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[Commercial Grade] Just Say No: The Agony Of The Appraiser As A Businessperson

Commercial Grade is a weekly post by John Cicero, MAI who provides commentary on issues affecting real estate appraisers, with specific focus on commercial valuation. Today John talks about the disconnect between clients and appraisers over fees.

Disclosure: John is a partner of mine in our commercial real estate valuation concern Miller Cicero, LLC and he is, on Thursdays, one of the smartest guys I know. Jonathan Miller

The Wages of Fear

This past week I received a call from a clienta major lender. I had delivered a completed report a week earlieron time. Difficult assignment: affordable housing, proposed construction, tax credits, bond financing, tax abatements. Since I completed the report, the project had changed slightly. My client wanted to return the reports so that I could incoporate the developer’s changes.

The changes would ripple through the report. Would take me an hour, maybe two, maybe threedon’t know. I responded that I would be happy to (we are, after all, a service business) and that I would charge a nominal hourly rate for our time plus production costs. (The fee was quite low to begin with but I suppose that’s irrelevant, since it’s what I had bid. No response. A week later, my client calls and tells me that there is an error in the appraisal and that I know you wanted money to make the changes, but since you have to make corrections anyway can you incorporate the changes.

I explained that I didn’t think it was fair to ask me to do additional work beyond the original scope of the assignment without being compensated. The response..well, I have to review the appraisal twice also. As it turns out, we didn’t make an error and, therefore, didn’t need to make any changes.

I am still puzzledwhy was my client expecting me to do additional work without being compensated. I can think of no other profession, or job, or trade (call it what you will) where people seem to have no qualms asking you to work for free.

[Editor’s long-winded note: I think the mindset with the appraisal community is that we don’t respect ourselves enough as a profession evidenced by the fact that the majority of us are perfectly willing to undercut our competitor with no real direct long-term benefit to us. Clients still represent an imposing force and our knee-jerk response to this thought: “If I don’t do this freebie, I will never hear from this client again. The client gets used to this mentality and keeps asking as the status quo. It results in an erosion of the validity of the services we provide, which end up being relegated to just paperwork for the file.]