No Florida resident will be surprised to learn that dividing marital assets is one of the most difficult issues in a divorce. The difficulty is compounded for couples who own significant assets or who have been for many years. For most couples, the family home is the asset with the highest value. In such cases, hiring a licensed real estate appraiser can offer a dispute-free method of settling on the value of what may be the couple’s most important asset.
What is an appraisal?
An appraisal is a systematic method of providing a sound estimate of the fair market value of the home (the property being appraised is usually referred to as the “Subject Property.”) Upon being formally retained, the appraiser will visit the subject property and make a number of observations. The size of each room will be carefully measured. The age and current condition of construction will be carefully inspected. The condition of the building’s mechanical features such as the furnace, the water heater, and general plumbing will also be checked for their state of repair and any necessary repairs. The appraiser will also note the condition of the exterior, including the roof and siding. The appraiser may also take photographs of the subject in an effort to record his observations. The appraiser will also note the type of neighborhood where the subject property is located and the subject’s proximity to parks, schools, lakes, and other community amenities.
The sales comparison approach to value
Most residential properties are valued using the sales comparison approach. While two other methods may be used – they are the replacement cost and income approach methods – they are not commonly used to value residential real estate. After completing the initial inspection, the appraiser will gather data on similar homes that have recently changed hands. Using public information such as county tax records and records of land transfers, the appraiser will create a range of possible values for the subject. The next step is developing an estimate of the price that a willing buyer would pay a willing seller for the subject. Finally, the appraiser will arrive at an estimate of the fair market value for the subject.
Using the appraisal report
The appraisal report can have several uses. The couple may decide to both accept the appraiser’s estimate of fair market value and use it to negotiate a sale of the property to a third party. If no agreement is reached, the spouse who paid for the appraiser may submit at trial as proof of the property’s value. In such cases, the report is usually given to the judge. Anyone who is wondering about using an appraiser may wish to consult their attorney before retaining someone to value the property.