Eminent Domain – Eminent Domain, or the act of condemnation, is the public taking of property for private use. Condemnation of right-of-way land or land for roads, pipelines, utility easements, and other uses are typical in real estate practice. We prepare specialized appraisal reports, often referred to as damage estimates, for situations that involve the taking of easements for land by condemnation.
We work for governmental bodies, utility companies, and private individuals to provide opinions of damages caused by the acquisition or taking of real estate. Damages are defined by the eminent domain code in Pennsylvania and are basically the fair market value of the entire property interest before the take and as unaffected by the take less the fair market value of the property after the take.
Our experience in preparing appraisals in condemnation situations range from the simple acquisition of an access easement or private road agreement to complex assignments. The latter involve road closures, commercial properties, the taking of land that includes mineral easements, and the fee simple taking of a business property that includes the purchase of the going concern in a business. Expert testimony is typically required as part of this specialized appraisal service. We work with your counsel to provide capable, competent valuation services. We have extensive experience both in preparation of damage estimates and their defense on the witness stand. We will be happy to forward our testimony credentials for your review.
Litigation Valuation – Real estate appraisals for matters that are the subject of litigation require experience, market data, and confidence. Litigation of real estate valuation is a form of mental gymnastics. Lawyers, judges, juries, principles, and appraisal peers all review both the written document and oral testimony of a real estate appraiser engaged in the litigation of a property value. Because of this extensive review, reports prepared for this purpose must be complete, accurate, and to the highest level of conformity of uniform standards of appraisal practice as possible.
Our experience dictates that knowledge of the laws surrounding the valuation issue is critical to winning valuation litigation. Whether the assignment is utilized for real estate tax assessment, eminent domain, fire and casualty loss, establishment of private roads, or complex divorce litigation, different laws and standards are often applicable. We work with legal counsel to develop a thorough understanding of the laws that apply to the specific valuation problem in order to assure the best possible success rate in court or before the appropriate board. Having experience on the witness stand in heated cross examination is important whether the amount of valuation is small or large.
The market data utilized to support an opinion in litigation requires confirmation with parties to the transaction and needs to be the best data available. Significant research is required whenever valuation is a litigated issue. Data for both the subject property and competing offerings and closed market sales often becomes critical in support of appraisal conclusions. Many times, the appraiser with the best data wins. We make every effort to be that appraiser.
Confidence on the witness stand is the product of good data, experience, and thorough briefing of the laws that are applicable by legal counsel. A litigation team without a confident appraiser has little chance of success in the court room or before the board. We attempt to be thoroughly prepared so that when the hearing or trial takes place, we are confident in our opinions and clear with respect to the results of our analysis. Some appraisers do not enjoy, nor will they accept, assignments that involve testimony as an expert in court or before a board. We look forward to the opportunity to accept these types of assignments and enjoy a high success rate.
Real Estate Appraisal for Tax Assessment Appeals – Real estate appraisals are sometimes required for property tax assessment appeals. In Pennsylvania, the county assessment bureau sets the assessed value of the property. The municipalities, such as the school district, the township, or borough, and the county assess a millage, which is multiplied by the assessed value to indicate the tax paid by the property owner. In the event the assessment appears unfair to the owner, a review of the valuation may be required.
We prepare appraisal reports of residential, commercial, agricultural, and industrial properties throughout Central Pennsylvania for this purpose. Whether we are reviewing or appraising the property for a local municipality or an individual taxpayer, the result is the same. We seek to reflect the fair market value of the property in question. Balance and fairness are paramount in undertaking a real estate appraisal utilized for real estate tax assessment appeals. Knowledge of real estate tax assessment laws and procedures and their application to the valuation process is extremely important. Our firm brings decades of specialized experience in this field to the table.