Using An Appraiser to Value Real Property in A California Divorce

Whether you’re talking about the family home, a vacation property, or commercial real estate, determining the value of real property often has a tremendous impact on the short-term and long-term futures of couples divorcing in California. The state’s unique and volatile real estate market makes it difficult to come up with a property value that both spouses can agree on. And there’s a lot at stake, so it is important to make the effort to gain an accurate value.

Many people wonder whether it makes sense to work with an appraiser during divorce or whether that only adds expense and further uncertainty to the process. In our 300+ collective years of experience handling divorce cases, we’ve seen many instances where the use of an appraiser has reduced conflict and delays in the divorce process. However, it is important to take the right approach and understand what’s involved.

A Divorce Appraisal Can Be Different Than a Mortgage Appraisal in California

Traditionally, home appraisals are ordered when someone is purchasing a property or refinancing the mortgage on a property. They are conducted for the benefit of the lender to ensure that the property represents a good investment. Mortgage lenders require these appraisals to appear in a specific format and to comply with Uniform Appraisal Dataset guidelines established by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federally-sponsored enterprises that guarantee most of the mortgages in the U.S.

An appraisal prepared to establish the value of a property for purposes of property division in a divorce does not need to follow those specific formats and guidelines, and so this type of appraisal might read quite differently. It is important, however, to ensure that the appraiser presents and considers sufficient evidence to support their opinion of the property’s value.

Comparative Market Analysis vs. Full Appraisal

In many situations, people rely on a Comparative Market Analysis performed by a real estate professional to determine the value of a property. This involves evaluating the neighborhood, taking note of certain features about the property, and comparing it with three to five comparable properties that have sold recently in the area. A market analysis is part of a full appraisal. But an appraisal considers more details about the individual property, and an appraisal can only be performed by a professional licensed as an appraiser. For that reason, a full appraisal is considered to provide a more accurate representation of the value of a property.

How an Appraisal is Prepared

During the appraisal process, the appraiser visits the property to inspect a wide variety of issues. In addition to measuring room sizes, the appraiser will evaluate the condition of various aspects of the property, considering whether features are in good repair and whether they are dated or reflect modern trends.

The specific aspects that make the property unique will be considered when comparing it to comparable properties in the area that have sold recently. All the information will be written up in detail  to justify the value assigned by the appraiser.

Finding the Right Appraiser

There are appraisers who specialize in testifying in high-conflict divorce proceedings. Depending on your situation, it might make sense to consult one of these specialists. If your divorce is proceeding through a more cooperative process, then you might ask your attorney or a local realtor for a recommendation. You want the appraiser to be a neutral third party providing an opinion that will be respected by both spouses.

Issues to Consider Regarding Real Property in a California Divorce

There are a few issues to keep in mind as you prepare to assess the value of real property and develop a plan for dividing community property. First, the timing of the appraisal matters. If you are looking at an appraisal done when you refinanced the property a year ago, that value is no longer accurate. If you had an appraisal completed in January but you are still working out the divorce details nine months later, you might want to have an updated appraisal or at least an updated market analysis.

When considering the value for property division purposes don’t forget to account for tax issues. The property may come with capital gains liability, depreciation recapture issues, or the ability to take advantage of a one-time transfer of protected property tax rates. Your attorney should review all the details to ensure that your final plan of division fairly allocates all obligations as well as assets.

Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, Knows How to Protect Your Property Interests in California Divorce

There are so many details to consider in divorce that it can easily become overwhelming. The best way to ensure that everything is accounted for is to work with an experienced attorney who is dedicated to safeguarding your interests.

At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, our Certified Family Law Specialists and associates consider all the details and how they fit into the big picture so that we can ensure you receive the right value for your share of real property and other assets in divorce. Schedule a consultation with our team today to find out how we can protect your interests.


Professional Legal Help

Our attorneys are waiting to help you

Our Locations

*We do not receive postal correspondence at this address. Please send any desired material to our Corona office for review and distribution.


The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.