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Establishing fair market value for a home in MSA

January 4, 2019
By ERIC FEICHTHALER - Real Estate Law , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Dear Mr. Feichthaler:

My neighbors are currently trying to establish a fair market value for their house that must be put up for sale to satisfy their marital settlement agreement due to a divorce. Is there a best way to establish a fair market value that will legally satisfy the terms of the MSA and at a value they would both be able to agree on?

- Tom E., Cape Coral

Dear Tom:

The quality and timing of the valuation of marital assets in a divorce is vital. If an unreasonable valuation is set, one of the parties could be left with an inequitable distribution of the assets. The Florida Statutes allow the judge great latitude in the valuation date of assets, which can become particularly relevant in a quickly-changing real estate market.

Marital Settlement Agreements should be as specific as possible when discussing how property will be valued, which will avoid future disputes and court and attorney costs. Florida's Rules of Evidence may require live, personal testimony if there is a trial. If the MSA is silent as to determining value, the valuation could be as simple as the parties agreeing on a third-party appraiser and using that valuation. Generally, the parties would use a professional appraiser that has strong familiarity with Cape Coral real estate values. Other options could include consulting with real estate agents that can provide information on comparable sales in the area. Depending on how cordial this divorce is, there could simply be a mutual agreement based on the research of each spouse and their attorney, if they have one. Finally, the Lee County Property Appraiser's just valuation should generally not be used to determine current value. Although it can provide a starting point for value, these amounts usually do not reflect 100 percent of the value, and many factors may not be taken into consideration that are unique to the house in question.

Finally, to obtain the best value for the house through a sale, choose a Realtor that has a strong reputation for service and selling in a short time frame. I am sure your neighbors do not want to extend the time of sale any longer than necessary.

Eric P. Feichthaler has lived in Cape Coral for over 30 years and graduated from Mariner High School in Cape Coral. After completing law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., he returned to Southwest Florida to practice law and raise a family. He served as mayor of Cape Coral from 2005-2008, and continues his service to the community through the Cape Coral Caring Center, Cape Coral Historical Museum, and Cape Coral Kiwanis. He has been married to his wife, Mary, for over 17 years, and they have four children together. He earned his board certification in Real Estate Law from the Florida Bar. He is AV Preeminent rated by Martindale-Hubbell for professional ethics and legal ability, and is a Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil Mediator.

This article is general in nature and not intended as legal advice to anyone. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting on any matter of legal rights and obligations.



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