Your workfile is just as important as your appraisal report. Just ask any lender, appraisal management company, client, or worse, your state’s investigator. The workfile is the backbone of your report. It supports everything in your appraisal report.
Your workfile for an appraisal of a single family residence or a condominium unit should contain a minimum of four areas: (1) Correspondence between you, your client and others; (2) Information pertaining to the subject property; (3) Backup data for each of the comparable sales and (4) Supportive data for the adjustments that are made. Additional areas would include supportive data for the cost and incomes approaches if they are included. Just as important for your workfile is a complete, printed, signed copy of the appraisal report you sent to your client.
Whether you are appraising a property for a lender/AMC or non-lender, an appraisal request should be sent to you, either by email, fax or regular mail. Any written correspondence between you, your client and other entities regarding the appraisal assignment should be kept in your workfile. Your correspondence may be considered your work product, attorney/client-privileged information or non-privileged information. These are legal concepts and must be discussed with your client and an attorney for clarification, especially if your client is not an attorney. Your appraisal may be for litigation or it may not. In either case, you never know when you might become party to a lawsuit, either as an expert witness, fact witness or the person being sued. What matters most is that any correspondence with your client and his/her attorney may or may not be considered "privileged," meaning confidential and protected from opposing counsel. Therefore, it is highly recommend that any written correspondence be kept to the specifics of your assignment and not anything that may be used against you in a court of law even if your assignment or the intended use is not meant for litigation.