In divorce, the Court must determine a just and right division of the marital estate, including any real estate owned by the parties. To do this, the real property owned by the parties should be given a value. If the parties try their case to a jury, the value of an asset is a jury question. The jury’s finding on value is binding on the Court.
According to the Texas Pattern Jury Charge, the jury is instructed that the property’s value is its “fair market value, meaning the amount that would be paid in cash by a willing buyer who desires to buy, but is not required to buy, to a willing seller who desires to sell, but is under no necessity of selling. If an asset has no market value, its value is the value of its current ownership as determined by the evidence.” P.J.C. 203.1.
Despite how easy and convenient it is to use, a property tax assessment IS NOT the same thing as the fair market value of the real property. For example, improvements made to the property are typically not reflected in the property tax assessment. While the county appraisal district website can be helpful, it does not have to be the accepted value of the property.
An individual real estate appraiser should be retained to go to the property and provide an appraisal of the current condition and value of the property. The appraiser will inspect and measure the property, and compare the property to other similar properties in the area that have recently sold. This typically costs around $300-500.00 for a residential real estate appraisal.
For more cost conscious parties, a licensed real estate appraiser may be asked to look at the property and provide a comparative market analysis for purposes of valuation.
And don’t forget, the parties to the divorce proceeding can do their own research and investigation to testify on the value of the property, taking into consideration things like the look of the home, safety of the neighborhood, the school district, improvements, and recent purchase prices of similar homes in the neighborhood.