In any divorce, the value of the marital estate must be established before the parties can be allocated their rightful share. The value many assets is obvious, but that is not the case for real estate. This type of property must be assigned a value. Most often, an appraiser will be hired to perform a formal litigation and real estate appraisal.
Real estate in a divorce usually is the family home, but it may also include vacation homes or business property. Business property is sometimes appraised within the context of the business itself being valued. See my previous blogs here regarding business valuations in divorce proceedings.
The parties to a divorce may retain their own appraisers or jointly select one. If the parties ultimately do not agree on a figure as suggested by the appraisal(s), the court will hear testimony and determine the fair market value. The appraisal of property can be pretty straightforward much of the time, but it can also become somewhat complicated and, at times, subjective.
Most appraisals are based on the sales of comparable properties in the geographic area. An average sale price is normally the key indicator, but any special or unique features of a home may increase or decrease the value assigned by a particular appraiser. For example, a detached garage converted to a workshop with special wiring for power tools might cause an appraiser to add to the average sale price. On the other hand, a backyard greenhouse might be seen as a specialty item that clutters the property and cost money to have removed.
It is also important to know that the assessed value of the property by county or municipal governments is researched by the appraiser, but these values usually have no real effect on fair market value. The assessed values are not based on professional appraisals and are also sometimes affected by laws governing the assessment of real property.
In selecting an appraiser, first make sure she is licensed by the state. Second, it is important to find someone who is knowledgeable of the local market and of the type of property being appraised. If there is business property, make sure the appraiser has experience or even specializes in that area. Similarly, if there is vacation property, make sure you hire someone in that market. An appraiser in San Francisco won’t know the business of vacation homes in Vail, Colorado.
Judy L. Burger’s experience as an aggressive family lawyer is paired with an extensive business background, an invaluable combination in contested divorce and separation proceedings. If you need the assistance of a lawyer who is not afraid to fight in court and who understands complicated financial issues, call her today at (415) 293-8314 or visit her online.