This past spring, I was contacted by past International President
Randy Williams, SR/WA, to see if I would journey to China to
teach two IRWA courses – Course 103, Ethics and the Right of Way
Professional and Course 421, Appraisal of Partial Acquisitions.
Since Randy had already taught classes in China on three separate
occasions, he felt the participants would benefit from a new
voice. So this past July, my wife and I flew to China for a cultural
We were met at the airport by our host, Mr. Shu Wu, President
of Beijing Orient U.S.-China Consulting Inc., a graduate of the
University of Denver and a leading real estate practitioner. He and
his associates would serve as our guides and interpreters during
our stay. As a first- time visitor to China, I arrived with some preconceived ideas and impressions. I was well aware of China’s rapidly
growing power in the world economy and was prepared for a big
language barrier. What I found actually surprised me and opened
my eyes to the globalization taking place in our world, and how it
connects to IRWA.
China has a huge population of over 1. 3 billion, something that was
immediately obvious as we arrived in the city. Our classes were
held in Guangzhou, the third largest city in China, which is situated
on the Pearl River about 90 miles from Hong Kong. The 42 students
were all Chinese appraisers and all were eager to learn. The classes
started with lots of questions.
In the ethics class, the students wanted to know such things
as, “How much do you pay to get an assignment?” and “What
percentage of the value is your fee?” This allowed me to go
immediately into some ethical questions. During the class, the
students also wanted to know about my religious beliefs and if all
right of way professionals shared the same beliefs. According to our
guide, most Chinese don’t follow any religion and don’t dwell on
the eternal. Needless to say, the discussions in the ethics class were
Course 421 also produced some thought-provoking dialogue.
It became quite obvious that their laws and the concept of
eminent domain were different from ours in the United States.
Chinese leaders are very concerned about public sentiment and
the disharmony created by infrastructure projects. They wanted
to know how we evaluate the risk of public outcry prior to
commencing a public project. The Chinese actually use a special
methodology to evaluate such risks. Another question involved
whether it was better to appraise a property based on its current
use or its highest and best use. Apparently, it is not unusual for
the acquiring party to pay compensation based on current use
(purchasing more than needed), before changing the zoning and
using the profits from the surplus land sold at a higher price to pay
for the project.
The warmth and hospitality shown to us by the people we
encountered was great. While there is still a lot of government
control, many businesses have become privatized. American
retail stores seem to be thriving, and residential construction was
everywhere. During my stay, I was invited to join in celebrating
the 20th Anniversary of the China Real Estate Valuers Association
(CREVA) and give a presentation to a group of about 300 appraisers.
CREVA, the only organization in China that focuses on land
valuation and acquisition in the country, has about 50,000 members,
many of whom would benefit from an association with IRWA.
Since my return, I have been advised that roughly 40 of the
students have signed up to become IRWA members. It is evident
that the Chinese want to learn and use the best of what we do in
right of way. J
BY DONNIE SHERWOOD, SR/WA, MAI, FRICS
Practices to China
Sharing the best of what
we do in right of way
Donnie (left) receives token of appreciation from Mr. Cunzhi Hu, Minister of
Land Resources for China.