Valuation of a House In Divorce

A common issue in a Santa Barbara Divorce case consists of what the value of real estate, or the family home, will be. With Santa Barbara’s high real estate prices, valuations can differ by several hundreds of thousands of dollars. The valuation of your home in a Santa Barbara Divorce case can  lead to you paying your spouse a large equalizing payment, or receiving a large equalizing payment from your spouse. 

The value of a home (real property) may only be shown by opinion testimony of either the property owner, property owner’s spouse or a qualified expert. See Ev.C. § 811, 813(a)(1)&(2); County Sanitation Dist. No. 8 of Los Angeles County v. Watson Land Co. (1993) 17 CA4th 1268, 1278, 22 CR2d 117, 1212; see Marriage of Stoll (1998) 63 CA4th 837, 843, 74 CR2d 506, 509-510. 

In a typical Santa Barbara Family Law case, divorce lawyers for each party will retain their own Santa Barbara real estate appraiser. After retaining the appraiser, the appraiser will engage in a site inspection, review comparable sales and factor in all necessary components appraisers use to determine value. Thereafter, each appraiser will issue their own report as to the value of the home. 

Typically the two appraised values of the home will be different. This is because one spouse will want their appraiser to value the home at a higher price if they are leaving the home and the other spouse is buying out their interest. The higher the value, the more the spouse will receive. The party who wants to retain ownership of the home and buy out the other spouse will want a lower priced appraisal. The lower the price, the less money to pay the out-spouse.

We have seen appraisers use some unusual tactics to justify valuations. For example, one appraiser lowered the value of a condo by $50,000.00 because it was close to the Santa Barbara Zoo train tracks, and the appraiser said buyers would pay $50,000 less due to the burden having to hear children play on the zoo train (note-that was our client’s appraiser which, after a trial in Santa Barbara Superior Court, the court ordered our valuation was correct). 

Some parties agree to a joint appraisal. But, if the parties have the finanical resources to pay for their own appraisal, it is the better practice for each party to receive their own appraisal so that they can be ensured they are receiving the best possible price for their situation. 

If you own a home in Santa Barbara and are going through divorce proceedings, call Morales Law today at (805) 422-7966 for a consultation into your case. 

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