property appraisal divorce

If you are like most American couples, your home is your greatest asset. So what will happen to that home in the event of divorce? Must it be sold? If not, who keeps it and how is the other spouse compensated? The first thing that needs to be done is a home property appraisal at divorce, after which the couple can begin negotiating the splitting of this important asset.

Property Valuations and Appraisals

There are many factors that come into play when performing an appraisal or property valuation of a home. Of course, there are many self-proclaimed experts more than happy to offer their opinion on your home value, but keep in mind that it is only an opinion, often ill-informed. By involving a professional third-party appraiser, a truer and fairer home value can be obtained; they use the same process to determine home values when a homeowner decides to sell their residence.

As part of the appraisal process, an appraiser considers both internal and external factors, such as the structure, the property, and the neighboring environs.

External factors that impact the final evaluation include:

  • Neighborhood Type – values can vary depending upon the type of area in which the home is located (urban, suburban, and rural)
  • Lot Size – a larger lot in a similar neighborhood typically shows a higher value
  • Zoning Classification – examples include single-family residential, multi-family residential, commercial, light industrial, industrial, agricultural, and schools
  • Land Use Percentages – some neighborhoods have a mix of land use (commercial, single-unit house, multi-family housing, etc.) which can affect land and home values in the area
  • Vehicle Storage Amenities – a two-car garage adds more value than a one-car garage, which in turn is worth more than a carport; a concrete driveway also increases home values

Of course, the house itself must be examined to determine the value of the structure. Again, multiple factors come into play during this internal valuation, including:

  • Number of Bedrooms and Baths – in almost every case, homes with more bedrooms and bathrooms will boost value, but going beyond five bedrooms and three baths can limit the potential pool of buyers
  • Square Footage – the average square footage of a home is on the rise, reaching 2,687 square feet in 2015, compared to 1,660 square feet in 1973
  • Storage Spaces – additional spaces, like basements, attics, and crawl spaces aren’t part of the square footage but also add value to a home
  • Type of Foundation – there are four types of foundations (concrete slab, basement, crawl space, and pier); the foundation used is another important factor in the home value
  • Renovations and Remodels – renovations improve a current look, while a remodel means new appliances, furnishings, or alterations; remodels increase home values more
  • Wall, Floor, and Window Materials – there are a wide variety of materials, ranging from inexpensive to high end, that can be used inside the house; higher quality materials give more value to the home

Although appraisers are not house inspectors, an experienced appraiser knows the signs house inspectors look for, such as termite droppings; obvious damage will reduce home values which repairs can easily offset.

Why a Property Appraisal?

Because a property appraisal at divorce will cost at least $300 and can run as high as $800 in larger metropolitan cities, and because splitting couples are already facing new financial challenges, there may be a temptation to skip a professional appraisal and attempt to come up with a rough estimate.

That would be a bad temptation to give into and there are several reasons why.
In the first place, it is likely a judge will require a property appraisal at divorce be performed to obtain an acceptable value to include in the couple’s joint assets. As it may be the only major asset the couple owns together, it is important that a professional evaluation is used in the interest of fairness.

Another common issue that can be avoided with a property appraisal at divorce is the situation when one of the couple wants to continue living in the residence, and therefore wants to buy out the other’s interest. Of course, the buying party wants as low a buying price as possible while the seller seeks the highest possible number.

Finally, there are occasions where the judge may determine a need for spousal support; having a set value for the home helps in deciding who needs to pay support and how much.

An appraiser eliminates all of those problems, making the judge’s job easier. Even if not required by a judge, a divorcing party would be well advised to obtain a professional property appraisal at divorce.

Skipping a Property Appraisal at Divorce

Now that you have been warned to perform a property appraisal at divorce, there are some situations when the process can be bypassed. It should be noted that in any of these situations, the divorcing couple needs to be able to communicate without fighting.

When there is “negative” equity in the home, that is when loans against the property exceed the total value, couples may decide to walk away from the burdensome debts and let the house go into foreclosure. Be forewarned: there can be taxable consequences or other legal ramifications in this situation that should be researched and understood before making such a drastic move.

Another situation where a property appraisal at divorce can be skipped is if the home is already in the process of being sold. In such a case, the job of the judge is much easier because, upon close of escrow, there will be actual cash that is easily divided between them.

There may be a few other equally rare instances where property valuation at divorce may be skipped but will apply to less than 1% of all divorcing homeowners.

In other words, prepare for performing a property valuation at divorce, not only because it makes sense but because it could be legally required. Most important is having an advocate by your side to assist you in all divorce matters. Homeownership is only one of the many issues that couples face when considering divorce; there could be other assets, such as retirement plans, and minor children are often involved, making your case more complex than just obtaining a property valuation at divorce.

That is why we are here to serve you. Our practice specializes in divorce cases and extends across other related legal fields, including family law, bankruptcy, foreclosure protection, and wage garnishment. Contact us today to learn how we can assist you during any difficult stage of your life.

asking for a divorce

There are no one-size-fits-all answers for the best way to ask a divorce. It’s a big step with a truckload of potential complications and individual nuances. Getting a divorce involves far more consideration than simply submitting your paperwork to the court. It is smart to be prepared before you ask and to become familiar with your state’s divorce laws. To achieve a better outcome, you might want to keep these six questions in mind.

Am I Sure I Really Want a Divorce?

Sometimes when things are not going well we find ourselves on an emotional roller coaster. Marriage, of course, doesn’t come with a working manual so it’s always a good idea to stop and take a breath before you act. Long-term decisions, including divorce, should only be made when we are calm and thinking clearly.

You might consider exploring marriage counseling before taking that final step. Once all avenues and hope of reconciliation have been explored without positive results, it may be time to ask your spouse for a divorce. It makes sense, at this point, to educate yourself about your state’s divorce process so the experience will go as smoothly as possible.

What About the Children?

Children are a huge factor when making the decision to get a divorce. It will affect their lives as well as yours especially if they are younger and still at home. Every state has its own guidelines for determining who will have custody of the kids and what each parent is expected to pay in support after the legal proceedings are done.

Most states, including Florida, use the Income Shares Model to determine basic child support. It stipulates that the child should have the same financial benefits as he or she would have if the parents had stayed together. Most courts today are leaning toward granting equal or shared child custody as the best outcome for the child.

How Much Will My Divorce Cost?

The cost of getting a divorce varies by how complex the case may be and which state you live in. Florida is one of several states that only requires the couple to prove their marriage is “irretrievably broken” in order to proceed. This “no-fault” system prevents long, drawn-out court proceedings saving both time and money. An amicable “dissolution of marriage” costs far less than a contentious one.

Besides attorney fees, you can expect to pay court filing fees as well as outside experts such as a tax advisor or a real estate appraiser if necessary. All of this should be taken into consideration before you make the decision to ask your spouse for a divorce. It can be an expensive process bringing with it plenty of emotional and financial stress before it is all over.

Should I Shop Around For an Attorney?

It is always smart to work with a divorce attorney who understands your goals and can offer solutions even to your smallest problems. You will want someone who you are comfortable with and who will best guide you to the outcome you want. As a trained professional, your attorney serves as a negotiator and a navigator through what sometimes can be a complicated process.

Choosing quality legal representation can make all the difference. Law firms like Florida Law Advisers, P.A. in the Tampa Bay area will help you make the right decisions without draining your bank account. Hiring the right attorney for your specific situation is crucial to avoiding costly mistakes that you might regret for a long time to come.

How Will Property and Assets Be Divided?

All your property belongs to both of you unless you can prove it was obtained prior to the marriage or given as a gift to either spouse. Judges will often divide assets equally if possible. Each person’s economic circumstances will be taken into consideration including where and with who the children will live after the divorce. Judges strive for equitable solutions to fair asset distribution.

Shared real estate is often the trickiest and most complicated of the disputes when couples decide to part ways. Even though people sometimes form an emotional attachment to their homes, you may find it easier to sell and split the profits. Much of this depends on whether either spouse can keep up with the payments or how it might affect the children to uproot them.

What Documents Will I Need?

It is a good idea to gather all the documentation you might need before asking your spouse for a divorce. Being well-prepared with all your paper records in order can save you headaches in the long run. It is wise to make copies of your financial records, mortgage payments, phone records, and car notes as they may prove relevant to the divorce proceedings.

Massachusetts trial and appellate attorney, Ann Narris, sums it up this way: “Practically everything is divisible, including frequent flyer air miles or royalties from a book you wrote.” Doing your homework ahead of time should include a detailed inventory of your major family and household possessions along with any credit card debt and tax returns. Taking the time to organize will make the process easier down the road.

Contact Us Anytime

Florida Law Advisers, P.A. is the Tampa Bay area’s comprehensive choice for top-of-the-line legal counsel. Our team of knowledgeable and solution-oriented attorneys goes the extra mile to provide a wide range of services concerning divorce and child custody matters. We are ready to handle even the toughest divorce cases with understanding and commitment. We will stay by your side from the start until the job is done.

Every individual divorce situation is different. We take our time to listen and work to establish desirable goal results for you and your family. Our law firm is recognized both locally and nationally for excellence in legal representation with cost-effectiveness in mind. We are available every day and at any time to answer your calls and discuss your concerns.

Contact Florida Law Advisers, P.A. today for a free consultation and to let us know how we can help.