April 19, 2018

Five Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Appraiser for a Condemnation Case

A highly skilled appraiser can be a champion for a landowner whose property is being taken by a government entity. A credible, well-supported appraisal report can help you reach a favorable settlement with the government on the compensation it owes for your land. And if your condemnation case ends up going to trial, the appraiser’s opinion of value is likely to be the centerpiece of your case.

But it’s not every appraiser who can prepare an excellent appraisal for a condemnation case. Special rules apply when the government is taking the property that is the subject of the appraisal. So after you get notice that a government entity intends to acquire your land, and before you hire an appraiser, be sure to do your due diligence by asking the questions below. It’s also fair to ask these questions of an appraiser you’re thinking of hiring.

Does the Appraiser Have Eminent Domain Experience?

There are appraisal rules that only apply to condemnation cases and there are concepts that have a special meaning when property is being condemned. It’s crucial to find an appraiser who understands these concepts and how to apply them to your case.

Does the Appraiser Understand the Market for Your Property?

An appraiser who works in your state or region will often have the best understanding of the market for your property. However, if your property is likely to attract buyers from throughout the country, you’ll want to hire an appraiser who understands how those special types of properties transact on a nationwide basis.

What Is the Appraiser’s Level of Education or Designation?

Consider the continuing education completed by the appraiser you’re thinking of hiring. Is she a Member of the Appraisal Institute (MAI), which is one of the most prestigious titles an appraiser can earn? Has he completed any coursework that is relevant to the type of property you own, such as business or commercial property?

Has the Appraiser Testified in Court Before?

There is no substitute for experience when it comes to sitting in front of a jury, a judge and a lawyer who wants to prove you wrong. Find out if the appraiser has gone through this process before.

Will the Appraiser Listen to Your Concerns?

An appraiser is an expert in determining property value, but you are the expert on your property. No one else has a better understanding of how you use your property and how the government’s project may affect it. Look for an appraiser who is willing to ask questions and listen to what matters to you. Your biggest concerns may or may not be issues the appraiser is allowed to consider in a condemnation case, but you deserve someone who will hear you out and look for creative solutions. Your eminent domain attorney should meet the same standard. Eminent domain lawyers work with appraisers on a regular basis, and they understand the importance of finding an appraiser who will take the time to understand your property and how the government’s project will affect it.

Final Thought: The Limits of an Appraiser’s Expertise

If you are facing a potential condemnation, it is also important to remember that while appraisers are experts in valuation, experienced condemnation attorneys are experts in the law of eminent domain. Especially if the taking involves complex damages issues or unique property concerns, it is always a good idea to hire an experienced condemnation lawyer to work with your appraiser early on in the process of putting together your appraisal.

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