How do I establish the value of my house in a divorce?

In many cases, a parcel of real estate will need to be valued for purposes of a divorce. This almost always occurs when one spouse wants to retain the marital home or another piece of land. The question then becomes, what value is going to be established for the house for purposes of the division of assets pursuant to M.G.L. c. 208 s. 34?

While a Zillow or Redfin estimate can provide some guidance, this is generally not sufficient, as it is based on an algorithm and, as many sellers can attest, can sometimes be quite off the mark. A broker’s opinion of value, for similar reasons, is also insufficient to establish value.

Unless the parties can otherwise come to an agreement, a formal appraisal will be needed. But parties to a divorce need to beware – a bank appraisal, which is typically conducted in conjunction with securing or refinancing a mortgage, is also insufficient in a divorce process. The purpose of a bank appraisal is typically to establish a value that gives the bank confidence that the amount they loan the mortgagee is not too high.

Instead, a formal appraisal is needed for purposes of a divorce, almost always using a comparative market analysis. A certified appraiser will visit the home, view it, ask questions, and then use those observations to find comparable homes that were recently sold in the vicinity of the subject real estate. These “comps” will help guide the appraiser in establishing a value, which the appraiser then adjusts based on his or her observations. A value is then established and then used for divorce purposes.


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