Sounding Bored is my semi-regular column on the state of the appraisal profession. I was particularly annoyed about getting pressure to drop my fee this week, so I turned on my headlights.

I was highly recommended by several sources to perform an appraisal in a sticky legal matter. We delivered an engagement letter. After a few days the client left a message saying the proposal looked good “but see what you can do about the fee” in a slightly sarcastic tone.

I winced when I heard the message because this was a complex matter involving litigation and court testimony and I quoted what I thought was a fair fee. Of course I may not have been in sync with expectations or this individual simply expected to negotiate.

There is nothing wrong with negotiating a fee up or down if the ultimate assignment, once defined, is not what was originally expected. However, I am particularly sensitive to the commoditizing of appraisal services (ie AMCs) that has occurred over the past decade.

…that we are just a bunch of form-fillers.

I tend to see our industry as a deer in headlights when negotiating fees and turn times.

In other words, as an industry we are way too happy to accommodate (I guess that correlates well with the credit crunch) the client whether it is fair or not.

Of course I am being very idealistic here but why not?

I don’t to be in the game of quoting a very high fee building in the expectation of negotiating downward. I quote what I am willing to work for. That seems to be more a professional approach to me. Avoiding being:

* defensive.
* condescending.
* showing righteous indignation.

It sounds pretty basic but I am often amazed at how many of us (I ahve had my moments) have acted that way to a client.

We don’t need any more apologists for our worth as experts. Of course it ultimately is what the market will bear but why automatically negotiate?

Suggest that the client looks elsewhere if they are uncomfortable with the fee.

It has been my experience that the client doesn’t always go elsewhere if they were handled professionally in the past.

Incidentally, that particular client ended up calling back and hiring us for the assignment and expanded the engagement for a higher fee.

You get what you pay for.


  1. Kathleen Bryce June 5, 2008 at 9:21 am

    I applaud you for sticking to your guns. If these appraisal mills really stepped back and figured out how much an appraisal cost, they would know that $125 for a URAR is NEVER doable.

    Me, I’m looking for work outside of this profession, unless and until the fee’s return to a level that reflects the amount of work and liability a professional appraisal involves.

  2. Edd June 10, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Well it is hard to disagree with your perspective, Jonathan. May I ask that you present a for-instance for SFR mortgage appraisers to follow so that they may share in your good fortune without becoming stark raving mad.

    I’ve heard it repeated ad naseum by members of a certain trade organization that licensing ruined the profession of appraising. Aside from the obvious designation serving fraility of that diagnosis, it entirely misses the fact that most clients don’t want appraisals and probably never did. The forms probably have more to do with the demise of the industry than anything else.

    I am seriously interested in how a lowly paid and underemployed SFR mortgage appraiser can handle non-professionals professionally, particularly those who cannot make a decision.

    I think an appraiser who can set her own fees and get them paid works in very different genre than you do Jonathan. Relationships don’t work on the low end of this stuff, professional or not.

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