Aren't appraisals really expensive?
Not necessarily.  I work with a wide range of budgets and assignment sizes, from the very small to the very large.  The size of the project will depend on the intended use of the appraisal, which will be determined during a complimentary phone consultation with me.  

I find that clients sometimes are not certain if they need an appraisal because they don't know what their belongings are worth, and they are understandably worried that they will end up having an appraisal written on objects that are not worth enough to appraise.  These are all very valid and important concerns.  Part of my professional role as an appraiser is to responsibly address these concerns.  

If I determine that I believe the items are not worth enough to appraise, I will communicate that to my clients and not charge them to provide a service they don't need.  If some items are worth appraising while others are not, I will communicate this to my clients so they can make an informed decision in consultation with their insurance agent/accountant/financial professional about if and how they would like to proceed.  If all items are worth appraising and a written appraisal should be completed for insurance purposes in order to adequately protect my clients in the event of losses, I will communicate that to my clients so they can decide if they would like to move forward with a written appraisal.

Often the best way to determine what would best serve the needs of the client is a phone conversation about the types of items they have.  If during the phone conversation my client and I decide that it would be helpful for me to visit them to inspect their items in person, I will schedule an appointment together with them for a house visit.  This inspection will be short in duration (usually 1 or 2 hours), which keeps the cost quite reasonable.  This option also works well for someone isn't interested in getting an appraisal but wants to know more about what they have from a completely independent, impartial specialist source so they can later make informed decisions in the future regarding giving pieces to children or selling certain items down the road.

If the client decides to move forward with a written appraisal, I will generate a USPAP-compliant written appraisal report for the client's intended use and intended users.  The process of completing the appraisal report includes inspection time on site carefully documenting the items scheduled to be appraised as well as time back in the office conducting specialized market research and writing a highly professional appraisal report that will serve the client's needs and intended use.

The fee structure for generating a written appraisal report will be discussed and agreed to by the client before work is commenced.  USPAP-compliant fee structures are hourly rates for services performed or an overall flat fee for the entire assignment.  USPAP prohibits appraisers from charging fees based on a percentage of the appraised worth of items.  The Management section of the Ethics Rule in USPAP states:
"An appraiser must not accept an assignment, or have a compensation arrangement for an assignment, that is contingent on any of the following:
1.  the reporting of a predetermined result (e.g., opinion of value);
2.  a direction in assignment results that favors the cause of the client;
3.  the amount of a value opinion;
4.  the attainment of a stipulated result (e.g., that the loan closes, or taxes are reduced); or
5.  the occurrence of a subsequent event directly related to the appraiser's opinions and specific to the assignment's purpose."
Depending on the client's specific assignment, either an hourly rate or flat fee structure might be more appropriate for the situation and structures will be discussed and agreed upon prior to commencing the assignment.