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Michigan Family Law Blog

Should I Use Zillow in a Divorce to Calculate My Home's Value?

Posted by Cameron Goulding | May 25, 2022

Divorce is a stressful process for anyone to endure.  There is uncertainty about the future as it relates to most aspects of one's life, including their financial future, division of property, alimony, debt division, custody, parenting time and child support.  Many people wonder where they will live or whether they will be able to stay in the marital home.  The marital home is still often the nest egg for many couples as well as the home where they live and perhaps where the kids were raised or live.

People who want to keep the marital home will often look at Zillow in order to try to determine a value for the home when considering whether they will be able to keep the home.  I recommend against doing this for many reasons, including the fact that Zillow states on its site that it is basically for entertainment purposes only.  To use this to try and determine even a starting value for such a valuable and important asset is a mistake, it can give a person a false impression that often will persist throughout the case.  This can lead to serious miscalculations of how much money one might receive from the sale of the home or how much one might need to buy-out the other spouse's equity which in turn can cause future financial issues or, at the very least, doubt and disappointment when attempting to finalize the divorce settlement.  

The way it really works in a divorce case is as follows.  Typically the parties will either sell the home and divide the proceeds or one spouse will keep the home and buy-out the other spouse's equity.  This is most often done through refinancing, however it can also be done by offsetting other assets if both parties agree in a settlement or the court orders it after a trial.  To determine the value, the attorneys will either agree to use a neutral appraiser and select and appraiser that has a lot of experience not only in appraising homes but also in defending their appraisal value in a court setting.  Sometimes each side will get an appraisal and if the appraisals are not relatively similar, then both experts will have to testify and the mediator, arbitrator or judge will have to decide what the true value is for the purposes of the divorce and division of property.  Sometimes, the court will appoint a third appraiser that the judge knows and trusts as an independent neutral appraiser.  Given the costs of the three appraisals and paying the experts to testify, it is often more effective for the attorneys to choose one appraiser when that is possible.

If you have questions about what will happen with your home or any other concerns regarding divorce or separation, please do not hesitate to contact is to schedule a consultation. 

About the Author

Cameron Goulding

A native of Oakland County, Michigan, family lawyer Cameron C. Goulding has been providing counseling and legal services of the highest caliber to individuals and families in Southeastern Michigan for over 24 years. Mr. Goulding grew up in Oakland County, Michigan and graduated from Birmingham G...

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