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Vacant Land Appraisal..For Federal Tax Court

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Damon Pedersen

Thread Starter
Junior Member
Joined
Jan 18, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Iowa
I have been contacted by the US Tax Court on behalf of a State Tax Attorney who is wanting to know if I would do a vacant land appraisal on a property outside a large city. The property needs a valuation date of 1993. I wasn't even Certified then. Anyway, I know that doesn't matter but the thing is that this would require a large amount of research of sales back in 1993. I am assuming the parcel is over 80 acres. So the gal that called wanted to know my fee for the appraisal and also for testifying charges in court if necessary.

I have never done an appraisal like this on vacant land with an earlier valuation date. Yes, I have done date of death appraisal and the such of farm land and residential properties, but never something that will likely be brought up again in court. I have never even testified in court. However, I am not afraid of doing so, and welcome the opportunity to do so.

I think I am qualified to do this assignment, being that it doesn't take huge qualifications to be a good researcher of previous sales. My question is how do I quote this fee?? In a range? And what do they typically expect to pay for an appraisal of this sort and what hourly/prep time fees would you quote for the court time??

I have asked for more specific information such as acres, legal desciption, etc. before proceeding with a quote. Any other information I should ask for before I get in too far??

Or is this one of those deals that it is best not to get involved in?? Seems like a good winter project but I'm not sure I can fit it in anyway without typing late at night like I did most of last year.

Any help is greatly appreciated.
Please feel free to email me if necessary.

Damon
 

airphoto

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Retired Appraiser
State
Pennsylvania
Damon,

No different than any other land appraisal, except that you do have the advantage of significant hind sight .. including some more recent land sales (which you really hadn't ought to refer to in the appraisal.)

Knowing that you may expect to end up in court, double your current fee up front for the additional research and preparation of the report.

Quote $100-150.00/hour for your time to testify (minimum 1/2 day, or four hours for each day that you must set-aside for appearance.) Go safely, secure in the knowledge that you have a fully researched report, and that the only areas for disagreement with whomever they may produce as 'the other appraiser' will be in opinion as you're both working from the same knowledge base.

Most of all .. Enjoy Yourself!

Cheers!
 

Ron in AR

Sophomore Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Arkansas
I agree with the previous reply. One other thing. When you go to court, don't take anything with you that you don't want entered as evidence. If you have your work file on the stand, they can take it and have a field day with it. You probably don't want every little scribble scrutinized before God and the judicial system.

Can't you see the lawyers passing around the napkin you made notes on while you were driving?

Attorneys love to yank the workfile from the appraiser and attempt to embarass them with it. Don't give them the chance.

For what it's worth,

Ron in AR
 

Mountain Man

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Georgia
Good point Ron, I would not have thought about giving up my napkin notes to be opened in court. I guess it pays to use a legal pad and keep it neat.

I agree with Bill, get a good fee and quote an hourly rate to appear in court. You will have lots of research, and take your time to get it right. Also important, keep it simple. Don't use flowery language that will give an attorney a way to try and confuse you, the jury, or test your intelligence. State the facts, just as you do every day.
Mell.
 

Ray Ohler

Sophomore Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Not saying that it will, but it could get very ugly. Another thing I'm not really too sure about is that Damon wasn't "certified" in 1993. I realize it is a "retrospective" appraisal but I'm not too sure in testimony that it may not cause a problem or at least allow the opposing view to "get a foot in". As far as anything else, everything depends on the subject. "As-is" market value of vacant (raw) land OR definitive H&B Use Study along with? Like I said, it COULD get ugly. The complete scope of the appraisal along with all disclosures so that there are no "misunderstandings" popping up in court. Of course the fee would have to be commensurate. :lol: I "assume" the client WILL PAY UP FRONT especially if it is the US Attorney's Office. NO CHECKS.
 

nunnda

Freshman Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
The previous posts are good advice. Do good research -- a must. Do a good report -- use the K.I.S.S. formula. Prepare for testimony -- attorneys will take you apart (if they know what they are doing). Be humble (attorneys can sense a "kill" if they have an self possessed ego manic on the stand); And have a skunk or two you can throw into the witness stand.
Let me tell you two short stories.
We have one old timer around here than always dresses to the ninth and he brings a briefcase with only a few papers, and he brings this big cumbersome machine that has a crank handle on it -- sorta looks like the old time adding machines you'll see in museums. While on the witness stand, he'll crank on that old machine, and the juries love it. They can't take their eyes off that old machine and the way that old man cranks it. He really LOOKS like he knows what he is doing. He drones on and on in mathematical formulas all the time cranking on that old machine. It drives the opposing attorneys nuts, the juries fall in love with this old grandfather figure who seems to be operating on all levels at once and both in the 20th century and the 22nd at the same time. But any attorney who thinks he is just putting on a show soon finds out this old man knows what he is doing.
Second story. This one came about by accident.
An appraiser friend of mine was called into court and so he brought his notes and calculator. It is of course, the HP12C - workhorse of the appraisal profession, and a must for court room appearances. Here's why.
As the testimony began, the opposing attorney began a relentless grilling of everything the appraiser had done. When he began to pour over the math for the 3rd or 4th time, this appraiser asked the attorney if he would just follow along, the sequence of numbers on his own calculator. (Attorneys don't bring calculators into court. It may be beyond their capabilities). Anyway, this attorney said that he didn't have a calculator. The appraiser offered him his HP12C. The attorney took it and lost his case immediately. Do you know why? It's called "reverse polish notation". The HP12C doesn't have an equal sign. The attorney lost it and the jury decided the attorney look like an uneducated trouble maker. So much for his case.
My, how I do love these old stories.
 
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
Professional Status
General Public
State
North Carolina
Damon

All good advise.

One more admonition. Be sure to disclose to your prospective client that you have not testified in court before, and that this will be your baptism. Everyone has to have a "first time" but it is usually not pretty and some clients do not want "virgins."

I speak with some degree of authority on this issue as my first court testimony was not one that I particularly relish discussing. My workproduct was ok but boy did I look and sound pretty stupid when I tried to defend it on the stand.

Regards

Tom Hildebrandt GAA
 
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