Don’t Underestimate the Value of a Good Real Estate Appraiser

One of the most common questions divorcing couples face is whether they intend to keep their family home. Although a one-word answer would be luxurious for a conversation about the matter, the reality is that few couples are able to quickly make decisions about such complicated property division issues. Couples must consider whether one person should remain in the family home or the property should be sold to divide the profits. When vacation homes and other properties are thrown into the mix, an even more convoluted situation can result.

A real estate appraisal is one of the key elements that will help you decide whether to keep or sell your home. Most real estate appraisers will assess the value of your property using the value of comparable homes in the same market with similar features. Those comparable sales, along with the value of any special features, are added together to determine the value of a home. Most residential properties are consistently assessed, but special features such as docks, greenhouses, and large garages may complicate the process. Judges may order an independent appraisal if both sides cannot agree on the value of a property.

Keep in mind that many of your additions may be viewed as liabilities in your local housing markets. Add-ons such as swimming pools may actually lower the value of your home, depending on the real estate climate in your area. The appraiser is not biased toward your preferences, instead considering the needs of buyers in the region.

Also, remember to choose an appraiser that is familiar with the local real estate market. Fair market values differ significantly between areas, even within the same state. As a result, divorcing couples should seek the services of a local appraiser, especially for out-of-state vacation homes.

Finally, remember that real estate values are not stable over time. A retroactive appraisal of a home might be necessary, particularly for women who moved into homes that their husbands already owned. If you can prove that your marital funds increased the value of the home, you can ask for a higher cut when the time comes to divide the property. Negotiating a fair divorce settlement is difficult, but an accurate appraiser can play a critical role in helping you get the money you deserve.

Source: Forbes, “Seven key points divorcing women need to know about real estate and real estate appraisals,” Jeff Landers, Jan. 22, 2013