If you are planning to divorce, do not make a decision about the family home until you know how much the property is worth. In most cases, a couple should get a real estate appraisal as part of the property division process.

Learn about reasons to get an appraisal and what you should expect.

Benefits of an appraisal

If one partner plans to stay in the family home, he or she will have to pay the other partner half the equity. Having a professional real estate valuation allows both people to benefit from a fair buyout deal.

Even if you recently got an appraisal, home prices can change substantially in just a few months. Plan to get a new valuation if you have not had your home appraised in 12 or more months.

If you and your spouse own rental property together, the appraiser may provide a value based on the potential income projected. For new properties without sufficiently comparable properties, the appraiser will use the cost approach to value the structure and the land.

An appraisal also allows one spouse to refinance the home so that it is only in his or her name. For example, if you have a home worth $300,000 and owe $100,000 on your mortgage, you could refinance the home for $200,000 and use half to buy out your spouse. In some cases, you may be able to arrange to buy out your spouse over time.

The appraisal process

Hire a licensed appraiser to conduct your property valuation. You can find individuals who have a state license in Rhode Island through the American Society of Appraisers. He or she will inspect your home, take photos and measurements, and note significant improvements since the home purchase. The appraiser will also compare your home to similar residential properties in the neighborhood to create a detailed valuation.

Ask your attorney if you have questions about how real estate appraisal will affect your divorce.