Getting a Home Appraisal for Divorce: How Does It Work?
Your home is a huge asset, and in a divorce, you must split its value with your spouse. But how can you split something if you don't fully understand its worth?
An appraisal gives you clear answers about how much your home is worth so you can make smart decisions for your future.
How does an appraisal work?
When you bought your home, you likely went through an appraisal process. If it's been years since you finished it, this refresher might help.
The most accurate divorce appraisals require these steps:
An in-person visit
A professional appraiser walks through your home, taking measurements, snapping photos, and assessing the space.
Consideration of your market
The appraiser examines data about other homes near you, including some that sold recently. These comps are used to inform an appraisal price.
Your appraiser makes a formal document filled with information about your home and how much it's worth on the market.
The onsite portion of a home appraisal typically takes a few hours to complete. But your professional might need a week or so to compile the final report.
A home appraisal typically costs between $300 and $450. But if your home is large or somehow unusual, it could take your professional more time and cost more.
Your step-by-step guide to a divorce home appraisal
An appraisal is a crucial part of preparing your home for your divorce. Four very important steps are required.
Step 1: Talk with your spouse
Before you start the home appraisal process, talk with your spouse about your goals. Who is keeping the home? Who is moving out? Are you selling instead? Clear answers to these questions can help you get the most out of the appraisal process.
Step 2: Prepare for your appraisal
Homeowners hoping to sell their homes for a large profit try to make sure everything looks as good as it possibly can. That means the following:
- Performing yard work: Mow the lawn, pull weeds, trim trees, and plant pretty flowers. A well-maintained and nicely landscaped yard can add value to your home.
- Tackling small repairs: Tighten bolts, fix drips, and otherwise ensure that everything is in good working order. A glaring issue could take away from your appraisal value.
- Cleaning up the messes: Pick up clutter, wipe away grime, and otherwise ensure the property is ready for company. Dirt and grime can influence how nice your home appears, even if it theoretically shouldn’t affect the value.
- Gathering documents: Information about remodels and upgrades can help you prove you've added value since the house was last assessed. If an upgrade included a particularly nice material, like marble, highlight this to your appraiser.
In pleasant divorces, both parties want a high home value. The person who stays has a hefty asset, and the person who leaves makes money on the sale. But your spouse could hope to drive the price down to ensure a smaller mortgage to keep it.
If you can't agree on the preparation approach, consider asking a mediator to help. They can assist you in smoothing out the details so both parties end up with an agreement they are content with.
If your spouse can't be trusted, consider hiring someone (like a housekeeper, gardener, or handyman) to do any work that is needed on the home.
Step 3: Find an appraiser
Your home is valuable, and the appraiser helps you prove that. It's crucial to find someone qualified to help you.
The right appraiser meets the following qualifications:
- They know your market. A local appraiser has likely worked with other homes in your neighborhood and appreciates what value might look like. They know what homes in the area go for and which features hold value in your area.
- They are appropriately licensed. In some states, appraisers hold bachelor's degrees and local licenses. Other states don't have these requirements, but training is still appropriate and needed.
- They understand divorce. Your split could complicate your appraisal. For example, if your formal separation (in which you moved out) happened six months ago, your appraiser might need to adjust the numbers accordingly. Someone with divorce experience understands these issues.
Step 4: Give access to the appraiser
Someone must be available to let the professional into the home. But you're not expected to follow this person from room to room. In fact, it's best if you stay far away and let the examination move forward. You may have to answer questions they ask, but give them room to do their work without interference.
Step 5: Review the report
The appraiser will provide a completed document, and you must both review it. The document will help you make critical decisions associated with the end of your marriage. Keep the appraisal copy with your other important divorce documents.
What Should You Do With Your Marital Home in Divorce? Explore Your Options.
ReferencesHow Long Does an Appraisal Take? (May 2022). Redfin.
How Much Does a Home Appraisal Cost? It Depends on Several Facts. (February 2022). Bankrate.