Real Value

08/30/2021

As real estate appraisers we can have some tough assignments.  It can be a tough job, that if you practice ethically, can take a toll on you.  Folks are often upset, with compliments coming few and far between most especially in mortgage use transactions. With that in mind, I wanted to start sharing some stories, some from me and hopefully, many from you, my readers that showcase some of the positives that we see and participate in as real property valuers.  I am calling this series Real Value. 

A few days ago, my last appointment was a tough one.  I was doing a luxury estate and the owner and his wife, an elderly couple, were there.  The husband walked around with me while I did my exterior inventory. It is a big home, so it took a while.  As we are going in, he stops and says,

“If my wife says anything out of the way please understand that she has had a stroke and suffers from dementia.”

I replied,” that’s Okay, thanks for telling me, I understand as when my mom passed a few years ago she had stage two dementia. “

So, we go through the home and the wife is in the master bedroom.  We exchange introductions and some pleasantries. As soon as I walked into their en suite bath I heard her ask her husband,” Where’s Ripley? “

He replied,” Ripley is dead. ” (Ripley as I found out in a few minutes, was their 17-year-old dog)

She was surprised at this news. She became upset and asked why she had not been told about this.  He explained patiently to her that she had been told and that he has been dead for a couple of months.

Of course, this upset her, but having seen this in my own home with my mother, I knew it is all that you can do in this situation.

It brought back memories of my mom who passed with stage-2 dementia, and when we were out of ear shot, I could see he was a bit rattled by it.  I stopped and told him a bit about my mom, and how hard it was to see my parent go through the confusion of this horrible disease.  That I could only imagine how painful and hard it must be for him. He was visibly relieved as we talked further, and I think that gentleman needed to talk.

This gentleman is a retired, very successful businessman.  He had to be made of sturdy stuff to accomplish what he has in his career. The home and the three exotic cars he has represents how economically successful he was in his life.  The pictures of him with officials and captains of commerce support that as well. The many pictures of him and his wife together shows their long-term commitment to each other. The ache I saw in his demeanor supported that, too.

Why am I sharing this? Well, it’s not to feel some sense of accomplishment, because I don’t.  I just want folks to take time to be mindful and kind to others. No matter how far we climb in life, we are all frail beings.  We all end up in the same place.  It never hurts to share love, compassion and empathy to others.  In fact, it’s quite rewarding to see that this person was happy to share and talk.  I may not have done much but listen, but sometimes that all we can do.

Sometimes my job can be surprising in good ways.

Have a great day everyone.

For Your Consideration, A Review

In light of the recent, or rather ongoing, attacks on several members and staff at the Appraisal Institute (AI), I wanted to offer some perspective on the accusations and conjecture that has been offered over the last couple of weeks.  As the author of these blogs is an appraiser, and this deals with the largest real property valuation organization in the country, I thought it may be apropos to style this blog after an appraisal review.  While the main premise of this blog deals with a serious subject, applying it to an appraisal review will let us look at using our appraisal analysis (some parody is implied).  Obviously, a blog is not an appraisal, and some normal parts of a normal appraisal review will not translate well to reviewing a blog. 

Introduction:

The purpose of the appraisal review is to develop an opinion of quality for the referenced appraisal report (blog).   The appraisal review was developed, and the report was prepared in accordance with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. No opinion of value is offered as the reviewer is only performing a compliance review and is not a value related review. 

Report under review:  https://bit.ly/379q8Bw

Date of Report Under Review: 07/19/2021          

Date of Review Report: 08/02/2021

Identification of the Problem to be Solved: This review is intended to assist the client and intended users in understanding the development and reporting of the market value report under review.  There is a second tier to this assignment which includes the reviewer’s consultation. 

Client and Intended user(s): the appraisal profession and stakeholders thereof

Original Appraisal (OA) States: FOJs are resume builders only, actively running the once-proud organization into the ground for their own personal enrichment.

Reviewer notes that this is anecdotal and has no support other than personal opinion.  Reviewer is familiar with many of the leadership and committee members and knows many that are volunteering their time to contribute positively to the profession.  As in any organization there are likely some that want to climb the ladder but that is human nature and inclusive to every organization.

OA States: They don’t represent diversity, especially the actions of all the women who signed the sham petition process to push for Sandy because it will result in less diversity – remember that the CEO scuttled the diversity committee run by Bob Stevens in 2015 because it was a threat to his hold on power.

Reviewer notes that the fallacy shown in the analysis renders a significant concern to the credibility of the report. Applying a test of reasonableness, the reviewer has noted that the member running with the petition, Sandra Adomatis, is in fact a woman; she is also a designated SRA member; she is primarily a residential specialist. How can a woman that is an SRA that is a prominent and respected residential appraiser not increase diversity? The organization is mostly male, mostly designated MAI and non-residential in practice. It would seem that including Mrs. Adomatis would be a benefit to the organization, in light of the fact that there has not been a solely designated SRA president since 2003.  The last female the organization had as president happened in 2012. It seems the techniques and methods in this analysis are applying adjustments that are based in nothing beyond fabrication. It would be unfair to not also mention that three of the individuals mentioned as part of the alleged petition signers were on the diversity committee, and by all accounts have put considerable time and effort into it.

Issues with Narrative in the OA

The report is mostly full of conjecture and ad hominem attacks. The persistent personal attacks in this report and many other previous and a subsequent report are aimed squarely at one individual.  The repeated frequency of the attacks may indicate a strong personal bias.  Personal bias inhibits objective analysis.

The term “sham petition process” is used over and over.  A petition is allowed under the bylaws in the organization.  Noting it as a sham is not factual and is, at best, disingenuous.

Issues with the Development Process

All data in the report is indirectly obtained information.  Meaning that there is zero empirical support for the repeated accusations.  The author of the OA is not member of the organization. The only information that is used is coming from a board member(s) and/or members with direct links to board members.  Keep in mind that some information being disclosed is likely under executive session and as such is questionable from the start as there is not honor in breaking confidence that was agreed upon.  The assumptions made here are not credible as the assumptions are only made to support the opinion of the author of the review, meaning that no diligence was attempted to vet the information. Also keep in mind that board members have a fiduciary responsibility to the organization and participating in such activity may very well be a crime.

While the reviewer has no knowledge directly of the members in leadership that are sharing the information with the author of the OA, it has become increasing obvious who is leaking the information as the information is often wrong or is being twisted to such a degree that known personal opinions are shaped to support the intended narrative.  The author of the OA gets misinformation and appears to further spin the information to support the chosen narrative.   In the end, many of the things written in the narrative are patently false or intentionally made up.

It is also obvious that a well-known designated member is part of the misinformation campaign and is more than likely feeding information that they receive from a member of the executive committee to the author of the OA. The timing of the information making into these reports and what they are trying to support indicates specific individuals. As an example, the direct attacks of board members from Region Five in the report are a result of a failed floor petition for Region Five third director recently. The member that ran and lost is part of the group of members that are part of the misinformation campaign spearheaded by these reports.  It is somehow being spun that the two board members caused the floor petition to fail. This all occurred just before the board members were named in a report. Is it a coincidence that they are now being attacked and named as a part of the “Hateful Eight”?  Not a single representative from Region Five indicate that the Chair and Vice Chair were anything but fair through the election process. It would be of note that the reviewer is a member of Region Five and has confirmed this with several sources.

And while the report states the “national sham petition process” is somehow wrong for the national board of directors, here the report jumps to the opposite stance that the regional nominating committee was wrong, and a petition was somehow okay there.  What was the difference? Perhaps it was who was involved and not the reported issues with the petition process. It seems more and more like these reports are being fueled in part by a desire to affect the leadership process within the AI. Or to support specific candidates that are being pushed by a group of influential members. It is along this strong apparent bias that the OA seems to gather its premise.

The narrative also indicates that the CEO of the organization is somehow appointing members to positions within committees.  That is not possible.  The CEO cannot appoint anyone per the bylaws.  Committee appointments are done by the president. The organization is made up of appraisers, and it is normal for groups of appraisers to disagree on even the simplest of things.  The skeptical and contrarian nature of appraisers would seem almost impossible to control for years and years.  In fact, there is a rich history of discourse and disagreement.

The direct attack on Trevor Hubbard is patently false.  The reviewer has worked with Trevor directly in a few different capacities.  Mr. Hubbard has shown nothing but support to SRA members. Many members have reached out to leadership over these false statements, some accepting the character assassination and some outraged that at the fiction of the claim.  I would suspect the real impetus of naming Hubbard in this report is because Hubbard openly supported the petition last election cycle and likely upset the same group previously mentioned and has now been singled out as an attempt to punish his autonomy.

That the report singles out any members as part of the “hateful Eight” in itself is a severe blow to any credibility in the report.  Three or four people know all the names that signed the petition.  That would be the CEO, two members of the legal counsel and possibly the person that started the process.   It is quite possible that by specifically naming any individuals in the report that those singled out did not sign the petition and have been publicly impugned with no evidence.  This is concerning as another board member was singled out last year and attacked through an internal process triggered by members simply for being willing to discuss the possibility of merely being willing to consider the merits of a petition given some unusual circumstances. 

Further credibility is stretched thinner in a subsequent follow up or addendum published on July 30, 2021, https://bit.ly/3lknFwz .  The OA lists four people that are key players for the petition process.  Once again ad hominin personal attacks and express personal bias is shown in delivering opinion with no substance attached to it.  For anyone to attack specific people without any direct knowledge of any of the events is disingenuous at best, complete dishonesty at the worst. 

In particular, the attack on Stephen Roach is less opinion and more school yard bully in the delivery.  The name calling and negative nicknames is beneath professional conduct. The attempt to impugn Mr. Roach’s name without so much as attempting to speak with Mr. Roach is misleading.  I confirmed that the author of the OA did not speak with or attempt to vet anything with Mr. Roach.  The OA misstates the number of committees that Mr. Roach actually sits on. The reviewer did confirm that Mr. Roach did not lobby a single board member in 2020 or 2021 to sign the petitions. The OA also states that the CEO rewards Mr. Roach for his service to the CEO.  It is not possible for the CEO to appoint members to committees, that is solely given to the President. In a post submission update to the attack on Mr. Roach, the report was changed.  In the original version it erroneously stated that Mr. Roach also sign the petition.  This is materially false as no one but board of directors members can sign such a petition.  

Reviewer’s Reconciliation

The OA is free of any relevant facts and subsists only on conjecture and fabricated conspiracy theory.  The report is obvious bias in intent and delivery. The lack of support in the OA makes the report significantly misleading. While empirical support lacks for the review to state that the OA is supporting the wishes of a small group of members with their own design on changing the leadership, it seems to be a likely outcome.

In the end, end users of the report would be best serviced to dismiss the report and follow up with direct interaction with the leadership.  The lack of direct involvement and discussion with the key participants in leadership removes all credibility in the OA.   The gaslighting techniques being used in the development and reporting sections of the report are not recognized techniques in honest discourse. The report is also an attempt to intimidate specific members and a staff member.  By using the techniques and methods in the OA, the report actually does what it rails against in the accusations being made against the CEO.    

Reviewer’s Consultation

The OA is written to attempt to discredit the organization and seems to be written from a place of ill intent and deceptive narrative.  In the spirit of consultation to the end users of the review, it would be best to confirm the information with those that can confirm the information presented in the OA.  The reviewer has spoken with more than a dozen participants in leadership at the AI.  Some are supporters of the CEO, and some are not. If end users allow such a piece to influence their opinion of the organization, then it is worth following up with the organization and people within it.

Three of the individuals specifically attacked in the OA offered these two statements to the reviewer. I have paraphrased some of the comments to remove direct references and to fit into the pseudo appraisal review theme.

“I am concerned for the author of the OA.  While I am put off by the comments and patently false writings, more than anything I wish the author some way of healing and getting the help that they need. It is obvious that the author has some personal issues that are challenging their well-being.”

“I was very angry at first and hurt but quickly came to a peaceful place with it. I simply prayed and continue to pray for the well-being of the author.  The author is obviously unwell. “

“’I find it really sad that the author can completely make up statements.  The lack of knowledge about who can and cannot sign a petition clearly shows that the author is grasping straws for backup to the one sided and false accusations”

Discourse and debate are great things when they are focused and deal with issues.  When the discourse devolves into ad hominem personal attacks, nothing is gained from the exercise.  The reviewer has spoken to a few external stakeholders that have mentioned that they have begun reading some of the OA but stopped when it became obvious that it was an intent to besmirch specific individuals.  But there has also been several examples of members and non-members supporting the attacks, some even claiming the work to be spot on.  

It is certainly within anyone’s rights to form an opinion about whoever or whatever that they like.  It is also within the rights of those being attacked in such a libelous manner to seek legal and civil remedies.   With the upcoming national board of directors meeting occurring in Orlando, FL later this month, there is another online push to follow the false narratives published in the OA. As most of the internal and external stakeholders are appraisers, it is suggested that objective analysis is the most important thing used when deciding to engage in the process.  Emotion, whether overly negative or positive, will only bias the analysis.  If the OA is the only source that compels an appraiser to interact in the process, it would be best practice to reach out to leadership and others in the know to help balance the analysis.

Post Commentary

I am a member of the Appraisal Institute. I have served in several positions of leadership over several years.  By being a member, I am certain to have certain bias regarding the organization.  Some of the bias that I can recognize is both positive and negative. No organization is perfect. I struggle with the organizations lack residential membership. But I have chosen to interact in the process to try and change some of the issues that I have identified as threats and weaknesses.  My attempt in writing and publishing this blog post is to appeal to folks that have a stake in the organization to please think for yourself and to verify what is presented.  Just because something is published does not make it true.  When tearing down someone of something one must ask, “what is motivating the attack?”

There is usually more to see than just what is presented.  I understand that I am also walking a fine line as my blog does reflect my personal views on things.  But I think the key difference in my blog and the blog in review, is that I have spoken with and interacted with everyone that I could to verify information and I have sourced the data from multiple sources.  The few areas of conjecture in my blog that I have written are done with careful consideration.

In defense of the quotes that I used from the three people that were attacked in the blog under review, I struggled with whether they were appropriate to include. In the end, my decision to use the quotes was to allow some platform for them to speak out.  My one critique of the Appraisal Institute up to this point related to this attack is the radio silence that has come from them.  I get that an attack on the organization is something that should be shrugged off, but the attack on members should merit some action from the organization.  Now we have volunteer members and their names attached to the attacks, and that is something the organization should not take lightly.   

As always, thanks for reading and go think for yourself.  My blog is my opinion, and it shouldn’t be yours.  Go do the research then formulate your ideas.      

Incorporation by Reference: Update from Mr. Bagott

The author responds and updates information regarding The Appraisal foundation.  Incorporation by reference is the major premise of what Mr. Bagott is writing about and in this update, he is looking at the Texas Railroad Commission.  While not specific to the valuation profession it is yet another instance of the public sector grabbing private documents and placing them into regulations and codes.

 

The press release form Mr. Bagott starts below:

Jeremy Bagott, MAI, AI-GRS
Author contact: BOIpublishingco@gmail.com

 

*** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ***

 

AGENCY’S TEXAS TWO-STEP PUSHES FOUNDATION CHIEF’S ‘BIFURCATED’ 2017 PAY TO BACK BURNER

LOS ANGELES (January 27, 2020) – Many real estate appraisers were distracted last week, some pondering why the 2017 annual compensation of more than $760,000 for the sitting president of the Appraisal Foundation constituted both internal retirement pay plus CEO pay, as an undated, unsigned memo posted to the blog site Valuation Nation seemed to explain. A source of confusion: David S. Bunton, president of the tiny congressionally authorized nonprofit, wasn’t retired in 2017 and isn’t retired as of this writing in 2020. Meanwhile, an ominous op-ed was quietly queuing at a newspaper chain in the Lone Star State.

The Austin American-Statesman, the Amarillo Globe-News, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and the other publications owned by the unflinching Lubbock-based A-J Media ran a column Sunday by Jeremy Bagott, author of “Dispatches from the Cosmic Cobra Breeding Farm,” a book that details waste and abuse in appraiser oversight.

“Once you’ve read the column,” said the author, “if you want to independently confirm that no specific version of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice has ever undergone a required “adoption by reference” rulemaking in the Texas Register – needed to make the standard enforceable in Texas – contact Jill Ledbetter, Team Lead in the Government Filings department in the Texas Secretary of State’s Office. Her email is jledbetter@sos.texas.gov. Be nice to her. She mans a bleak, windswept outpost on the outer frontier between order and lawlessness in Texas government. She’s keeper of the Texas Register.

“If you need your faith in state government restored,” said the author, “contact Rules Attorney Haley Cochran at the Texas Railroad Commission. She’s at Haley.Cochran@rrc.texas.gov. Ask her to email you the steps she took to legally adopt by reference the 2006 version of the copyrighted “NFPA 54” code and the 2008 version of “NFPA 58” code in accordance with Texas law,” said Bagott. “The Texas Railroad Commission is doing everything right. It’s a little sad that simply not breaking your state’s administrative procedure act and administrative code now seems worthy of commendation. A number of states simply can’t do a rulemaking given the USPAP’s two-year change cycle, so they bluff.  It normalizes scofflaw behavior.”

Mr. Bagott Replies to TAF’s “Cryptic Memo”

This was just sent over to me. Mr. Bagott, the author of the book that exposes the odd salary information for the president of The Appraisal Foundation, David Bunton. I will add to the oddity of this week by disclosing that someone from Mr. Bunton’s staff called me Tuesday and essentially gave me a dressing down for posting the information that I had at that juncture. Once again, I am not trying to denigrate Mr. Bunton, I am just asking about the transparency of the organization and the use of public monies and monies collected from the appraisers that must pay for the standards that they follow.

CRYPTIC MEMO CLAIMS FOUNDATION DEALT BUNTON INTERNAL RETIREE PAYOUT PLUS CEO PAY IN 2017

An unsigned, undated memo on Appraisal Foundation letterhead was posted to the blog site “Valuation Nation” on January 22. The memo, citing “inaccurate” reporting in an unnamed recently published book, sought to further explain the 2017 annual pay of David S. Bunton, president of the Appraisal Foundation. The $760,000 pay package for the head of the 14-employee nonprofit, categorized as “compensation” in the Foundation’s Form 990, was reported to have included both an annual CEO pay component alongside an internal retirement-related payout.

“There are many open questions about the internal retirement component of Bunton’s pay if this memo is accurate,” said Jeremy Bagott, author of Dispatches from the Cosmic Breeding Farm, a book dealing with waste and abuse in appraiser oversight. “For example, have any additional sequenced internal retirement accounts been set up by his compensation committee or anyone else? One thing is clear: Bunton was no retiree in 2017. Nor was he one in 2018 or 2019. Even a onetime internal payout could have the effect of underreporting his pay over the coming years. Part of this haul was once our money, public money,” said the author.

Bagott contacted David Greer, Director of Communications for the nonprofit, seeking further comment. As of this writing, an email to Greer was unreturned.

Clarification on TAF President Compensation

I kicked a hornet’s nest earlier in the week.  I knew that it was not only possible but very likely that someone (maybe even a few people) would have a serious issue with my posting the Appraisal Foundation (TAF) tax paperwork showing their president’s salary, David Bunton, from 2017.  I do not begrudge anyone making a salary commensurate with what they are worth in the market.  I mean no ill intent to Mr. Bunton whatsoever.  In fact, I have spoken to him several times.  We have had some great conversations and he has impeccable taste in wine. Nothing untoward was meant at all.  I am just asking why things look the way that they do.  And when one sees such a salary number, it does makes one stop and wonder about it.

To be clear, I am not saying that his compensation is commensurate with a fair market amount or not.  That is for others to determine, I am just an appraiser and I will leave the opinion of what is fair or isn’t fair to the readers out there.  The only opinion I have is the way that the standards are handled.  In the appraisal profession, that handling seems to be a bit of an unicorn.  I am not aware of any profession that requires the practitioners to purchase their standards every two years and also requires said practitioners to pay for continuing education that pays a licensing fee to the owner of the standards because these standards for public  trust are copyrighted and fiercely protected.

In the meantime, I have done some additional research and I have been able to piece together a multiple year comparison of what TAF is doing regarding the topic.  This is all easily obtainable information, but I have assembled it from the schedule Js from each year available.

TAF chart

I was also able to speak with two CPAs and one non-profit executive management professional and confirmed that the TAF press release that went out today was on point and explained the situation in a reasonable, and more importantly, legal way.  TAF is doing nothing wrong, at least from what is required of them under current IRS regulations and applicable tax law.

From the TAF press release January 22, 2020:

“More than a decade ago, the Foundation’s Executive Compensation Committee set up an executive retirement account for Mr. Bunton, a common practice in the nonprofit world.   Under the terms of this account and per IRS regulations, a lump sum disbursement was required when the account holder turned 65 years old. For Mr. Bunton, that occurred in 2017. The Foundation’s 2017 990 reflects BOTH Mr. Bunton’s annual compensation and the entire retirement savings from the account, which was a majority of the compensation.”

Reply From The Appraisal Foundation

I am currently attending the Collateral Risk Network meeting in Sarasota, Fl but I wanted to post up a reply sent out from TAF this morning.  I will have some follow up later in the day as time permits, but I wanted to get this out as it was sent to me directly.  The link is unaltered and is exactly as it was sent to me.

 

https://www.dropbox.com/s/5xvmq9oi24e0epe/012220%20TAF%20Correction%20to%20Publication.pdf?dl=0

I appreciate TAF’s intent to explain the situation and give transparency.

The Appraisal Foundations Dirty Secrets?

The Appraisal Foundation (TAF) made some waves this last few days.  A new book just came out discussing what goes on at TAF and it doesn’t sound too good.  I have yet to read it, but have ordered it.  From what a few people have described to me it doesn’t paint a pleasant picture of TAF.  The book can be found at this link:

https://www.amazon.com/Dispatches-Cosmic-Cobra-Breeding-Farm/dp/0999710745/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=cobra+appraisal&qid=1579551872&s=books&sr=1-1

In other revelations, a colleague has posted to Facebook a copy of TAF’s 2017 tax filings and it discloses what is being paid to David Bunton, Kelly Davids and John Brenan. The feed back so far in social media is very negative about how high the salary and total compensation package is for the President.

taf

More on this to come.

My 2019, A year in Review

2019 is in the books and we have already begun 2020.  From an appraisal perspective, 2019 was a year of change for me. I am in a completely different place then where I was at the beginning of the year.  I left a large valuation firm to start my own enterprise while also partnering with a large franchise operation in the process.  I have mentored one more trainee into obtaining their certified residential credential and have two more coming along nicely. I have worked on some additional professional designations and made headway into some new spaces to me regarding helping the profession as much as I can.  I also learned some things about how appraisal organizations operate that gave me pause.

The Biggest Change, Going to a New Company

I started getting a feeling that what I wanted to be doing in the appraisal profession was quite different than my employers about a year or so ago.  And honestly, the biggest reason came from the omnibus tax bill that congress put through.  Party affiliations aside, that was a terrible bill that hurts appraisers that work as employees.  It no longer allowed me to write off expenses, most important of which was my mileage, and my employer wasn’t interested in doing reimbursements.  I lost a lot of write offs that year, so it made it hard to continue to stay where I was and earn significantly less money.

I actually was not really interested in starting a new business at first and disliked the idea entirely.  But like most difficult choices in my life I started by doing some research and talking with trusted colleagues and friends.  One such friend, Creighton Cross, MAI, starting chatting with me about a company he had franchised with and he seemed to really like what they were doing as a national company. Enter Accurity Valuation.

Accurity’ s business model was exciting and from what I knew about the profession, a new thing that shows real promise of working  both as a good business model but also (most importantly to me) an ethically sound way to evolve how the profession works with collaboration. I am all for making a profit but never at the expense of doing sound work.   I had drinks with several of the office owners at Accurity in February 2019 in Chicago at Valuation Expo and knew of or had met many of them previously.  What I really liked and seemed most intrigued about was that a few fellow instructors were part of the group, as well as some well-known and well-respected appraisers.  Of course, I was not sold on starting a new company just yet.

I went through the paces of applying for jobs with various entities and had a couple of good offers.  But I had a few things that I needed to do on the fee side before I took a job where I would be doing hardly any actual valuation field work.  I had three trainees, one of which being my son.  There was no way I would take a desk job somewhere while I needed to help them finish their training. Had I left to work in a different capacity there would have been three trainees with way to finish their mentorship. Fast forward to August, I set up a company with my son and we were open as of the 15th of August. Accurity Fincham and Associates, Inc is coming along splendidly. We set up an s-corporation and had the company up and running in no time. I now own my office but have franchised with Accurity. I now have the autonomy to lead my team as I see fit.

The franchise model with Accurity allows me to collaborate with some great business leaders. Some of these folks have been doing this for a long time and have found successful ways to run a valuation firm.  A couple have been well respected instructors for a long time, and I find myself in a positive environment.  I have a couple of weekly calls with the leadership groups (I sit on the executive board, and an innovation team) and those calls are great sessions that help me focus on the larger picture, not just the minutia of my office. I really need that kind of support.

Adding to the Profession

I have finished training my first trainee in almost ten years.  Allen Nicholls passed his state board in December and after three years of hard work, we have added another certified residential appraiser to the field.  Mr. Nicholls has done a great job and has proven he is a capable beginner.  He has worked with me on some complex assignments that included large estates and litigation.  I look forward to watching him develop as a fully credentialed appraiser.  I believe his SRA designation is the next step for him.

Just behind him is my son. He is just a couple of classes from being ready to sit for his exam as well.  Right behind Woody, Jr. is our newest trainee, Trevor Dusing. Trevor is ready to get his core classes finished up and will be ready for his exam within a year.  I love to be part of a team where I am bringing along the next generation.  It makes me a better appraiser because you learn what you are teaching even better after teaching it.  The efficiencies we have developed as team allow us to handle more volume and still write a higher quality report than most of our local competition.

I also taught several classes this year traveling all over this great land of ours.  I spent some time in New York early in the year and enjoyed seeing Long Island for really the first time.  I love traveling and teaching affords me some time to do just that.  While I am never anywhere too long, it is still neat to visit.  Most of all I love the students that I meet.  Most are kind, curious and willing to share their experiences and add to the classes.

More Letters

This past year also saw me add some additional designations to my resume.  I finally got around to applying for my RAA designation with the National Association of Realtors.  I waited a while on doing this but have found it to be as beneficial as any that I have.  Why?  It is simple, Realtors care about working with other Realtors.  I have gotten lots of referral work and best of all my local board has really welcomed me into doing presentations, working on committees and just being able to rub elbows with potential clients. Not to mention, many agents are plain fun to interact with.

Late in the year saw me finally get all my requirements finished for the ASA designation with the American Society of Appraisers.  This is an important one as the ASA has multi-disciplines of valuation professionals.  Personal property, intangible assets, business valuers, fine art, farm equipment…You name it and they have a niche for it. I am looking most forward to working with John Russel, their chief governmental relations profession.  I have gotten to know John over the last couple of years from various trade shows and TAFAC meetings.  John is a great advocate for the profession.

More Letters Means More Organizations, That’s a Good Thing, Right?

Earning the designations that I have help open doors and show potential clients that I take what I do very seriously.  But with designations also come the organizations that bestow the credentials.  And if I have one major negative thing to say about valuation organizations in general it’s that the politics can be painful. And before I write anymore, I am not referring to any specific organization (I am new to the ASA and NAR so they are not part of this observation). For many years I wondered why the valuation profession struggles so mightily with residential topics and over the last 18 months or so, it has become quite evident.  The issues do not just exist with the one organization, they are a part of most organizations. Maybe it is just human nature, but I have never seen anything like this including many years or soccer (playing and coaching), being in bands and other things that I have done involving social communities. The amount of unprofessional infighting that goes on adds unneeded drama and simply creates a general community of unfriendliness and unfortunately creates various pockets of camps or clicks as we called it in High School.  It seems that as any one person succeeds to a position of leadership among the residential folks, there is some faction that is resentful (jealous) towards that person or persons, and drama ensues. Going everywhere from stalking everything that person says and participate sin on social media and complaining to the organization, to outright character assassination.

No wonder it seems residential issues do not get anywhere, the very ones that should be showing progress on residential issues and looking like professionals are too busy jockeying over position rather than using their energy to do good.  I guess folks forget that volunteering is supposed to be about helping others not about elevating oneself for personal gain.  Exactly what an appraiser gets out of climbing a ladder in an organization besides an ego boost baffles me. Life is too short to try to step on another person’s back to achieve a personal goal.

My final perspective on this looks at the dishonesty there seems to be among some people in leadership.  Leadership seems ready to lie, cheat and steal to get what they want personally out of something. I personally have had two senior leaders in an organization come to be and ask me to do a very unethical thing, and I refused. I am sure my unwillingness to help them game the system will have some form of retribution attached to it at some time. I have seen colleagues get attacked directly and indirectly by creating  complex schemes to go after someone they dislike, and worse yet, the organizations don’t just have a process for it, they seem to aid in the tearing down of a member if the situation fits. All it takes is two or more people willing to create a false narrative and there you have it.

It seems leadership only cares about being accused of not doing something rather than having a just reason to go after someone.  And I have seen it happen repeatedly to different folks.  When it is done, it is done in secrecy, so membership does not find out about it, but it seems to get out anyway.  In one case issues are handled by a committee that works separate from the main leadership, and they have the autonomy to do what they want, even having their own attorney to do it, without any oversight from the main leadership group.

I won’t mention any names, but I have had at least a dozen people mention this scenario to me over the last 10 years, and after watching these folks seemingly disappear from leadership or active roles, I certainly knew something was awry. In another case, I watched two long time members of leadership drum up an issue with a member to try and push the member out, and it was done with fabricated issues.  All because there was personal dislike between these two “leaders “and the member.   You honestly could not make some of this stuff up if you tried.  Luckily cooler heads prevailed because attorneys were circling the fracas.

The biggest take away I think is that when outside stakeholders and potential members see this kind of thing, it reinforces to them that associating in a membership organization is not worth it. That the politics are unprofessional and often, simply juvenile.  Just think of what an organization could get done if it actually used its resources to accomplish things for positive change.

One thing to counter what I am writing about here is that there are many, many good people in every organization.  The good far outweighs the bad, but like anything a few bad apples spoils the bunch. I guess it is of no surprise that those with the desire to lead attempt to get there by any means necessary. Afterall, wanting to be a leader takes a bit of gumption. Great leaders, most often, are the ones that do not selfishly seek the spotlight but show up with an attitude or service to help others.

My intention is not to go on a personal rant, but rather to shine a little light on practices that are harmful to more than just the people being attacked for the sake of others trying to advance or just get rid of people they dislike.  Boards and committees are better when there are various viewpoints, good ideas come out of disagreeing and working through a problem together.  Diversity, people and ideas, is a great thing and trying to stop that hurts the profession.  While I have thought about stepping away form trying to help the profession anymore through organizations, I decided that is not me. I am not going anywhere and will continue to advocate for residential valuation. I will just be doing it in different ways.

In Closing   

2020 is going to be a great year. My firm is off to the races, having a great third and fourth quarter, with momentum pushing us into a new year.  As the year evolves, I do challenge anyone reading this to not be an island unto themselves, get involved somehow in helping the profession. When you take your CE this year, don’t phone it in, take a class that will challenge you to learn something new.  If you have taken all the residential classes that interest you, take a general valuation class. I promise you will learn something to help you in your residential practice. Those of you that have years of experience, really consider taking on a trainee.  The growing pains of teaching another will make you better at your job.

Inclusiveness and transparency are things that we need as a professional.  Egos and attitudes get us nowhere.  Be wary of some out there that claim they want what is best for our profession but actually are seeking out shameless self-promotion.  Here is to a great 2020.