Valuing a home in a Texas divorce: What you should know

Assessing the true value of a home should be the first step couples divorcing in Texas should take when considering dividing the property.

For many people going through a divorce in Texas, the family home is the largest asset that is at stake. State law dictates that community property, or that which is acquired by either spouse after the marriage, is divided in a "just and right" fashion. That does not necessarily mean property is split evenly, but rather equitably.

In order to determine how to divide the house, it is imperative to find the true value of the asset. There are several items people should be aware of when assessing the home.

Does a comparative market analysis suffice?

Real estate agents often use comparative market analyses to determine how a home may be valued. These reports take into account the selling price of similar homes in the area. Some people use these to gauge the value of the home because the reports may be pulled at a cheaper cost than getting an appraisal.

However, these reports do not always reflect the true value of the home. For example, a couple's home may have a number of high-end updates that are not reflected in the comparative market analysis.

Is an appraisal the best way to get the value?

Yes. More than likely, an appraisal is the most accurate way to determine how much a home is worth. Couples should work with a licensed appraiser, who will take the following factors into account:

  • The square footage of the home
  • The comparative market analysis
  • The condition of the house
  • How many bedrooms the house has
  • Any potential problems

Typically, an appraisal will cost the homeowner a few hundred dollars, but it is money well spent in terms of finding the true value of the home.

Now that we know the value, what happens?

There are several ways that people going through a divorce may decide to split the home. In some cases, the couple sells the home and splits any profit or losses equitably. This is where the appraisal again comes in handy, and it is a necessary part of setting a fair selling price and knowing where offers stand.

It is a little more complicated if one spouse wishes to stay in the home. In these instances, the spouse who stays essentially buys out the other spouse. This could be done through giving up other assets, such as a share in a retirement or bank account.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reports that in 2012 alone, there were 80,030 divorces across the state. That is a considerable number of people facing the difficult decisions that property division creates. Anyone who has concerns in this area should speak with a family law attorney.