THE APPRAISAL PROCESS
One of the most important steps in the eminent domain process is obtaining an appraisal, however it is extremely important not to undertake appraisals too early in the process. Many times landowners hire appraisers before consulting with an attorney. This is usually an enormous mistake. Every year we see many landowners who hired appraisers to do appraisals early in the process, and many times ended up severely regretting it.
1. When do I need to have my own eminent domain appraisal done?
When the acquiring authority makes an offer for your land in an eminent domain proceeding, the amount of the offer is based on the value determined by the acquiring authority's appraiser. However, these appraisals are not always accurate and at the very least weighted in the government’s favor. This, in turn, results in the government offering you much less than the fair market value for your property.
First, the government appraiser could have missed or misunderstood important legal issues. In addition, the appraiser could have misjudged the property’s actual highest and best use or value. Finally, some appraisers that are hired by certain condemning authorities appear to have track record of not accounting or underestimating what may be very important factors in certain cases.
Many times condemning authorities try to pressure people into getting what are called sixty day appraisals. The condemning authority will typically tell the landowner that if the landowner gets an appraisal in 60 days, the company will reimburse the landowner for the appraisal. In many cases it is a very bad idea to get an appraisal under these conditions, but in some cases it is a good idea. Be sure to contact and consult with an attorney before hiring an appraiser or discussing your property with the condemning authority.
2. Should I get my own appraisal or will it cause me problems?
It is generally good advice not to hire an appraiser until you have consulted with an attorney. The first step in any representation must be to determine whether or not the taking is lawful, and if it is, what legal and property rights are being acquired, and what legal and property rights the condemning authority must compensate for. The original appraisal that you have done can likely be used against you in court. Therefore, choosing the wrong appraiser or getting an appraisal too early in the process can greatly hinder your chances of receiving just compensation. Hiring an appraiser or getting an appraisal too early in the process is potentially one of the most detrimental things you can do in your case.
In conclusion, do not simply accept the acquiring authority’s offer but do not hire an appraiser, or obtain an appraisal, until you have consulted with a lawyer who is well versed in eminent domain for a case evaluation. The government will frequently try to offer you much less than your land is worth, but there may be many other issues at stake that are not immediately apparent. There is an appropriate time to have a qualified appraiser determine the value of your land to help ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive just compensation, but do not hire an appraiser or get an appraisal prior to having your case evaluated by an attorney well versed in Wisconsin Eminent Domain law.