In September, the ASFMRA hosted a live seminar called “Appraising Unique & Atypical Properties” that was developed and instructed by Mark Williams, ARA.
Williams, who has been in the appraising business since 1992, understands that the problem solving required for strange properties can be intimidating for some appraisers.
“We all come across these oddball projects, and sometimes we run from them,” said Williams. “We’d like to take them on, but we don’t always have the confidence."
Of course, he isn’t referring to himself there. Over the years, Williams has accumulated a wealth of experience when it comes to dealing with “oddball” appraisals, and a reputation for it as well.
Williams designed his seminar in such a way that participants are encouraged to get into a problem-solving mode, think creatively, and work together. Attendees are divvied up into teams and tasked with tackling a series of appraisal scenarios that Williams borrows from his past. After each scenario, the class gets back together to review Williams’ approach to the assignment.
“I’m not sure this is the only way, but this is the way we tackled the problem,” explained Williams. “Each and every one of those appraisal projects was reviewed at some level, and most of them were reviewed pretty thoroughly by some government agency.”
But the learning in this seminar goes both ways, and sometimes the students become the teacher.
“Through all the times that I’ve instructed the class, the class has come up with some additional things that I should have considered, or some other avenues that would have worked,” notes Williams.
One of Williams’ examples is dubbed “The House of Tomorrow,” which is the actual name of a house constructed for the 1933 World Fair in Chicago. This ten-sided home represented what people of the time thought the future would be like in 50 years, and had some odd features, such as a garage designed for a personal plane instead of a car. The primary challenge for this project was determining the house’s historical value.
Another example is a project that Williams refers to as “Supersized and Stinky.” In this scenario, a farmer decided to build a new house immediately downwind of a large dairy production facility. The house itself was overbuilt at 4000 sq. ft., in a market where most homes were 1500-2500 sq. ft. To make things weirder, the house had seven bedrooms and a single half bathroom on the second floor, as well as no basement, which was unusual for the area. The challenges for this project involved figuring out how the odd layout affected the home value, as well as measuring the discount for being downwind of the smelly dairy facility.
With fun and challenging examples to work with, it’s easy for participants to stay engaged.
“When we got to the end of class and I said 'Well, are there any more questions?’ […] It actually went another 15 minutes past time. People just kept talking,” said Williams. This discussion is what Williams hopes for, as he sees networking as one of the best tools you can have when appraising unique and atypical properties. “Look, you have twenty new appraisal partners as of today, because you all sat through this class,” concluded Williams. “So the next time one of these oddball things comes along, reach out to some people you’ve taken this class with and say ‘hey, what do you think?’”