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Proper valuation is key to fairly handling a home during divorce

On Behalf of | Jan 23, 2024 | Divorce

West Virginia, like a majority of other states in the country, has an equitable distribution statute. Couples preparing for divorce typically need to either settle property division matters themselves by reaching an agreement or go to court.

A judge hearing a litigated property division case should look at an inventory of marital assets and debts, consider the unique and relevant factors from the marriage and then decide what happens with property acquired during the marriage. The asset people often focus on the most during a West Virginia divorce is the home where they live.

Someone’s residence might add hundreds of thousands of dollars to their personal wealth and could be the most valuable property they own. When trying to find a fair or equitable way to handle a home in a West Virginia divorce, setting a reasonable fair market value for the property is of the utmost importance.

The value set influences other major decisions

What people previously paid to purchase the home may no longer realistically reflect what the property is worth if they would sell it. Not only does the market constantly change, with prices overall trending upward most of the time, but people tend to invest in their homes and improve them. For someone to receive a fair portion of the home’s equity or reach an amicable solution with their spouse, they likely first need to establish the current fair market value for the property if they were to sell the home. Often, couples hire professionals to perform an appraisal.

In high-conflict divorces, both spouses sometimes secure their own appraisal. Appraisers should attempt to set an objective value based on what other properties have sold for and the overall condition of the home. However, the desires of the client can sometimes influence their final figure.

Someone worried about withdrawing equity from the home to pay off a spouse might convey that to an appraiser, who might then set a slightly lower price for the home. Someone looking to receive equity would want the highest value set possible, which might also have an impact on what the appraiser does.

When both spouses have an appraisal done, they can calculate the average value when comparing the two appraisal reports and use that for negotiations. The courts might employ a similar approach. It is only after setting an appropriate price on the home that people can properly negotiate how to share equity and other assets from the marital estate.