The government is required to pay the “fair market value” of the property it acquires by eminent domain. California’s Eminent Domain Law generally defines fair market value as:
“The fair market value of the property taken is the highest price on the date of the valuation that would be agreed to by the seller, being willing to sell but under no particular or urgent necessity for so doing, nor obliged to sell, and a buyer, being ready, willing and able to buy but under no particular necessity for so doing, each dealing with the other with full knowledge of all the uses and purposes for which the property is reasonably adaptable and available.”
Evidence of fair market value is generally presented to the jury by real estate appraisers retained by each of the parties. Real estate appraisal is not an exact science, and as such, appraisers often differ in their opinions of value in a particular case. In fact, in a great many cases, the government’s appraiser and the owner’s appraiser may disagree by tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars!
It is particularly important in this regard to retain appraisers who have significant experience in eminent domain matters. Experienced eminent domain attorneys, such as those at California Eminent Domain Law Group, have appraisers with whom they work and will recommend to their clients. Eminent domain appraisals must comply with statutory and case authority particular to eminent domain matters. Working with an appraiser or attorney who is inexperienced in eminent domain can be a very costly mistake.