2 tips for maximizing compensation in an eminent domain case

What someone invests in real property can be a bid for a brighter future with hopes for a long-term return on that investment. For many others, their mortgage could be as much as 30% of their monthly income, and they may spend even more than that trying to improve and update their homes.

There is no promise of permanent ownership, however much someone invests. Vacant land, commercial properties and residential homes can all end up at risk in an eminent domain case. When there is a project that would benefit the public, the state has the authority to effectively force the sale of real property even if the owner would prefer to retain that home or land.

Some owners are able to fight the inclusion of their real property in an eminent domain project, while others may worry primarily about receiving an appropriate amount of compensation for the sale. How can those who are responding to an eminent domain claim potentially maximize what they receive for the sale?

They know to be skeptical of a first offer

The party making the offer has an interest in offering enough to get someone to accept quickly while still minimizing how much ends up invested in property acquisition. Therefore, the first offer on a property is often not the maximum amount that the owner could secure for the property. After receiving an offer that seems too low, a property owner will need to prepare to respond, often by submitting their own counteroffer. Of course, to counter an offer appropriately, an owner needs to know the current fair market value of the property.

They need to know what their property is really worth

Having an appraisal involved having a professional look at the land and the condition of any improvements on the property. Completing a few projects and making some small upgrades prior to an appraisal can potentially add thousands of dollars to the final fair market value for the property.

Having documentation of a higher value affirmed by a real estate professional will put a property owner in a better position to counter the initial, unsatisfactory offer. In some cases, disputes about what a property is worth in an eminent domain case will end up in civil court. During litigation, reports and testimony from real estate professionals may have a profound impact on an individual’s chance of altering what they receive for their property.

Recognizing that there are still options when facing a lowball offer in an eminent domain scenario might motivate property owners to seek legal guidance and to advocate for the investments that they stand to lose.