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As part of reviewing the background material concerning the use of appraisal waivers, a set of investigative questions were developed to guide inquiries. This section contains the investigative questions used for this research project as they evolved from the input provided by our stakeholder team. These questions provide the overall framework for the research and establish the underlying basis for questions included in the survey instruments, and the interview guides utilized throughout the project effort.
The investigative questions addressed two key categories:
The subsections below describe these groupings of investigative questions in further detail.
To be able to evaluate whether or not the appraisal waiver is an effective tool, the research team needed to understand the needs and scope of the State programs. The team needed to understand the decision making process that leads to use of the waiver and then explore how this valuation tool is used in negotiations, and what happens if settlement can not be negotiated. The research team wanted to understand the extent to which settlements are secured using the appraisal waiver. Likewise, the team wanted to assess the incidence of having to re-value property using an appraisal. Both of these measures provide insight to the acceptance of the appraisal waiver procedure, both by State Departments of Transportation and the public. Key questions include:
The rule permitting the low-value threshold to be set as high as $25,000 creates a potential for a high percentage of total acquisitions to be valued using the appraisal waiver provisions. It is possible that reducing the number of non-complex appraisals in an agency's workload will limit a State Department of Transportation's ability to provide assignments to junior staff essential to developing the skills and capabilities of new appraisers. It is also possible that agencies see an advantage in reducing the number of specialized staff and moving towards using contract fee appraisers. This could potentially be for some agencies a more cost effective way to handle the appraisal workload. For the research team, a central question was whether a reduction in the use and development of staff appraisers hinders the development of the review appraisers needed by an agency and how this could affect the ability of an agency to have the qualified personnel necessary to approve or recommend just compensation.
The other organizational issue that could result from extensive use of the appraisal waiver is a perception by the public that there is a lack of expertise within the agency. This could result if the incidence of appraisal waiver based settlements declined and now having less highly trained appraisers on staff, agencies had to utilize contract fee appraisers rather than their own staff to perform most appraisals. Properties had to be appraised using contract fee appraisers rather than the agencies own staff. To gauge the potential impact of this issue, the research team assessed if personnel changes within the agency and in particular, a loss of appraisal expertise can be linked to the increased use of the appraisal waiver.
Key operational questions concerning the organizational impacts of the appraisal waiver include: