Appraisals for marital dissolution (divorce)

Appraisals for marital dissolution


There are many reasons to obtain a professional valuation on your property. One of the most difficult and sensitive reasons is for marital dissolution. Since the marital home is normally one of the most valuable jointly held assets, taking on an appraiser to do the work should never be done lightly.


As in all appraisal reports that are completed, utmost care should be taken in considering factors that influence the value of the property. Knowledge of the local market, including understanding supply and demand, absorption into the market, and pulse within the subject’s submarket is very important. Equally important is an understanding of buyer preferences in the submarket which the property operates within. For example, if the market expects two full bathrooms but the property has only one, how does that affect the value as well as the marketability of the property? If buyers expect a three-car garage in newer homes, but the subject has only two, does it change the buyer pool altogether?  Is the market slowing; is it increasing; are buyers out in droves looking at properties or are they pulling back and waiting? These are some of the types of questions appraisers examine as they study the market related to the appraisal report.


The written communication, the appraisal report.

When we think of the word “Appraisal”, we often think of the communication of the appraisal. The appraisal is actually the act or process of developing that opinion of value. What you, the consumer, will see, is the “Report”. The report is the communication of the appraisal (or appraisal review), which is transmitted at the completion of the assignment. As a party who is not typically reading appraisal reports on a daily basis, the communication should be addressed in a manner that is clear, understandable and not misleading. This means that jargon should be minimized, or if used, explained. It means that there may be no need to provide a mile-high analysis of the nation’s economy, but stick with specifics that relate to the property itself. Of course, it is important to discuss what is happening with the market, but for a single-unit residence, what is happening in California will not be relevant to what is happening in Ann Arbor, in most cases.


The report should contain enough information that, you the client, can understand completely how the appraiser arrived at their opinion of value, whether or not you agree with that conclusion. Sometimes clients will not agree with the conclusion, but it is critical that they understand the logic and reasoning behind it.


There are many steps that are taken to arrive at an opinion of value, and to communicate that opinion in a manner that is clear and understandable. Choosing an appraiser to handle this very important piece of the dissolution problem should be done with care. Your attorney should have suggestions for whom to use. If you are not working with an attorney, consult those who do see appraisal reports with regularity such as REALTORS, loan personnel, and other appraisers.  In fact, one of the best ways to hire a competent professional to handle this sensitive need, is to ask other appraisers whom they would recommend. Time and again, a couple names will surface. Interview those appraisers and go with whom you feel most comfortable. Other avenues of finding competent appraisers is to search appraiser databases from different appraisal organizations. The Appraisal Institute has the Find an Appraiser search function found here

The Relocation Appraisers and Consultants has a directory search found here

And the American Society of Appraisers has a search section here:



Fees and turn times.

Every appraiser sets their own fee schedule and turn time for completing assignments. Considering the time that is involved in properly identifying the problem to be solved (which includes the different factors that influence value), determining what is necessary to solve the problem, implementing those processes, and then communicating the findings, do not expect the appraisal report to be an inexpensive part of the dissolution process. Given the hourly rate of most attorneys, expect to pay somewhere between two and five hours of your attorney’s fee for the appraisal report itself, and an hourly rate for any testimony that is needed in the event of a court or deposition appearance. If the marital home is the greatest asset that is jointly owned, this is a small price to pay for peace of mind of a job well done.