Dividing assets in a California divorce is not always simplified by the community property statute. The couple’s assets must be valued, and the total value of the couple’s property must be determined before the court can apply the community property rule. For most divorcing couples, the family home is the largest asset as determined by net monetary value.
Thus, valuing the family home becomes one of the most crucial issues in any divorce; this issue can easily cause unnecessary wrangling during the course of the divorce. One method of avoiding needless conflict is to retain a professional appraiser to determine the fair market value of the home.
The appraiser’s basic task
Most professional appraisers view their job as providing an impartial opinion as to the home’s fair market value. In reaching an opinion on fair market value, the appraiser must assume that the home is being sold by a willing seller to a willing buyer for its fair market price.
Gathering information that will affect fair market value
The appraiser’s first step in reaching an opinion as to value is a visit to the property being appraised (usually referred to as the “subject”). The appraiser will carefully inspect the exterior of the building to determine whether it has been properly maintained or critical maintenance jobs have been neglected.
The appraiser will also inspect the interior of the house, carefully measuring the size of each room and looking for improvements that may affect value. Upgraded kitchens and bathrooms are improvements that almost always increase the appraised value. The appraiser will also look for other amenities, such as a family room or in-home theater.
Using the sales comparison approach to determine market value
After performing the onsite inspection, the appraiser will search public records for the sale prices of similar homes. The appraiser will also inspect the neighborhood where the subject is located. The appraiser will combine his research with his own knowledge of the local real estate market.
When this research is complete, the appraiser will prepare a written report with fair market value. A copy of this report will be provided to the client and to the adverse party. If the divorcing couple decides to sell the home, the appraiser can be used to effectively negotiate a fair sale price. If the couple decides to have one spouse purchase the interest of the other spouse, the appraisal can be used to determine an appropriate sale price.
Sound advice from a divorce attorney
No matter how it is used, the appraisal is an impartial opinion on the value of the couple’s home. The unbiased aspect of the appraisal will help both parties to accept its conclusions. Anyone considering using an appraiser to value the family home may wish to consult an experienced divorce lawyer for advice on how to find a reputable appraiser.