"Off the cuff" opinions

Q: " I have done work for a local attorney many times over the past few years. This attorney seems to be a general practitioner I suppose you could say. He handles some divorces, does some estate work, and also handles cases in court. He has been a good client, and a good source of referral business over the years. Lately, he has been doing something that is causing me concern and I am not sure what to do. He has called me several times in the past few months asking if he can “pick my brain”. Mostly, he asks me general questions about market value. A few weeks ago he called and asked me to give him a “ballpark” value of a house located here in town. It turns out that I had appraised another house, on the same street, a few weeks before, so I felt comfortable with giving him a figure, but then I started worrying about it afterward. The other day, this attorney called me to ask if he could send me a report done by another appraiser. His client had issues with the report. The attorney asked if I could just “eyeball” the report and let him know what I thought about the value. I like the attorney, and he has been a good source of work for me; but I am not comfortable with doing this. What do you think? "

A: I think your concerns are well founded. Whether or not you want to continue to answer this guy’s questions is up to you. You are a professional and people hire you to provide them with an opinion. You need to draw the line and decide how much you are willing to do, for free. The problem with “eyeballing” someone else’s appraisal is that your opinion could be considered to be a review of that other report. I think this attorney is putting you in a difficult spot. We have seen numerous lawsuits, over the years, that arise from just this type of a situation. The appraiser thinks he is doing a favor for someone by giving them an off the cuff opinion, or by giving just a quick answer. The problem is that the person getting this information is relying upon it just as they would rely upon an appraisal or a review. I hope if you explain this to your attorney friend he will understand. He is a professional, as well. I am sure he has been cornered by a friend or colleague, with just a “quick question”, so he should be respectful of your concerns.

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