, advised me to “think of being in a pit full of vipers.” Swell. At the conclusion of the case, I was assured by the other appraisers (my opposition), that it was their most difficult in 15 years, It was atypical. My brothers on the other hand said “yes, this happens.” Really? So the next case came along, and then the next one and so on. It has been a steep learning curve, learning quickly by leaps and bounds.

Looking at Asian Art, accessing quality and condition come quickly after 40 years of experience. Learning “legalize” comes slowly, maybe most important to tame is my “Mert the Blurt” tendencies. Breathe. Pause. Reflect. Not my nature.

I am an appraiser for insurance companies, to help them settle the loss claims, part of my Litigation Support. This was part of my plan to do more desk jobs, researching the property that is under discussion. Generally I am looking at photos after the damage has occurred. I often caution people when insuring their personal property, making and receiving a claim can be quite expensive and very lengthy. To make an insurance claim, one needs an appraisal, by a certified appraiser. Most appraisers have a minimum charge of $1000 for a legal insurance appraisal. I suggest only insuring property that is valued over $10,000 per item. Working for an insurance company, I provide the information to be used in determining the amount of the claim. In a way, I am anonymous, just providing the information that has been requested to settle the case. My thin skin doesn’t matter, someone else argues the case.

An example of an insurance case that used my expertise was a request to retain my services to provide expert opinion as to the value of a Chinese ivory statue. A person buys a Chinese ivory statue from an auction house, doesn’t really look at condition report, it arrives broken in previously repaired areas plus new breaks. The poor condition affects the value from five figures to low four figures. Why? Condition. I am responsible for the research of other similar art; is it rare, does condition affect value, can it be repaired and at what cost, what does the marketplace reflect about this property? Yet I am behind the scenes, only provide the facts and don’t need to argue.

Altering my business and finding new ways to approach the appraisal service was a challenge. But I enjoy new situations, and I still very much enjoy my work.