Eminent Domain: What Options Do Property Owners Have?

As a MAI designated appraiser who completes right-of-way, acquisition and disposition appraisals, I have encountered a variety of situations where property owners are unaware of the complex process involved in a full or partial taking of private property. During this process, the appraiser can in fact assist the property owner in making sure they achieve the best possible outcome when selling their property to a government agency.

For example, once a state agency has determined that property is needed for public use, the property owner does not have an option to simply refuse the sale of their property. However, the government is required to ensure they compensate the owner fairly and cannot place any undue burdens or hardships on the property owners during this process. Thus, when the state claims private property through eminent domain, the property owner can have an impact on getting the best deal possible.

Here are some ways that property owners can make sure they are justly compensated, in the case of a state claim to their property:

  • Spend the time to understand the process. Educate yourself on the steps involved including for example, getting relocation expenses covered
  • Allow the state appointed property appraiser to inspect your property so they can provide an accurate value, ensuring you get the full market value you deserve
  • Know that you can hire an additional independent appraisal from a provider you trust, if you do not agree with the initial value. If you do decide to hire an appraiser, make sure the professional is licensed and qualified to perform the appraisal on your property type
  • Know your rights to negotiate and request a counteroffer based on your independent appraisal. Be aware that if an agreement cannot be reached, the case can be taken to court and a judge may determine what just compensation should be

The bottom line: it is in the property owners’ best interest to support the state taking and appraisal process. Often, property owners are frustrated by the situation or take out frustrations on the appraiser. This can have a negative impact down the line. If you do not allow the real estate appraiser to perform the inspection and complete an appraisal, you can lose your legal right to negotiate.