The final word in valuation
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Photo: Chris Winston-Stahle
Michael C. McCall, MAI, has been playing the piano for
55 years. His musical tastes include a honky-tonk/jazz
improvisation style, but he also enjoys playing “All Blues”
(Miles Davis), “Kiss Me Like a Stranger” (Tom Waits),
“Dixie Chicken” (Little Feat) and “Spring’s Wild Rose,”
which is a song he composed.
MICHAEL C. McCALL, MAI
Michael McCall is chief appraiser with the Virginia Department of Transportation, having worked for or
with the agency for more than three decades. He also is vice chair for the American Association of State
Highway and Transportation Officials’ Appraisal/Appraisal Review committee. When he’s not drumming
up support for right-of-way appraisals, playing the piano keeps him busy.
Appraisal Institute: You’re passionate about right-of-way appraisals; is this niche overlooked?
Michael McCall: Absolutely. Right-of-way appraisal is a niche that’s not for everyone — it’s for
those who really thrive on a challenge. I think many people get locked into a certain type of work early
on and therefore are never exposed to it.
Like all appraisal practice, the most effective way to become involved is to become affiliated with
practitioners who do this kind of work — although such opportunities, unfortunately, can be hard to
find. We’re working on ways to integrate newcomers into projects with experienced appraisers so they
have opportunities to learn.
Here in Virginia, the DOT developed a 12-hour class that’s presented two or three times a year throughout the state in order to expose appraisers to the exciting characteristics of right-of-way appraisals. We
want to reach appraisers who may be curious about the work and give them a path to entry.
AI: What makes this type of work particularly rewarding or challenging?
MM: These appraisals affect people’s lives in a very personal way. Their property is being taken under
the threat of condemnation. It’s the appraiser’s responsibility to make sure the appraisal is fair and
represents the value of the acquisition as if the property was their own.
This work is complex but exciting and not like typical appraisals. With partial acquisitions, there
are many abstract elements that are not easily measurable in the market. Once you’ve developed an
understanding of the process, you’re better able to find ways to address difficult valuation issues.
AI: How did you wind up at the VDOT? What’s your role there?
MM: I had been doing appraisal work for VDOT for two decades and learned a lot about the complex-ities of partial acquisitions from that work. I approached them about joining full time and VDOT was
excited about having an MAI with right-of-way experience managing the appraisal process. I’ve been
with the department (the third largest in the nation) for 13 years now.
AI: Working for a state governmental agency can be very bureaucratic; how do you manage
your various roles there?
MM: It took me a while to adjust to the uncertainty of budgets and complex approval processes. Anyone who works with a large agency understands that it’s not the same as working with a small, nimble
private firm. I see my role as representing the importance of professional delivery of appraisal services
and ensuring that VDOT remains committed to that end.
AI: You’re also vice chair for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’
Appraisal/Appraisal Review committee — what are some of the key issues you’re dealing with?
MM: Transportation agencies generally are run by engineers whose primary focus is designing, building
and maintaining the roads. Right-of-way work and appraisals are generally viewed as a necessary evil,
and as a result it can be difficult to garner adequate support for appraiser training and compensation,
especially in times of shrinking budgets.