Q: I am going through a divorce and we are unable to agree on the value of the house. It looks like we are going to go to court over this issue. How is the court going to determine the value of the home?

A: If you have not already done so, I strongly suggest that you obtain an appraisal from a licensed real estate appraiser as soon as possible. In recent years, the real estate market in Michigan has been extremely volatile. For that reason, you need to go the extra mile in documenting the actual market value of your home. Do not make assumptions based upon what you paid for it or what you have invested in it when it comes to value. Most judges will not allow such speculative testimony. You should also be aware that most courts will not allow a real estate agent to testify concerning value. Only a licensed appraiser can do this.

While the amount you have expended for repairs or remodeling of your home may be relevant when it comes to its current market value, do not expect that these expenditures will be recouped dollar for dollar. When the court assigns a value to real estate for purposes of the property distribution in a divorce, the most relevant piece of evidence is current market value. By far the best way to establish this is through an appraisal. Another note of caution: don't expect to use your appraisal as evidence in court unless the appraiser is there in person to testify in support of his or her opinion on value. You may spend considerable money on establishing value through an appraisal and testimony by the appraiser. In the end, it will most likely be worth the investment.

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