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Are we having fun yet? Developing the sixth edition of the dictionary of real estate appraisal.


In October 2015, the Appraisal Institute released its sixth edition of The Dictionary' of Real Estate Appraisal. In this article, the dictionary's technical editor provides a behind- the-scenes look at what's inside the latest edition of the dictionary.


For logophiles, the quarterly update from lays out a smorgasbord of tasty new words for general consumption: awesomesauce, hangry; rage-quit, mic drop, snackable, brainfart, wine-o'clock, cupcakery, MacGyver (i.e., the verb form), pwn, rly, cat cafe, manic pixie dream girl, bruh, and NBD ("no big deal," of course). Those sorts of coinages are undeniably more fun and whimsical than 99% of the new terms added to the sixth edition of The Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal. For example, compare cupcakery and to MacGyver with a few of the roughly 450 new entries in the Appraisal Institute's dictionary: accessory dwelling unit [ADU), kurtosis, heat island effect, prepaid lease, remedial action plan (RAP), second-generation space, valuation for financial reporting (VFR), and thermal mass. Now imagine which would be the more pleasant editorial chore: (a) getting paid to browse the blogosphere to find usage examples of awesomesauce or (b) mediating an argument about whether real property or real estate is the appropriate term within the definition of economic life. Those Oxford editors have all the fun.

The task of reviewing and revising the content of The Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal has always been serious business, befitting the central role that the content of the book holds in the body of knowledge of the valuation profession. That process, though, is not without its pleasures, of a sort, for the odd individual who enjoys working with words (and who recognizes when it's wine-o'clock). The development of the sixth edition of the dictionary involved more than thirty volunteer content reviewers, who were asked to participate in months of lexicographical drudgery. (1) Many of those contributors had been involved in the development of several earlier editions of the dictionary and of The Appraisal of Real Estate, but a significant number were relatively new to the process of working on a book and therefore did not know precisely what they were getting themselves into. My journalism school mentor liked to riff on the etymological roots of the word compassion (from the Latin com or "with" + pati for "to suffer") to characterize the relationship of an editor "suffering with" a writer to collaborate effectively on a clear, coherent piece of writing. Over the course of the development process, I made an effort to minimize the suffering of all the contributors involved so that the serious business could, on occasion, be more pleasant than painful. And I was gratified--and, admittedly, surprised--that several contributors did actually use the word "fun" at one time or another to describe the chore of wrestling with problematic definitions.

First Things First

The development of a new edition of The Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal starts with the terms and definitions in the most recently published edition of the book. In the preparation of the first draft for review, the raw material for the sixth edition of the dictionary was collected from a variety of sources:

* A table of 4,561 entries from the fifth edition of the dictionary

* Additional addenda material from that edition of the dictionary (e.g., the measures and conversions data, bibliography)

* More than 230 potential new terms or existing terms with revised definitions culled from Appraisal Institute publications released after the publication of the fifth edition of the dictionary, such as new editions of existing texts (e.g., The Appraisal of Real Estate, fourteenth edition; Market Analysis for Real Estate: Concepts and Applications in Valuation and Highest and Best Use, second edition; Convenience Stores and Retail Fuel Properties: Essential Appraisal Issues, second edition) and books on new subjects (e.g., The Appraisal of Water Rights, Appraising Conservation and Historic Preservation Easements, An Introduction to Green Homes, Residential Green Valuation Tools)

* More than 160 potential new entries culled from current versions of Appraisal Institute course and seminar material

* Dozens of new terms, suggested revisions to existing definitions, and queries submitted to since early 2010 (i.e., since the publication of the fifth edition of the dictionary)

The last ingredient in the stew--direct user feedback--can be the source of the thorniest problems in the first draft of the manuscript. The definitions of terms like market rent and frictional vacancy are perennial items of concern for dictionary users. This time around, confusion about the old definitions of liquidation value and disposition value generated many user comments that needed to be addressed in the development of the sixth edition of the dictionary. Those definitions had been formulated in 1982 by the Special Task Force on Value Definitions and had remained largely unchanged and unremarked upon since then. But several years ago, as many markets were limping out of the recession, valuation assignments involving liquidation value or disposition value seemed to have flared up like a rash because queries and requests for clarification of the wording of those definitions were relatively rampant. As a result of that feedback, the wording of those definitions was scrutinized and updated so that the terms and definitions would be useful again in current markets.

Recognizing Change and Adapting

Typically, an edition of the dictionary has a lifespan of five to nine years, i.e., slightly longer than the historical range of five to seven years between editions of The Appraisal of Real Estate. The world continues to change in the interim, so the periodic revisions of the dictionary and textbook are opportunities to bring those texts up to date.

Professional standards are a moving target, and standards documents tend to change more regularly or more dramatically than the dictionary does. The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice changes incrementally every other year, sometimes with significant ramifications to the terminology used in the marketplace, such as recent change to the labels for types of appraisal reports, which are fundamental nomenclature for the profession. Elsewhere, the International Valuation Standards (IVS) underwent a major overhaul after the publication of the fifth edition of The Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal. In 2011, a completely reorganized and refocused edition of the IVS document was released, and most of the technical terms in the glossary of the previous edition of the IVS document (2007) were eliminated. More recently, the emergence of the Standards of Valuation Practice (SVP) of the Appraisal Institute as an alternative in valuation assignments not involving a federally related transaction is an equally significant change.

Even though the fundamental concepts of valuation do not change, the marketplace in which those economic influences act is far from static. As mentioned earlier, for the terms liquidation value and disposition value to remain relevant, the definitions had to be reexamined in light of current market realities. It's also worth mentioning the major changes in book publishing and information technology over the last seven years or so. Trends like the emergence and mainstream acceptance of e-books and other digital editions of printed books have had an influence on the format of the new edition of the dictionary.

Reorganizing the Addenda

A dictionary is not hard to navigate. Just start at A and proceed to Z. (2) However, The Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal includes topical glossaries and other supplementary material that, from edition to edition, experience some expansion and contraction. In the sixth edition of the dictionary, two topical glossaries were eliminated and one was added. Specifically, the Business Valuation Glossary and the International Valuation Standards Glossary in the fifth edition of the dictionary are no longer relevant and have been removed.

Terms from the Appraisal Institute's Fundamentals of Separating Real Property, Personal Property, and Intangible Rusiness Assets course have been incorporated into the main Definition of Terms section of the dictionary, replacing the Business Valuation Glossary. Likewise, although the earlier IVS glossary of terms has been removed from the addenda, fourteen terms from the most recent edition of the IVS document (revised in 2013) have been incorporated into the Definition of Terms section of the sixth edition of the dictionary.

Terms from recent Appraisal Institute educational offerings and publications on green building also have been included in the sixth edition of the dictionary. These terms can be found in the freestanding Green Building Glossary addendum. The other topical glossaries--on Environmental Contamination, Agriculture, Mathematics and Statistics, and Architecture and Construction--remain in the sixth edition of the dictionary, with some additions and deletions within these individual glossaries based on feedback from content experts in the respective areas.

The only other significant organizational change to the addenda of the book is the reduction of the Property Types and Subtypes addendum. The fifth edition of the dictionary contained an addendum with descriptions of around 250 different property types in a taxonomy that was originally developed for the Appraisal Institute Commercial Data Standards (2004). In the sixth edition, that addendum has been pared back to just the outline of property types and subtypes, and the narrative descriptions have been reviewed and revised so that they could be moved into the Definitions of Terms section of the book to serve as dictionary entries on individual property types. The forthcoming Property Use Classification System (PUCS), which is currently under development by the Appraisal Institute, will supplant the old taxonomy and, upon publication, will serve as the authoritative source for classifying types of properties and clearly coding those distinctions in databases.

Content Changes Great and Small

The central task of the development process--reviewing individual dictionary entries--often involved a careful comparison of small differences in the wording of a definition across several editions of The Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal while simultaneously considering recent comments and queries about the definition and the potential for conflict with descriptions of a valuation-related concept in other relevant sources (e.g., discussion of specific topics in the fourteenth edition of The Appraisal of Real Estate).

As mentioned earlier, the sixth edition of the dictionary includes around 450 new terms, from accessory building to zone of conflux. That number includes both completely new terms and definitions, and new terms with a definition that previously related to a less preferable term. As an example of the latter, the definition of overflight in the fifth edition of the dictionary corresponds to the term overflight area in the sixth edition. Roughly a third of the new terminology appears in the Environmental Contamination Glossary (with ninety-four additions) and the new Green Building Glossary (with sixty new entries).

The deletion of the IVS Glossary and Business Valuation Glossary from the addenda removed around 230 entries from the dictionary, although there is some overlap between the terms that were deleted and similar terminology incorporated back into the dictionary from the reinvented IVS document and from the Appraisal Institute course covering intangible assets and personal property. Around another 150 entries were deleted from the dictionary during the review phase, mostly terms that were obsolete or of questionable continuing value.

Roughly 1,250 entries in the sixth edition of the dictionary have changes within existing definitions. Those changes include content changes, rewording for sense or clarity, and editorial style changes, such as eliminating the periods in U.S. used as an adjective (allowed in the most recent edition of The Chicago Manual of Style, a book as important to us editors as The Appraisal of Real Estate is to the appraisal community).

A conscious and concerted effort was made to use the terms real estate--the thing--and real property--the rights in the thing--more precisely within all definitions. In around fifty cases, real estate needed to be changed to real property within a definition, and the reverse was necessary in around thirty instances. For example, the definition of liquidation was changed as follows:

1. Forced or voluntary cash realization; the selling of real [begin strikethrough]estate[end strikethrough] property, stocks, bonds, or other investments, either to take profits and limit losses or in anticipation of declining prices.

2. The termination or conclusion of a business or real estate operation by converting its assets into cash. The proceeds from liquidation are distributed first to creditors in order of preference, and the remainder, if any, is allocated to the owners in proportion to their holdings.

Likewise, the definition of economic life was changed as follows:

The period over which improvements to real property estate contribute to property value.

Many definitions containing real property or real estate required no change either way. In other cases, the best solution was sometimes property on its own instead of real property.

Another programmatic change is the addition of the qualifier "In the United States" before definitions when the usage is specific to the US banking system, legal system, or other institutional context. This is an effort to provide more context and, by extension, to signal in a small way when terms may be relevant to valuers in other countries (i.e., by the absence of the restrictive clause).

Finally, when a particular term has definitions in different standards documents--SVP, IVS, USPAP, Yellow Book--all the available definitions are included and labeled with parenthetical references to the source as shown below for the definition of hypothetical condition.

hypothetical condition.

1. A condition that is presumed to be true when it is known to be false. (SVP)

2. A condition, directly related to a specific assignment, which is contrary to what is known by the appraiser to exist on the effective dale of the assignment results, but is used for the purpose of analysis. Comment: Hypothetical conditions are contrary to known facts about physical, legal, or economic characteristics of the subject property; or about conditions external to the property, such as market conditions or trends; or about the integrity of data used in an analysis. (USPAP, 2016-2017 ed.)

Digital Version 3.0

Longtime users of The Dictionary of Real Estate will recognize an evolution of the digital version of the book. Over the lives of the last three editions of the dictionary, the technology of publishing has evolved, and the members of the publications staff of the Appraisal Institute are continuously adapting to the benefits and limitations of the publishing technology available at the time.

When the fourth edition of the dictionary was published in 2002, the Appraisal Institute had not previously created a digital version of a printed book. The digital version of the fourth edition of the dictionary used the most widely available and accessible technology at the time, a CD-ROM containing software that users would install on their computers to access what would today be considered a stand-alone app. By 2009, the software on the CD-ROM was out of date and not playing nicely with newer operating systems. Thus, the digital edition of the next edition of the dictionary migrated online, where the operating system of the user's computer would no longer be an issue. However, the requirement that a user be online to use the digital version of the dictionary was a necessary trade-off.

Today, e-books are common, and users are comfortable downloading large files. Consequently, the sixth edition of the dictionary will not have an online component. Instead, a PDF version of the document is available for purchase. The PDF format is the clearly superior format for transmitting information to users who want access to a searchable document stored locally rather than online. The dictionary PDF is available either alone or in a package with the print dictionary or in a package with the PDF version of The Appraisal of Real Estate, fourteenth edition. The online version of the fifth edition of the dictionary will remain accessible for a year after the publication of the sixth edition, but the online dictionary will not be updated.

There will be no dictionary app for smartphones in the near future. Admittedly, mobile screens are the final frontier of book publishing, at least until some new technology allows us to upload book content directly into the brains of (former) readers, Matrix-style. As far as an iPhone or Android app goes, given the demographics of the dictionary readership, the cost of developing that sort of technological product, and the potential benefits to users, a dictionary app did not pass the test of financial feasibility. For the moment, the PDF version is the highest and best use of the dictionary content in cyberspace.

Living with a Dictionary

In the twenty-first century, there is an inherent irony in spending months cloistered with a manuscript and a red pen. Debating the minutiae of word choice with volunteer reviewers for days can seem like an anachronistic way of going about the business of preparing and publishing a dictionary in an age of instantly updatable digital wonder cabinets like Wikipedia. The wiki model leverages uncountable hours of human effort into a continuously evolving resource, but, in contrast, the dictionary development process of review, revise, and repeat is deliberately old school and inefficient.

The Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal exists both outside of as well as within the forward motion of time. It would not be a useful reference work if its content changed from day to day (or even from year to year). To ensure that the definitions housed between the covers present the best thinking on each entry possible at this point in time, extraordinary investments in the care and feeding of the beast were made by a committed group of professionals who care deeply about how the technical language of their profession is used and understood.

All the participants in the process recognize the central role that the new edition of the dictionary will take in the body of knowledge for the book's lifespan and that the professional community would have to live with the content of the dictionary for years to come, despite the inevitable but not always perceptible tectonic shifts in the landscape. Their efforts build on the work of previous contributors to earlier editions of The Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal and follow in the footsteps of generations of dictionary editors whose joyfully obsessive attention to detail has always been coupled with the awareness that their task is never truly finished.

Samuel Johnson, who produced the preeminent English-language dictionary of his age and for many decades thereafter (until those wags at Oxford hit the scene in the late nineteenth century), had this to say about the Sisyphean victory of completing a dictionary project:
   Who will consider that no dictionary of a living tongue
   ever can he perfect, since, while it is hastening to
   publication, some words are budding, and some falling
   away; that a whole life cannot be spent upon syntax
   and etymology, and that even a whole life would not
   be sufficient. (Preface to the English Dictionary; 1755)

Some other very smart person may have spoken truer words about the paradox of dictionary-making since 1755 but not with the eighteenth-century equivalent of a mic drop.

(1.) For the names of these stalwart individuals, see the foreword of the sixth edition of the dictionary.

(2.) A pro tip for citing the source of a definition in a dictionary: eschew the irrelevant page number in favor of the term itself after the abbreviation "s.v.," which stands for sub verbo, meaning "under the word." For example, The Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal, 6th ed. (Chicago: Appraisal Institute: 2015), s.v. "market value."

Michael McKinley has been a book editor at the Appraisal Institute for more than seventeen years. He served as technical writer for the development of the three most-recent editions of The Appraisal of Real Estate, the third and fourth editions of Appraising Residential Properties, the fourth, fifth, and sixth editions of The Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal, and Review Theory and Procedures: A Systematic Approach to Review in Real Property Valuation. He has also edited numerous Appraisal Institute monographs and handbooks. Contact:
Table 1 Table of Contents Comparison, The Dictionary of Real
Estate Appraisal, Sixth and Fifth Editions

The Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal

Sixth Edition (2015)                Fifth Edition (2010)

Foreword                            Foreword

Acknowledgments                     Acknowledgments

Explanatory Notes                   Explanatory Notes

Definition of Terms                 Definition of Terms

Addenda                             Addenda

  Property Types and Subtypes         Property Types and Subtypes
  Real Estate Organizations and       Business Valuation Glossary
    Professional Designations           (removed)
  Federal Agencies, Legislation,      International Valuation
    Programs, and Court Cases           Standards (IVS) Glossary
  Measures and Conversions              (removed)
  Mathematics and Statistics          Real Estate Organizations and
    Glossary                            Professional Designations
  Green Building Glossary (new)       Federal Agencies, Legislation,
                                        Programs, and Court Cases
  Environmental Contamination         Measures and Conversions
  Agriculture, Forestry, Soils,       Mathematics and Statistics
    and Wetlands Glossary               Glossary
  Architecture and Construction       Environmental Contamination
    Glossary                            Glossary
  Bibliography                        Agriculture, Forestry, Soils,
                                        and Wetlands Glossary
                                      Architecture and Construction
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Title Annotation:NOTES AND ISSUES
Author:McKinley, Michael
Publication:Appraisal Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2015
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