When a well-off Williamson County couple begins to contemplate ending their marriage, one of their principal concerns is dividing their property. Their questions usually include some or all of the following:
- Will I get my fair share of our assets?
- How can I prevent my spouse from obtaining an unfairly advantageous share of our property?
- Is there any method available to ensure that our property is fairly divided?
No divorce has an entirely predictable outcome, but one method of protecting a spouse’s interest in the couple’s marital assets is the use of a professional property appraiser.
What do appraisers do?
Professional appraisers are trained to fix the fair market valuable of tangible assets. Most appraisers work in real estate, but they also can estimate a fair market value for business, non-residential real estate, antiques and unique assets such as art and jewelry. Very often, an estimate of fair market value prepared by an appraiser will help the divorcing couple agree on an asset’s value and avoid resolving the issue in a trial. If the couple cannot agree on the value of the asset, the issue will be decided by the judge. In such cases, both spouses may hire their own appraisers to estimate the value of the same asset.
Techniques of professional appraisal
Professional appraisers use settled techniques to estimate the value of an asset. The family home is probably the most commonly appraised asset, and it provides a helpful example for other assets because the techniques used to value family homes are often used to appraise other assets.
Appraisers use two methods to appraise a home: replacement value and comparative market value. The replacement value method is rarely used because the price of labor and materials has probably grown significantly since the house was constructed.
The most common method is comparative market value using methods approved by the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. The appraiser first inspects the home very carefully. Room sizes are measured, the quality of the construction is recorded, and any unusual features, such as a spacious patio or swimming pool are noted. The appraiser next views public records of the sales of comparable homes. The appraiser adjusts these values to compensate for differences between the comparable and the subject property.
The divorcing couple can use this estimate of value to decide whether to sell the home to a third party or to divide the home according to the appraisal. If no agreement is reached, both spouses may end up hiring their own appraiser and letting the judge fix the value of the homestead.
Making informed decisions
As noted, the appraisal methods used to appraise the family home can often be used, with some modification, to value other assets of significant value. Anyone facing a divorce that will involve the division of valuable assets may wish to consult an experienced divorce lawyer for advice on whether an appraiser should be retained to provide a credible valuation of valuable assets.