Common Techniques of Condemnor Appraisers

When an entity seizes land under eminent domain, its goal is to acquire the property as quickly as possible and for the least amount of money. As a result, experts for condemnors such as the Department of Transportation, city and county municipalities, utility companies, school systems, and others use several methods to create lower than expected damage valuations.  

Tactics Condemnor Appraisers Use to Undermine Damage Valuations

Experts for condemnors could undermine your damage valuations by:

  • Excluding improvement values in their Before and After Analysis (i.e., doing land only valuations even though the property has improvements such as buildings, gas stations, billboards, signs, and other valuable items)
  • Using property comparables that are old or in different locations, dissimilar, or not arms-length market-based transactions.
  • Over or under adjusting comparables to reach a lower valuation
  • Ignoring HBU (Highest and Best Use)- Appraisers are required to consider the highest and best economic use of a property — not just the current use of a property. This is especially critical for undeveloped parcels, large farm tracts, or land with older commercial or residential buildings.
  • Ignoring the possible rezoning of the property- Beyond looking at the current zoning of a parcel, appraisers must also consider the reasonably probable rezoning of a property, especially for undeveloped tracts of land that are adjacent or very close to similarly higher zoned parcels.
  • Ignoring the full impact of utility easements- Easement takings leave property owners paying property taxes on parcels that they no longer have control over or have the full use of. Currently, North Carolina law does not allow any improvements to exist within easement areas which include: buildings, storage buildings, billboards, signs, septic systems, wells, or fences. 
  • Failing to consider the loss of parking due to utility easements. Condemnors will argue that parking will be allowed in the future even though there is no guarantee of such allowances. These include permanent utility easements (PUE), drainage utility easements (DUE), and permanent drainage easements (PDE).
  • No damages to the remainder tract- Depending on the nature of the government’s taking, properties will often suffer damages to the remainder parcel due to the loss of parking, road frontage, accessibility, driveways, and signage, which are disregarded by condemnors. They may also neglect to consider light and noise pollution impacts on some properties.
  • Undervaluing temporary construction easement (TCE) impacts- Construction easements can impair accessibility, driveways, and other relevant factors to land value determinations.

Land Condemnation Attorneys Who Won’t Back Down

These techniques by condemnor appraisers can substantially lower the damages in an appraisal and offer. However, an experienced eminent domain attorney and their valuation experts can evaluate and consider all components of damage that North Carolina law allows, so you receive just compensation for your land.

At Henson Fuerst, our land condemnation lawyers will challenge the condemnor appraisers to recover the maximum, reasonable compensation for you and your property. If you are facing land condemnation and have questions about next steps to take, call our office at 919-781-1107 or submit a contact form on our website for a legal consultation today.