Divorcing couples face many stressful moments before their marriage is formally dissolved, and one of the most stress moments, especially for high asset couples, is the division of marital assets. Pennsylvania uses the “equitable distribution rule” for dividing these assets; under this rule, the court has broad discretion to divide the couple’s assets in any manner that seems fair. One of the most important tasks in dividing a couple’s assets is the determination of value. Before the court can divide assets, the exact value of those assets must be determined. Many couples have difficulty in agreeing on the value of their assets, and one of the biggest problems is the family home. The house is likely to be the single largest asset owned by most couples, and for high asset couples, the value attached to the homestead can play a major role in the division process. One of the most effective methods of avoiding this roadblock can be the hiring of a professional real estate appraiser.
What does an appraiser do?
Appraisers can be hired for many tasks, but in the case of the family home, the appraiser’s job is to provide a soundly researched opinion on the price that would be paid under current market conditions by a willing buyer to a willing seller. The appraised value is usually contained a written report that is given to the client and occasionally to the court.
How does an appraiser do the job?
Most reputable appraisers follow similar steps in completing their appraisal. These steps are part of a uniform procedure known as the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). The appraiser first visits the property and makes a careful inspection. The inspection includes the measurement of all rooms, photographing each room, inspecting the exterior of the building to determine the current physical condition of the building. The appraiser will also tour the neighborhood in which the home is located; the quality of other house in the neighborhood can significantly affect the market price for the home. The appraiser next gathers information about the sale prices for similar homes that have sold in recent months. The appraiser makes a careful comparison of these homes with the subject property and uses the sale prices of the comparable properties to guide the final estimate of value. When all this work is completed, the appraiser prepares a written report containing the final estimate of value.
.A competent appraisal can help divorcing couples resolve any disagreement about the value of their homestead. The appraisal can also be useful if the couple should decide to sell the house and split the net proceeds. Anyone interested in how an appraisal may be used in valuing marital assets may wish to consult an experienced divorce lawyer for advice on choosing an appraiser and the potential uses of any appraisal as the divorce proceeds.