Real Estate and Eminent Domain
Eminent domain is a process in which an agency attempts to acquire private property for the use of a public project. For example, a city may determine that a train system is necessary to address traffic concerns, so they purchase property on the desired train route.
When property owners are notified of an agency’s desire to assert eminent domain, they are likely to be unsure of what to expect from the process and what their rights are regarding the acquisition of their property. Here, the real estate attorneys from Froerer & Miles, which serves the Ogden, UT, and Layton, UT, areas, explain the eminent domain process, and how property owners can ensure their rights are protected.
How Does the Eminent Domain Process Start?
The eminent domain process starts with the property owner being notified that there is a desired project that requires the use of their land or property. At this point, the property owner is also notified that the property will be appraised so that fair market value can be determined. The purchase price that will be offered to the property owner is based on the established fair market value.
Determining Fair Market Value
To determine the fair market value of a property, the agency must hire an independent appraiser who is accredited in the state and familiar with property values in the area. The appraiser must physically examine the property before determining the fair market value. Property owners are free to communicate with the appraiser regarding any information that could affect the property value, such as renovations or upgrades.
After completing the appraisal, the appraiser must write a report that details their determination of the property’s fair market value, as well as the reason for their determination. Any purchase offer made after the appraisal is completed should be no less than the determined fair market value.
Do I Have to Accept a Purchase Offer?
Property owners often believe that they are obligated to accept a purchase offer made under eminent domain, but that is not the case. A property owner actually has several choices regarding eminent domain and fair market value, including:
- Accept the purchase offer
- Obtain your own appraisal of the property and negotiate fair market value
- Decline the purchase offer and force the agency to file an eminent domain action in court
An agency who is attempting to acquire property should make every reasonable effort to do so through a negotiated purchase. However, if the agency and property owner cannot agree on fair market value, the agency is responsible for proving to the court that the public interest necessitates the project, that the property is necessary for the project, and that a reasonable purchase offer has been made.
Do I Need a Real Estate Attorney?
When a property owner is notified of eminent domain and the intent to establish fair market value of their property, it is highly advisable to hire a real estate attorney. Knowledgeable real estate attorneys, such as those at our Ogden law firm, can assist property owners in establishing the fair market value of their property and in negotiating a favorable purchase offer. An attorney can also assist in fighting against a project that is not necessary to the public’s best interest so that they can maintain control of their property.
If you are involved in a situation of eminent domain, or have any other real estate concerns, the attorneys at Froerer & Miles can be of assistance. To schedule a consultation with our legal team, send us a message online or call (801) 621-2690 at your earliest convenience.