Membership Spotlight September 2019

Friday, Sep 20, 2019

Jessica Toppazzini 

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CREW Vancouver Q&A

Q: You are a commercial real estate appraiser. What is your job about?

I provide real estate valuation and consulting services for a wide range of clients from government authorities to developers, and everyone in between. Our services are typically required in the acquisition and financing sectors of real estate, which forms the majority of the appraisal industries’ work and are relied on by banks and private lenders. However, appraisers also provide a broader range of services that are not very well known. For example, I also specialize in expropriation and litigation matters, which is a sector of the appraisal industry that is quite unique, and in my opinion is the most exciting! What is expropriation you ask? Well first of all, you’re not alone in asking that question, this is not a very well-known sector of the industry, however integral to the acquisition of private lands required for public purposes. Specifically, our appraisal reports are used in negotiations with property owners and potential expropriation for lands impacted by public projects. As a result, these reports are completed under the auspices of the BC Expropriation Act; legislation in place to guide the expropriation process and protect property owners’ rights. Given the sensitive nature of these acquisitions, expropriation appraisals require significant due diligence.

Q: What’s something about expropriation that you wish that those in other areas of the industry understand better?

Every landowner in Canada is equally vulnerable to expropriation – even renters. These acquisitions are intended to serve the public interest and are subject to a rigorous process under the BC Expropriation Act. When a property is expropriated, the owner no longer retains title and any tenancy that may have existed on the property is cancelled. The only rights remaining is the right of compensation for loss and disturbance. If compensation between both the taking authority and property owner cannot be settled, the property owner may appeal to the Supreme Court of BC. However, in making such appeals, there is potential for the courts to decrease the original award of compensation, rendering this process potentially unfavorable and costly.

If your lands are affected by any public project, its integral to retain experts that are well versed in this area of valuation. Its even more important to hire a lawyer that also specializes in expropriation.

Q: Tell us about Garnett Wilson. What’s your favourite thing about working there?

We get to work on some of the largest infrastructure projects in the Province including Site C, Evergreen Line Extension, Trans Mountain Expansion Project, Canada Line and more recently the ongoing Broadway Subway Project.

Also, my coworkers and mentors truly make the day to day difference. It’s a very collaborative environment, which is integral when forming opinions on value.

Q: What is the future of appraisal?

The one common theme we have talked about since I started in the appraisal industry is the impact that Automated Valuation Models (AVM) and Appraisal Management Companies (AMC) will have on the industry. AVMs are computer programs that provide real estate market analysis and estimates of value. AMCs are business entities that administer networks of independent appraisers to fulfill real estate appraisal assignments on behalf of lenders. Both AVMs and AMCs have their strengths and weakness, but are inherently driving down fees, particularly for residential valuations. While commercial valuations are deemed more complex, I think with the advancement of technology AMVs will become more sophisticated and potentially used for the valuation of more homogenous commercial products (e.g. industrial strata units). As a result, I think specialization will be critical for appraisers moving forward. For example I’m working towards becoming an expert witness before the Supreme Court of BC.

Q: You have been a CREW member since 2017. What inspired you to join CREW and what have you gained since joining? What other volunteer experience are you currently engaged in?

I was motivated to join CREW when I took some time to think about how I am personally contributing to advancing gender parity in my community. CREW was a natural fit because of their goals and getting involved has been very beneficial to my appraisal practice. I volunteer with membership events and engage with women from every sector of real estate. Our goal is to increase value for CREW members and create meaningful connections that will aid in advancement of women in real estate.

In addition to volunteering with CREW, I am a Board Director for the BC Expropriation Association and was recently included in the AIC’s Conference Working Group, which is responsible for theorganization, planning, and implementation of the AIC’s national annual conference that is going to be in Vancouver next year. I’m hoping to try and incorporate CREW into the conference given the AIC supports our mandate.

Q: What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever received? What does it mean to you?

The most important piece of advice that I live by came from Eleanor Roosevelt - “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. While simple, this advice has been the most impactful on my career. It serves as a reminder for me that with a little mental mastery, there’s nothing I can’t do.