concluded that an appraisal is an opinion, and an opinion can
never be wrong. And the trial where the judge concluded in pre-trial motions that a parcel of vacant land with off-site curbs was
effectively improved and could not be compared directly to raw
land without curbs, thus throwing out seven of ten comparable
sales on the eve of trial.
Each of these stories would lay the groundwork for solving a
client’s problem. Yet, his stories weren’t just about professional
assignments. He would speak frequently about his grandkids,
telling stories about my two sets of twins, and how they had
to learn to share from the start. Or about how much fun it
was to watch them learn, like the time he performed electrical
experiments using a science kit he had bought for them. The joy
of watching children learn would always lighten his day. The joy
of seeing adults learn was just as good, but it was more frequent
and obvious with children. Either way, every experience would
help him see issues from different perspectives.
BRINGING HOME THE POINT
“Should I tell them the story about the dog?”
Regardless of where he was or who he was teaching, Harry would
ask and those who had heard the story would laugh. I don’t know
whether he co-opted the story or if it really happened to him.
Either way, Harry would tell the story like this:
I was testifying in a trial for an attorney that was new to
eminent domain. The attorney was not familiar with the
appraisal process or the terminology. Although we met before
trial and talked about the process, the attorney was still
struggling to understand how the pieces fit together. So on
direct exam, his questions were not getting to the point of what
I was trying to say. So I answered in long, narrative answers,
circling back to the point.
“Objection! Non-responsive!” exclaimed the opposing counsel.
“Sustained.” The judge looked at the jury and asked, “Should I
tell him the story about the dog?” The jury laughed a little to
The direct examination continued, and the attorney asked
more questions that weren’t quite on point. So I answered in a
narrative that went on for some time. Opposing counsel once
again stated, “Objection! Non-responsive!”
“Sustained. Should I tell him the story about the dog?” The jury
giggled a little more.
After a couple more rounds of this same sequence, the judge
finally told the story. The judge said, “If I were a salesman
knocking on your door, and you came to the door with a dog
standing next to you, I would ask you the name of your dog.
Your answer would be “Rover.” It wouldn’t be, “Well, funny
story about this dog…I was walking by the pound one sunny
day, and I heard dogs barking so I went into the pound a
looked at all the dogs and this one was cute and another not so
much so I took the dog home and he fit right in...”
The judge said, “Please just answer the questions that you are
So I looked up at the judge and said, “But what if you asked me
the name of my dog, and standing next to me was a cat?”
This story is a parable for finding the right question. Harry was
good at looking for the right question, as we all should be. To
keep growing as an industry, to keep improving on our processes
and our service, we need to keep sharing our experiences and
borrowing from each other and from our lives outside the
profession to find creative solutions and help each other grow.
Back in February, an unfortunate boating accident took my
father’s life (see page 62). A reporter covering the accident said,
“It sounds like we lost a good one.” I know he is right, and I feel
the loss intensely. While my family dearly misses him, I know
that everyone who met and worked with him does as well. From
the nationwide outpouring of support from not only friends but
also colleagues, co-instructors, former students and professionals
that were positively affected by Harry’s infectious love of
appraisal, public real estate and teaching, I know that Harry’s
stories will live on.
Timothy Holzhauer, SR/WA, MAI, MRICS, JD
A real estate appraiser since 1994, Timothy
has been a Review Appraiser with the U.S.
Department of Interior, Office of Valuation
Services with the Fish and Wildlife Service team
since April 2012. Previously, he was Managing
Director for Colliers International Valuation
and Advisory Services’ Pittsburgh, PA office. He
served as an IRWA Region Vice-Chair and was
President of Chapter 53. He is a member of the
International Valuation Committee and serves on Right of Way Magazine’s
Editorial Advisory Board.