THE APPRAISAL PROCESS
One of the most important steps in the eminent domain process is having your own appraiser determine the value of your land. However, it is not as simple as typing "appraiser" into Google or looking in the yellow pages. It is extremely important to choose an appraiser who will help ensure that you receive just compensation for your land.
1. Why 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 access issues or severance damages in a partial takings case. In addition, the appraiser could have misjudged the property’s actual highest and best use. Each of these issues are an extremely important part of the eminent domain appraisal. If the government's appraiser incorporates these damages incorrectly, or not at all, the amount of compensation the acquiring authority offers may be far less then you are entitled to.
2. How do I select an eminent domain appraiser?
When you decide to hire an appraiser, it is important to select the correct appraiser. The original appraisal that you have done can be used against you in court. Therefore, choosing the wrong appraiser can greatly hinder your chances of receiving just compensation.
Eminent domain is not very common and many appraisers lack the necessary experience to conduct an eminent domain appraisal. Therefore, you want to ensure that your appraiser is well versed in eminent domain appraisals. Specifically, the appraiser must be experienced in valuating damages caused to the land from the taking. These include severance and access point damages. In addition, the appraiser must be knowledgeable of highest and best use determinations.
In addition, you want to avoid using appraisers who predominantly do appraisals for the government or other acquiring authorities. Appraisers are allowed a fair amount of flexibility when making land value determinations. From our experience, appraisers who do a large amount of work for the government tend to use this degree of flexibility to favor the acquiring authority. If there are two acceptable methods, you want your appraiser to apply the one that is in your best interest.
In conclusion, do not simply accept the acquiring authority’s offer before you have the chance to have your own experienced appraiser determine the value of your land. The government will frequently try to offer you much less than your land is worth. Having your own qualified appraiser determine the value of your land can help ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive just compensation.