The Record Keeping section of the ETHICS RULE requires that the workfile include:
the name of the client and the identity, by name or type, of any other intended users;
true copies of any written reports, documented on any type of media;
summaries of any oral reports or testimony, or a transcript of testimony, including the appraiser’s signed and dated certification; and
all other data, information, and documentation necessary to support the appraiser’s opinions and conclusions and to show compliance with this Rule and all other applicable Standards, or references to the location(s) of such other documentation. (Bold added for emphasis)
The Comment in the Record Keeping section of the ETHICS RULE also states, in part:
A workfile must be in existence prior to and contemporaneous with the issuance of a written or oral report. A written summary of an oral report must be added to the workfile within a reasonable time after the issuance of the oral report.
The real answer is.....whatever your state appraisal board decides needs to be in the workfile. There are no USPAP Police, only state appraisal boards.
Reviewers are becoming more inquisitive of what is in and what isn't in a workfile. I always reference my office files, car files, computer files of each computer in my office and at my home. This way, in the odd event a reviewer needs something I wll be able to dig through my office and come up with what they want.
State Boards (at least the one in North Dakota) are becoming more cognizant of the chances of us appraisers leaving something out so they can sting us. One of the last reviews that was completed on me was dinged because I had no letter authorizing me to complete the appraisal! I met with the two families who were my clients at a restaurant, we discussed the need for the appraisal, the purpose (one of the gentleman was dying and they wanted to equitably split the farm) of the appraisal and my fee. The reviewer thought this should all be in written form in either my appraisal or the workfile. The parties to the appraisal (clients) didn't want to write a letter, they wanted the job done before one of the brothers died. The appraisal was delivered the morning of the funeral!
I've always kept everything relating to the property in the work file and/or specifically referenced a location where any additional data can be found. Copies of faxes, emails, notes on napkins, dates and times of phone calls, synopsis of what was said, MLS sheets with date and time print stamps, etc.. Call me paranoid but three years from now when a client/homeowner/ agent/'someone looking for a quick buck' states in court I did this or that I'll be able to document the truth and the 'accuser' won't have anything but a memory. Granted it takes a bit more time and space but I'd rather give up five minutes a workfile and 2 inches of box space than aggravation and attorney fees. One of these days I'm going to teach a class called 'CYA' Appraising - Cover Your Assests Appraising. Anyone interested?
I scan everything in the workfile after the assignment is complete, notes of conversations with the homeowner, realtor or other relevant parties, the actual sketch done in the field then file the electronic copy on disk where I can get to it in a matter of seconds. Been doing it that way for years. Get yourself a decent fax/scanner and just feed the workfile in and save it all in a PDF. If I need to produce the workfile all I have to do is print it out. I also save ALL photos used in the report or not. Ok, it takes a lot of disk space to store, but I know I have an original paper copy in the files and an electronic copy at my finger tips. Just the way I do things.
What I've started to do lately is print out (to a PDF file) ALL the possibly relevant Sales and Active Listings from the MLS,
plus local MLS will include separate page for the search parameters and some statistics.
It all goes in same subdirectory as the photos for that job.
"What do you mean there are no better comparables?! We need 3 more sales within 1/4 mile and 30 days" m2:
Well....... HERE is what I had to work with - see attached PDF file. woohoo
I save all my notes paper created in a workfile (most of which are scanned into the computer also.) Plus I have an off site automatic backup (carbonite.com) and a FTP sever at my superviseary appraiser home/office that also gets backed up off-site.
Has worked well for us for a couple years now.
we also do the majority of our business is commerical.
I have two ScanSnap Fujitsu scanners in the office. We scan all field notes, MLS data, tax records on the subject and comparables, flood maps, census trcak infomation, zoning data, and all photos to a digital work file. We keep the papaer fiels for one year. We keep the dvd of work fiels and compelted work files in the office, a second copy in the safe in the office, and a copy at the bank in the saftey dopsit box.