complete work file

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Work File Requirements

Dear Henry,

How long should you keep a file "active"? One of my AMC clients was always asking me to go back and "review a file". They'd give me new comps and other "new data". The last time this happened, the file was completed over 2-1/2 months previously. I told them the file was "beyond a reasonable period of time" for an update, or another "review". I explained that from then on, I would need to charge them a fee of $50 each time I had to go back into "closed" files. They got upset with me!

I think a reasonable period of time to question an appraiser is during the time that the file is in underwriting, and up to a week after the report has been delivered to our client's customer. After that point in time, when someone asks me to look at more comps, I feel that they should be charged an additional fee (from $25 to $50). It usually takes about 30 minutes to 1 hour to review additional info and (usually stupid) comps.

My point is that you do not go to a doctor for free, so why should an appraiser do additional work for free, after a reasonable period of time has elapsed? Isn't my time also worth $$$? I think it is sad that some appraisers are willing to work for nothing! By the way, this customer does not send me any business anymore.

Brian Brown

Dear Brian,

I am not sure what the difference is between an open and closed work file. The USPAP requires that you retain a "complete work file" for at least five years after an appraisal is made, plus an additional two years after the end of any litigation that involved the appraisal. Many appraisers find it easier to just save the whole file and keep it accessible during this period. This is especially true now that the cost of computer storage is so low, and most appraisals are stored digitally.

I understand that you are upset, and feel that the client abused you one too many times. Frankly, I think this is a business judgment. When a good client asks for reasonable things, it usually is not a good idea to charge them, or protest. When the request is from a one-time client, you might consider adding an extra fee. Personally, in my own appraisal practice, I rarely charged an additional fee, as my theory was that treating all clients well and keeping in touch with them — even if it was just answering what I considered to be an annoying question — was good for business.

By the way: I happened to call my doctor recently, to ask for specific information from my patient file. The information was faxed to me, and I was not charged.