Appraiser Critical Thinking: How to Spot a Fake Mona Lisa

More than 50% of chief appraisers, reviewers and commercial appraisers from my informal survey thought report quality declined in the past 10 years.

They say appraising is an art. But just like art, there’s amazing work and “meh” work.

Some appraisers rely on external reviewers to fix their art. Houston, we have a problem.

Curator Anna Choutova defined bad art, “as unchallenging, safe and stale. Art that has nothing new to offer, nothing interesting to bring to the table.”

Framework to Improve the Art of Valuation

  1. Study work from other appraisers you admire.
  2. Practice new techniques consistently.
  3. Own the imperfections and improve
  4. Be receptive to collaborative input from others.
  5. Implement software to support, not replace critical thinking.

The Intersection of Critical Thinking and Commercial Appraising

Critical thinking is an indispensable skill in the field of commercial appraising, helping navigate the complexities of property valuation. By questioning assumptions, considering multiple perspectives and applying rigorous analysis, appraisers can provide accurate, unbiased and defensible appraisals that serve as sound collateral decisions.

5 Strategies for Teaching Critical Thinking

  1. Encourage active learning: Engage in group discussions or real-life problem-solving scenarios. Encourage active participation, ask questions and challenge ideas.
  2. Ask open-ended questions: Pose open-ended questions to stimulate analysis, evaluation and creative thinking rather than simple factual recall. Introduce deduction, induction and abduction.
  3. Develop information evaluation skills: Teach how to evaluate the credibility and reliability of sources. Critically assess the evidence, identify potential biases and determine the validity of arguments.
  4. Promote creativity: Critical thinking often involves not the same old thinking, but generating creative solutions. Encourage alternative perspectives, brainstorm ideas and think creatively when analyzing and solving problems.
  5. Provide feedback: Offer constructive feedback on critical thinking skills. Highlight areas of improvement, provide guidance on logical reasoning and encourage refinement of their thinking processes.


Commercial appraising often involves evaluating properties within diverse market segments, each with its unique characteristics and challenges. Critical thinking empowers appraisers to consider multiple perspectives and factor in various influences that may impact market value.

I can see some not agreeing that critical thinking is important to valuation. Others may think it’s not art at all, but just math.

I challenge you to leverage technology and process to capture the market nuances to bring confidence to the readers of appraisals.

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” Edgar Degas

As you start your day, think about who relies on your art.

Leonardo da Vinci can help…

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

“Learning never exhausts the mind.”

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”


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