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New York, Houston Apply Expertise, Humanity in Addressing Tragedies. (Chapter Spotlight).

In response to recent tragedies, both the Metropolitan New York and Houston chapters of the Appraisal Institute applied more than sound appraisal techniques; they showed a pro bono spirit in applying humanitarian efforts to minimize the negative effects. In the terrorist attacks on New York on September 11, 2001, and Tropical Storm Allison, which hit Houston in June, the two chapters met the needs of their local markets and local residents.

'Return to Normalcy'

Shortly after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Metro New York Chapter decided to donate $10,000 of its general fund to The New York Times 9/11 Neediest Fund. They chose that fund, according to chapter president Richard Marchitelli, MAI, because it did not take a fee for administering the funds, meaning that all $10,000 would go directly to the relief effort.

However, in the subsequent weeks, Marchitelli realized that in addition to the immediate physical needs and cleanup efforts, the marketplace was also voicing another need, the return to normalcy. "We all wanted a return to normalcy, which wasn't happening, and we thought the best way to do that was to address the issue head on, to acknowledge it," Marchitelli said.

The issue was what long-term effects the attacks will have on real estate valuation of the different property sectors: office, residential and hotel, and the way business is conducted. The chapter coordinated a comprehensive seminar, "State of the Market, Post September 11 -- Rebuilding New York City," held October 29 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York, that assembled many of the key developers and lenders in the New York market to focus on those questions. The seminar, heavily marketed to Appraisal Institute members in the New Jersey and Long Island Chapters, and other professional organizations, drew over 200 attendees.

New York Addresses the Issue

In addition to keynote speaker Edward Minskoff, the developer of Site 5B, the largest undeveloped parcel of land in the downtown area, Cushman & Wakefield hosted a panel, "Rebuilding New York City." The New York Chapter also assembled a panel discussion on each of three market sectors: office, residential and hotel, featuring Forest City Ratner, Rockrose Development Corporation, the Witkoff Group, Albanese Development Corporation, Tishman Speyer, Fleet Bank, Tishman Hotel Corporation, TIAA-CREF, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Hilton Hotels Corporation, Consolidated Edison and Skidmore Architecture.

The panels touched on topics such as supply and demand, zoning issues and the future philosophy of corporate space.

"Our lives have changed, perhaps forever, and people are going to reevaluate where they live and where they work," Marchitelli said. "Companies are going to start evaluating the issue of geographic diversification, rather than having everything on the same power grid or transportation linkage. Backing up records and workforce diversification are becoming important issues now," he added.

Houston, We Have a Problem...

Between June 5 and 10, 2001, Tropical Storm Allison deposited 32 inches of rain--including nearly 11 inches in one 30-hour period--over 100 square miles of Houston. Floodwaters submerged thousands of homes and businesses, causing an estimated $1 billion in damage and leaving 15,000 people without shelter. Surveying the area via helicopter, Houston Mayor Lee Brown declared, "We do have a real problem. Some complete subdivisions are flooding over." In the end, President Bush declared 28 counties as disaster areas and ordered federal aid.

Members of the Houston Chapter also decided to provide aid to the area, by offering low- or no-cost appraisals and consultations to those affected by the flooding, which garnered them quite a bit of media attention, the city's appreciation and the residents' gratitude.

According to chapter president Tom Stark, MAI, the city's assistant controller contacted the chapter via Bob Jones, MAI, who put them in touch with PR chair Bradley Ford. "They probably contacted me because of my involvement of doing work with other government property," Jones said.

The controller's office explained to Ford the magnitude of help that would be needed, both in terms of residents seeking help, and the Office of the Controller's needs in handling vendors, FEMA and other entities. Potentially hundreds of appraisals may need to be performed. Ford e-mailed the chapter members saying that if anyone was interested in offering low-cost appraisal services, he would list them on the chapter's Web site, with a link to those names prominently displayed on the homepage.

The need for appraisals rose from the fact that the law states that if the cost to repair a damaged house is more than 50 percent of the value of the home, the county would not grant a permit to rebuild. The value of the home is normally assessed according to the Harris County Appraisal District records. However, according to a letter posted on the city's Web site, controller Sylvia Garcia stated that the city's Building Permit Division "has agreed to consider market values determined by certified independent appraisers other than HCAD. HCAD has agreed that such independent appraisals will not affect the tax rolls."

Talking Up the Houston Chapter

Garcia's letter went on to specifically promote the Appraisal Institute and the Houston Chapter: "In response to my request, the Houston Chapter of the Appraisal Institute has generously agreed to provide names of appraisers offering reduced-fee services to flood victims. The Appraisal Institute's Web site is"

The chapter had set up that list of names with a heading that stated, "In conjunction with the City of Houston, the Houston Chapter of the Appraisal Institute has reached out to the community in its time of need. The following members have volunteered to offer reduced fee appraisals for victims of Tropical Storm Allison" and listed members Charles Brothers, SRA, John Chambless, SPA, Robert Jones, MAI, Patrick O'Connor, MAI, and Larry Wright, MAI, SPA, as taking part in the relief effort.

In addition to that publicity the city also faxed those names to homeowners requesting a list of appraisers, and Brown sent a letter to residents of all of the ZIP codes affected by the flood, recommending Appraisal Institute members for their appraisals. Controller Garcia further promoted the Appraisal Institute on KPRC talk radio in the days after the storm.

"We got our name out to a bunch of people that AI members are willing and able to help," Stark said.

Beyond the PR

Jones said the help went beyond the traditional appraisal, of which he did five or six, and more into analysis and counseling, for which he estimates he has fielded around 50 calls. Wright, another one of the appraisers listed, says he has received around 15 calls.

"But [from a business standpoint] there were very few people that we could do anything for," Wright said. "Some of the houses in more depressed areas, including one of the councilmen, couldn't get a permit."

Jones agreed. "Oftentimes, the contributory value of the home is nil. With rising land prices in older neighborhoods, unless it has architectural significance, the house contributes little or nothing to the overall value," he said. As an example, he cited a call he got from a resident who had some water damage on the ground floor. The insurance claim was $40,000 but the county records showed the property to be valued at only $50,000. "Under that kind of scenario, the city will buy you out. But say they pay you the $50,000. You have to pay off your mortgage and then buy a comparable property You have to go out to the suburbs, away from your school district and work," Jones explained.

"There is a lot of just getting people through this. These people were stressed. They don't know who to turn to and by the time they get to the appraiser, you become sort of the point person," Jones said. "They've been to the city, county, FEMA and the answers they get are not the answers they're looking for. First, you can always help because you can direct and educate people so they can understand the plight they're in."

Also, Jones has tried to bring the city and the flood inspector together to see if there is a way to grant a permit to rebuild in instances where a permit normally wouldn't be needed, i.e., carpet or flooring damage.

"You really get involved with these issues because they're staying in temporary quarters. You get calls at night and at home. It's not an 8-5 assignment," Jones said. "It's a real challenge, but it's very rewarding if you're prone to wanting to help people. That's all it is, it's just volunteering to help people," he added.

Adam Webster, the Managing Editor for the Appraisal institute's Valuation insights & Perpectives and Appraiser News Online, is always interested in ideas for future Chapter Spotlights.

RELATED ARTICLE: Chapters, Members Give Aid; McCloskey Scholarship Established In Memory of Daughter

In the aftermath of September 11, many Appraisal Institute members and chapters sought ways to help. In addition to the New York Chapter's contributions, the Maine Chapter donated $500 to both the Red Cross and the Salvation Army and the Chicago Chapter and Region III each donated $500 to the New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund. The Massachusetts Chapter donated the proceeds of its annual golf tournament, approximately $700, to the New York Police and Fire Widow's and Children's Benefit Fund. The co-sponsor of the tournament, the MBREA, did the same, bringing the total of $1,400. And other donations were still being reported as of press time.

Appraisal Institute member Richard McCloskey, MAI, SRA, of South Bend, Ind., was directly affected by the attacks on New York, as he lost his daughter, Katie, who was working on the 97th floor of the World Trade Center's Tower One.

"In order that some good may come out of this evil, our family has established the Katie McCloskey Memorial Scholarship Fund," McCloskey said. The endowment will fund an annual college scholarship for graduates of John Adams High School in South Bend, of which Katie was a graduate. The scholarship committee will be comprised of a group of Katie's former teachers, some of whom still teach at Adams.

The local community aided McCloskey's establishment and promotion of the fund. The Community Foundation of St. Joseph County is managing the fund at no cost, allowing 100 percent of every donation to go directly into the scholarship endowment, and local television station WNDU is helping raise funds for the scholarship via its web site at

"The more that you donate the larger the endowment will become and the more scholarship money can be awarded to great kids like Katie to pursue higher education and to make a positive mark on our world," McCloskey said.

Donations to the fund can be sent to:

The Katie McCloskey Memorial Scholarship Fund

c/o Community Foundation of St. Joseph County

P.O. Box 837

South Bend, IN. 46624

To help raise money for the fund through your work, school or place of worship, contact McCloskey directly at 219-272-4738 or
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:contributions of Appraisal Institute time and financial aid
Author:Webster, Adam
Publication:Valuation Insights & Perspectives
Geographic Code:1U7TX
Date:Sep 22, 2001
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