Virtually every Floridian who is facing a divorce develops significant anxiety about the division of marital assets, especially the family home. Avoiding this stress can help the divorcing couple resolve the rest of their disputes without the expense of a court trial. One of the most effective methods of avoiding a lengthy and bitter dispute about the family home is to retain a professional appraiser to provide an impartial estimate of fair market value.
The appraiser’s job
Most professional appraisers subscribe to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), which provide a code of ethical conduct for all appraisers. Under the USPAP rules, an appraiser is obligated to provide a professional opinion as to the price a willing buyer would pay to a willing seller, taking into account local market conditions.
After being retained, an appraiser will visit the property to be appraised (called the “subject”). During this visit, the appraiser will inspect every room, making careful measurements of their size and physical condition. The appraiser will also observe the overall physical condition of the subject.
The appraiser will also tour the neighborhood where the subject is located to determine how the subject compares with other dwellings in the area. The appraiser will then examine public records to learn the price for which comparable houses recently sold.
The appraiser will also observe other amenities, such as the number and quality of schools, access to shopping, proximity to public parks, and the like. After gathering and assessing this information, the appraiser will prepare a professional opinion of the subject’s fair market value. The appraiser sets out this conclusion and the reasoning that produced it in a written report. The report will be given to the other party and, if a trial is likely, to the judge.
With the appraisal report in hand, the parties can choose one of two options:
- The house can be sold to a third party, and the divorcing couple can divide the net proceeds.
- One of the parties can decide to let the other party remain in the house, with the rest of the couple’s assets being divided accordingly.
Solid legal advice may prove invaluable
Anyone approaching a divorce may wish to consult an experienced divorce attorney about the wisdom of retaining an appraiser to provide an opinion about the value of the family home.