When facing divorce, many women want to keep the family home. Is this a good idea? And what if there are other properties to consider? 

One constant is that each property must have a fair value, which requires a real estate appraiser’s expertise. 

How valuation works 

When determining fair value, an appraiser will look at comparable properties that have sold recently near your home. The appraiser will also take unique features into consideration. For instance, perhaps your house features a universal design complete with a wheelchair ramp. It may be the only home in the area with a deep-water dock or a stable for horses. Keep in mind that the value used to calculate your property taxes will not relate directly to the fair market value as determined by the appraiser. 

What to know about equity and taxes 

Once the appraiser arrives at the fair market value, you must deduct the existing mortgage to arrive at the home’s current equity. However, other costs like mortgage payments, real estate taxes, utility bills, landscaping costs and maintenance will affect that equity figure. Remember that a house is an illiquid asset. Remember, too, that if you sell the house at a profit, you may owe federal and state capital gains taxes. An exclusion may be available, but it will only apply to your primary residence. 

When to contact other appraisers 

If you and your spouse own homes in other areas, such as a cabin in the mountains and a condo at the beach, you should hire appraisers who work in those areas and are familiar with the local real estate markets. Fair market value will be different in each location. 

How to move forward 

To cut down on expenses, you and your soon-to-be-ex may agree to split the cost of hiring a single real estate appraiser to place a value on the family home. If you have properties in addition to your primary residence, this could be a reasonable step to take. One or more appraisers will round out the team of professionals you rely on to assist with your divorce.