The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires that the government pay private property owners “just compensation” for any property that it takes through its power of eminent domain. Naturally, as a property owner, you might worry about what qualifies as “just.” Will the amount offered by the government be fair and in keeping with what you could have received from an ordinary buyer?
Fairness is in the eye of the beholder. If the property in question is your home, you might love it and never want to leave it. Perhaps you designed it yourself. Perhaps you saw your children take their first steps on the front lawn. For you, the “fair” value of this piece of property is likely very high, if not priceless.
Unfortunately, this subjective evaluation of fairness is not the metric by which the government will measure your compensation.
Instead, the government will rely on objective evaluations of your property’s fair market value. After giving you a notice of its intent to take the property, the government will typically have a property appraiser visit your house and land and conduct a formal analysis of its value based upon its condition, resources, market value as compared to other recently sold properties of a similar size and type, and other factors.
While you can challenge this evaluation by hiring your own appraiser, your appraiser will look at similar factors. Thus, the “fairness” of the compensation offered to you by the government will be based upon professional real estate appraisers evaluations, not upon your subjective sense of the land’s worth. Still, property appraisal is not an exact science, and it's entirely possible for two different appraisers to come to very different conclusions.
Go to the main eminent domain FAQ page.