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Using a real property appraiser in a divorce case

One of the most difficult issues in almost every divorce in Texas is "dividing" the house. How can this be done?

Most divorcing couples resolve this issue by either selling the house to a third party and splitting the net proceeds, or having one spouse purchase the interest of the other spouse and remain in the house.

In either case, the couple must know what the house is worth. And that is when a competent real estate appraiser comes on the scene.

If the couple has owned the house for a relatively brief period of time, say less than five years, the purchase price may be a useful guide. Valuing a house that has been owned by the couple for more than five years can be difficult. The house may have been remodeled or rehabilitated. The nature of the neighborhood may have changed. Any number of other factors may affect the current value of the home.

Virtually every certified appraiser uses the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report. This form contains a number of questions about neighborhood demographics, housing trends, available utilities, measurements and other details about the size of the home and its physical condition. The appraiser answers the questions using information supplied by the owners and his own observations. The appraiser will also perform a comparative market analysis, which uses the value of comparable homes in the neighborhood to determine a fair market value.

By providing an independent and unbiased valuation for the home, using an appraiser removes what can be a difficult issue from the divorce negotiations. An appraiser's valuation can also help a couple decide whether to sell the house or allow one spouse to stay in the house after purchasing the other spouse's half interest.

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