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Real estate appraisals a key point in property division

For couples who have never gone through a divorce before, it can be easy to assume that a family law judge makes all the important, legally-binding decisions. Where property division is concerned, however, the estimates of certain professionals outside the legal field can also prove crucial in court. In Texas, before a judge can make any decisions regarding a residence, he or she must be confident of the true value of the property, and this is where a professional real estate appraiser enters the picture.

Divorcing homeowners should keep in mind that appraisers look at comparable properties to determine a house's fair market value. However, the fair market value may not necessarily be the same as the value that a municipal property appraiser would arrive at. Property division allow for a difference between fair market value and the assessed value used in determining a property tax bill. Since comparable sales play such a large role in property division, the value of an appraiser well-versed in the local market can't be overstated. Especially if a couple has homes in different regions of the country, they may need separate appraisers for each house.

In addition to extensive knowledge of the local real estate scene, appraisers should also be objective and impartial. Of course, they shouldn't be tempted by either party in a divorce to take sides regarding spouses. They should also be able to distance themselves from either spouse's emotional attachment to the home itself, or certain features it contains. Expensive improvements like a swimming pool may not necessarily add market value to the residence, and good appraisers can relate this clearly and professionally.

Property division can be a complex procedure; even separating marital property from community property requires input from someone who knows the process through and through. Finding a good appraiser, then, is like choosing the best attorney: spouses should seek diligence, thoroughness, and a solid track record of success.

Source: Forbes, "Seven key points divorcing women need to know about real estate and real estate appraisals." Jeff Landers, Jan. 22, 2013.

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Attorney Christine K. Lincoln

Christine K. Lincoln offers sound counsel and legal services to protect clients and their families facing divorce and other family disputes.

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