A Review

Book Review by Stephen P. Sweeting, MRICS

As professional personal property appraisers most of us are interested in quality publications on the theory and practice of valuation as well as on the business of appraising. Unfortunately, given the small size of our discipline within the valuation community, new and relevant publications are few and far between. Unlike the larger and more fully capitalized real property, business, and technical sectors of the valuation community, we often have to rely on outdated publications or course-related handouts produced on a relatively small scale. The result is that our profession does not have of a particularly large body of literature.

One of the few bright spots in the personal property valuation publications sphere is Maryland’s David J. Maloney, Jr., an appraiser, educator and writer who has committed to follow-up editions of “a course book and reference guide” originally published in 2007. The recent publication of the third edition takes the excellent format developed in the first two editions and grows it into an outstanding resource and learning tool for all personal property appraisers.

I first ran one of the earlier editions of Appraising Personal Property: Principles and Methodology less than a year ago when our office borrowed a colleague’s copy. I leafed through the book and saw much of interest, finding it to be comprehensive, logically organized, and well written. But as we were busy at the time the volume ended up in one of those ubiquitous piles of books and journals that characterize the offices of all busy appraisers.

A few weeks later I started working my way through an extraordinarily complex loss-of-value appraisal report involving a high six-figure value work by a pivotal mid-twentieth century American artist. Although I have done plenty of loss-of-value work in the past, I wanted to ground my efforts in as much relevant literature as possible and went back to the volume sitting in my office. What I found was perhaps the most thorough and practical articulation of the loss-of-value concept I had ever seen. As I worked through my appraisal report, the relevant sections on loss-of-value in Appraising Personal Property et. al. served as both a conceptual template and a road map for handling the project.

After finishing my report, I went through Appraising Personal Property more closely. Using the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) as its foundation, and integrating theory and praxis, the volume covered appraisal terminology, appraisal principles, USPAP, ethics, property description, research techniques, and appraisal report-writing with considerable depth. The fully indexed book finished off with a highly relevant section on business practices and a number of useful document examples and templates. I concluded that it was very probably the most thorough book on appraising personal property available in the marketplace today. Moreover, because the volume was built around USPAP, it did not get bogged down in the competing terminologies used by various appraisal societies in their education programs. The book was relevant to all personal property appraisers using USPAP as their practice guideline.

So the question arises, is it possible to improve on the excellent second edition of Appraising Personal Property? In short, the answer is yes. The third edition adds 130 pages of relevant material including a much-needed plain English guide to USPAP, useful commentary on the most recent edition of USPAP, additional sample documents and templates, discussions of recent American legislation of particular interest to appraisers in the US, a chapter on legal issues affecting the appraiser, and expanded (and in some cases modified) discussions on pivotal concepts used in the valuation of personal property.

Like any work in progress, modifications and edits have resulted in an improved publication. In my comparisons of the second and third editions I found a movement towards both more precision in the writing, as well as richer, more detailed explanations of key concepts. In some cases, sections have been substantially reworked to accommodate new data coming from various sources. As a result, there are substantial changes and improvements to the new edition.

As with early editions the book is logically organized into sub-sections within the thirteen chapter format. These sub-sections (along with the comprehensive index) make finding material of interest a snap. I don’t know about you, but I am of the opinion that reference aids should be “over-indexed.” And indeed, Appraising Personal Property evidences a solid understanding of how practitioners use reference books.

Although Appraising Personal Property is an excellent browse for anyone active as valuer, I saw three key uses for this book within my own appraisal office:

  1. A learning template for trainee appraisers to use in concert with formal education programs.
  2. A refresher volume for our accredited appraisers.
  3. A well-indexed reference aid that can be used in the way I used an earlier edition for guidance in my loss-of-value appraisal.

As an Integrated Studies scholar, I have to be impressed with this book’s dovetailing of theory and practice as well as the interdisciplinary approach that considers valuation, ethics, legal issues, and business in one volume. But as a practicing appraiser I see the third edition of Appraising Personal Property as more than a demonstration of integrated thinking. The volume is additionally a first-rate reference tool for any appraiser and an excellent addition to the body of literature for our profession.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should indicate that I will be working with the book’s author on a Canadian edition of Appraising Personal Property: Principles and Methodology. As some of you know, the appraisal landscape in Canada is different to that in the United States – and it will diverge even more in 2011 when Canada adopts International Valuation Standards (IVS). We plan to use the book’s excellent framework to deal with the unique aspects of Canada’s law and regulatory structure, thereby providing Canadian personal property appraisers with a nationally relevant reference tool. If you are a Canadian appraiser, or do valuation work in Canada, look for this new edition in the not-too-distant future.