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Consolidation of the 30,000 appraiser members of various professional associations into a single "umbrella" appraisal group, possibly with a single designation, is a subject the profession's most powerful advocacy groups are grappling with. Recently, a Capitol Hill lobbyist told Appraisal Intelligence he predicted ineffectiveness in prodding state- and federal-level legislation without a single "voice." No fewer than two international valuation associations-of-associations have been launched in recent months. As to a particular proposal to create an ecumenical group representing appraisers themselves, though, two of the profession's most prominent and influential organizations have come out on opposite sides of the issue.

An "umbrella" association became at least a step closer to reality, however with a recent series of votes of the Board of Governors of the American Society of Appraisers (ASA). The ASA board's action was a counterbalance – if not a direct challenge – to a vote on the same series of motions by the Appraisal Institute board of governors in July. The Appraisal Institute board rejected the same 16 motions the ASA leaders passed unanimously.

Despite the opposite tacks taken by the groups, consolidation under a single umbrella is "going to end up happening," predicted John E. Bakken, ASA, past president of the ASA and chair of its Professional Alliance Team (PAT). "I don't think we as a profession have any hope of recognition with the public and the government until we have a single organization," he told Appraisal Intelligence.

The PAT, variously called the PAPT (Professional Alliance Project Team), is a group of representatives from several appraisal professional organizations which met in Denver, CO in April to begin building plans and support for a single professional organization with a single designation. Other participating groups included the Appraisal Institute of Canada (AIC), the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA), the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO), the National Association of Independent Fee Appraisers (NAIFA) and the appraisal section of the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

On April 13, the PAT voted by straw poll and according to the minutes of the proceedings, "overwhelmingly voted that within five years there should be one consolidated professional organization" and "overwhelmingly voted that within five years there should be a new, single designation offered."

It was these two motions Bakken had predicted would cause the most controversy – he told us he was surprised at the ease with which they passed ASA's board – and which effectively doomed the PAT proposals at the Appraisal Institute.

No 'designationectomy'

Appraisal Institute members had balked at the chapter and regional level of the organization at what was described as an attempted "designationectomy." A significant number of Appraisal Institute MAI- and SRA-designated appraisers emphatically expressed reluctance to dilute or eliminate their designations.

Earlier this year, eight of the ten bodies representing Appraisal Institute appraisers at the regional level – all but Region II (comprising Midwestern states from Missouri to Utah) and Region IV (made up of New York, New England states and eastern Canada) – voted "no" on the proposal for a single industry-wide designation. Four of ten regions voted flatly "no" on the proposal for a single "umbrella" organization as well. Region IV, alone among the regions, voted "yes" on all 16 PAT motions.

"I think a lot of the Institute's people were threatened by the whole concept, and they picked that particular issue as one which would be most volatile," Bakken said. "They could therefore use that to try and stir up the troops. And I think they were effective – I think that's exactly what happened," he said. The Appraisal Institute did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

At its Board of Directors meeting in Honolulu, HI in July, the Institute considered all 16 PAT motions in a package, rejecting them. Bakken, who brokered the passage of all 16 motions by ASA's governors, took a different tack, proposing the motions individually, in ascending order of controversy, he told us.

He said he used the example of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA) and a Wall Street Journal front-page story on it from July 29 effectively at the board's meeting. Previously fractured into three ineffective advocacy groups, the makers of generic alternatives to name-brand drugs consolidated into a reinvigorated GPhA and since, has had unprecedented success taking on the name-brand drug companies on Capitol Hill, the article concluded.

Mike Ferrell, lobbyist with Washington, DC-based Venable, Baejter & Howard, LLP who plies his trade on behalf of associations on Capitol Hill, told Appraisal Intelligence that "a lot of voices are only good in a chorus" – and appraisers have a lot of dissonant voices.

"'Are you with Joe down the street?" 'No, he's with the Appraisal Institute. I'm with the Foundation.' 'Well, what's the difference? Aren't you both appraisers?'" he demonstrated. A lawmaker faced with that situation is not apt to advocate a position its beneficiaries can't seem to agree on, he said.

Still viable?

The "umbrella" concept is still viable despite the Institute's official action, Bakken told us. "The rest of the organizations are much more primed to do this than the Institute," he said. "I think quite frankly the Institute may be the last to join. Everybody else will join, then the Institute will get dragged along, kicking and screaming because they'll be the only one left out." He alluded to the formation many years ago of the North American Conference of Appraisal Organizations (NACAO). Initially, the Institute refused to participate, sending a nonvoting observer to meetings.

"They realized that the profession was moving ahead without them," Bakken said. "They realized they had no voice in what was happening in the profession. So they finally joined – and they were the last ones to join." The PAT proposals are "history repeating itself," he said. "I think the same thing will happen again. They will be the ones left out. The public and the government will say, hey, they've got this master organization that everybody's participating in but the Institute – what's wrong with the Institute?"

National Association of Independent Fee Appraisers (NAIFA) National President Edward F. Liggins, IFAS agreed that an overarching organization of appraisal professionals is a worthy goal, but is not as sure that the PAT will lead to one as Bakken is. "This has been the problem with these ventures for a long time," he told us. "They get started, and then before they come to fruition, they get splintered."

Liggins said planning and laying a foundation is the key. "That's what we hope to accomplish with the IAAA [International Affiliation of Appraisal Associations] – basically, we're trying to lay the foundation," he told us. The IAAA, an association of associations, was officially launched at NAIFA's annual conference in October. In July, before rejecting the 16 PAPT motions, the Appraisal Institute participated in the formation of the World Association of Valuation Organizations (WAVO), also billed as an affiliation of valuation groups.

Recognizing the need for "some give-and-take relative to designations," Bakken predicts there may end up being one, single designation for real property appraisers – he suggested the MAI – and one for non-real property – he suggested ASA. "How many designations will there end up being? I don't know – I would hope that it's no more than two or three," he said. "But I think that it's unrealistic to expect that we will end up with a single designation."

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