What Does it Mean ‘Support & Prove’?
What we do is subject to uncertainty.
I searched the words: support and prove in both USPAP and in The Appraisal of Real Estate”. Interestingly, the word prove is not found in either document in this context. The fuzzier word support is found throughout both. The word ‘support’ seems to support supporting your opinion.
How is the word “support” used in the context of making adjustments? I decided the dictionary would provide some support for how the word ‘support’ is used. The results are curious, perhaps troubling. Which comes first: the opinion, or the analysis? Do you support your opinion, or do you come to a result from doing your analysis?
As a verb, the meanings of ‘support’ include:
- suggest the truth of; corroborate; “the studies support our findings”;
- to promote the interests or cause of;
- to uphold or defend as valid or right;
- Synonyms: substantiate back up · give force to · give weight to · bear out
- to hold up or serve as a foundation or prop
- To keep from weakening or failing; give confidence or comfort to
As a noun:
- A thing that bears the weight of something or keeps it upright.
- The act of supporting.
What strikes me is that support seems to come after the estimate or conclusion or opinion or findings.
So, what is the meaning of support in USPAP? It’s not in the Definitions. The first use of the word is in the USPAP Preamble, and it seems clear:
“An appraiser must maintain the data, information and analysis necessary to support his or her opinions…”
If we look at our dictionary meanings, what we are to do is: corroborate, promote, defend, substantiate, prop, and give confidence to our opinion.
The next appearance is in the definition of the word “credible: worthy of belief.” Believable results require support. The emphasis is on believability. Believability is an unmeasurable, subjective term.
Here is where it gets sticky… The word, “prove”.
“demonstrate the truth or existence of (something) by evidence or argument.”
So, when someone claims to be able to prove an adjustment, they claim to have the truth. A worse claim (in my opinion) is to sell someone that they have the miraculous elixir formula or software that can magically determine an adjustment.
So long as we have people out there selling us things – claiming they can teach us to ‘determine’ an adjustment – to ‘prove’ an adjustment – to magically calculate the truth – we will not be able to go forward as a profession. Our outlandish claims will come back to bite us.
We must concede to our innermost selves: What we do is subject to uncertainty. Any science, every profession, must know that absolute single-point answers are a form of fiction. There is a probability distribution. A range. A degree of variation. A level of uncertainty. Until the profession begins to address the issue of uncertainty, it will continue to decline. Uncertainty is risk. Our clients only care about risk or return. We must begin also – to care about the measurable reliability of our own work.
Our organizations must give it priority. Our regulators must understand its relevance. Our educators must teach it. It can be as simple as providing a subjective opinion of uncertainty. It can be more.