Dividing assets can present one of the most stressful issues in a Louisiana divorce. Louisiana is a community property state, which means everything acquired during the marriage is considered the joint property of both spouses. This may seem straightforward in theory, but it can be very difficult to divide the property fairly, especially when the community property involves complex assets such as real esate.
Retaining a professional real estate appraiser can be one of the most useful steps taken by either party to a divorce – especially if the divorcing couple has accumulated significant assets.
What does an appraiser do?
Most appraisers who specialize in real estate abide by a code of rules known as the Uniform Standards of Appraisal Practice (USPAP). Under these rules, an appraiser is required to provide a professional opinion as to the fair market value of the property being appraised (the “Subject”). The opinion as to value must reflect current market conditions and determine value as the price a willing seller would accept from a willing buyer.
An appraiser first visits the Subject for a detailed visual inspection. The appraiser will measure the size of each room and the overall property. The appraiser will carefully examine the exterior of the Subject to ascertain the property’s current condition.
The appraiser will also make careful note of improvements (such as a new kitchen) that may affect value. The appraiser will also examine the surrounding neighborhood to determine how the neighborhood may affect the Subject’s value.
Using the appraisal
Once the appraiser has arrived at an opinion of value, the opinion will be embodied in a written report that will be given to the party who ordered the appraisal. The report may also be given to the adverse party and the court. The divorcing couple has four basic options for using the appraisal:
- One party can elect to retain possession of the house in exchange for giving up possession of other community assets
- The couple can negotiate for a division of assets based on inclusion of the value of the house in the total community property estate
- One spouse can offer to purchase the other spouse’s share of net equity in the house
- The couple can elect to sell the house to a third property using the appraisal as the basis for negotiations about the price
Regardless of which option is chosen, the appraisal gives both divorcing spouses an accurate estimate of the value of the residence.
Anyone who has questions about retaining a professional appraiser can consult an experienced divorce attorney for a recommendation or a more detailed explanation of the appraisal process.