Summer 1995 Edition of Property Valuation Monitor

The OJ Trial and Thoroughness in Appraisals

WHAT DOES THE performance of evidence gathering in the OJ trial and the performance of data gathering in real estate appraisals have in common? The importance of thoroughness.

Thoroughness, according to a recent American Society of Appraiser's (ASA) survey, is the most important criterion in performing appraisals upon which users of appraisals and appraisers both agree.

Why thoroughness? Again, look to the OJ trial. Although blood evidence analyzed shows statistically, a near certainty, that OJ was at the scene of the crime, and that DNA evidence matching the victims was found at OJ's residence, the collection of that data (evidence) has been called into question.

Therefore, even though the odds are millions -- in some cases billions -- to one that the blood was anyone else's other than OJ's or that of the victims', because a part of the evidence might have been collected carelessly, then the conclusions of the analysis may be inaccurate or at least not believed by some in whole or in part.

Assume Hypothetically That ...

Fortunately, few of us appraisers are ever going to be cross examined by F. Lee Bailey, Peter "Assume-Hypothetically" Nuefeld or Barry "How-about-that-Mr.-Fung" Scheck about the methods we used or didn't use in our data collection effort, like were LAPD criminalists.

Nonetheless, allowing bad data into an appraisal analysis similarly could harm the results of the appraisal, or at least the credibility of the results. The credibility of the appraiser him/herself, therefore, may then be called into question.

In appraising, a careful and thorough data collection effort must take place before moving on to the next phase of the appraisal, the analysis phase, similar to the evidence gathering process in a trial. Thoroughness is crucial, therefore, in order for one to maintain one's credibility.

What Do Clients Want?

The same ASA survey also revealed that other than thoroughness, many appraisers either had no idea what the clients thought was important in choosing an appraiser or cited factors other than those cited by clients themselves.

Most appraisers, thought -- unlike clients -- that the most important criteria of clients were years in the appraisal business or state certification.

Clients, on the other hand, cited assurance of accuracy as their most important criterion for choosing an appraiser, followed by thoroughness, reputation, and credibility.

So, if you are, like I am, feeling guilty about following the OJ trial a bit too much, keep telling yourself that you are not wasting your time. After all, worthwhile lessons can be learned from the trial, some of which may be applicable to real-life, even in the business of appraising real estate.

The author, Stephen Traub, ASA, is Chief Commercial Appraiser for Property Valuation Advisors, Newburyport, MA. He is a certified general appraiser in NH, ME and MA. He can be reached at (508) 462-4347 or by e-mail at:

Other stories in this Summer '95 issue include: Fixed Rates Fall; Commercial Mortgage Survey; Even More Good Stuff Cheap Free; Northern New England Vacancy Survey; Four Letter Words of Real Estate.

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