When married couples divorce the family home is very often the primary capital asset. The housing market has been very busy despite the pandemic as people have made use of the stamp duty holiday and also reassessed their ideas of where they want to live. It is therefore important to get your homes valued correctly so that we know what equity is in the pot for distribution.
Disclosure of family assets
When dealing with family assets, the first stage is that of disclosure. Each party sets out their assets/liabilities/income. Within this process both parties’ detail what they believe the house to be worth. If both figures are the same, then clearly that is the one that will be used. Sometimes the figures can be slightly different and therefore proposals are usually put to split the difference to avoid time and costs being taken up in gathering further opinion and evidence.
If couples cannot agree, another option would be to obtain the opinions of three local estate agents as to the value of the property. The average of the three figures could be used.
The court process
If all else fails, there is a court process that can be used. An application has to be made by one party within the ongoing court proceedings setting out why it is necessary to have the home valued. Such an application is supported by CV’s from three proposed valuers together with their information on how much it will cost and the timeframe that they need to prepare a report. The court would then determine which valuer would be used. Experience in the local market and cost-effective fee quotes are important factors taken into account.
Once the expert has been identified they receive a letter of instruction agreed by both parties and they are instructed jointly. The fees are also shared equally. The expert would then inspect the property and file a report at court and that figure would then be used moving forward. If one party is not happy with the figure given by the expert, then you do have the ability to raise questions and challenge the expert. However, it is incredibly rare that an expert changes their views. There is also the ability to challenge a jointly appointed expert but only in very very limited circumstances.
The cost of instructing experts can quickly increase. There is the application that you have to prepare to the court, then the joint letter of instruction, then the actual costs of the expert themselves. It is therefore preferable for parties to try and agree matters, albeit not at any cost, particularly in a volatile housing market.