If your property or a portion of your property is going to be taken for an eminent domain project, either by the government or by a private company using eminent domain authority, how do you figure out what it's worth? How should you be compensated for what's about to be taken from you?

Well, if they're taking the entire property, it's fairly straightforward because it's really a valuation of the entire property similar to a sale is if you were selling it voluntarily. But in most cases, their property builder, project builder rather, is trying not to take the entire property, just as little as they can to do what they're trying to do, whether it's a roadway or a pipeline or a transmission line.

You want to look at is the first element of the value of what you need to be compensated for under the law is the "take" itself - the portion that's going to be taken. What is it worth? That's based on what is the entire property worth and how much of that property is being taken. And that obviously varies depending on what comparable properties you use, and there's often a fight about what are proper "comps" that really reflect the full value of your property.

The second value factor is what's called "cost to cure". Cost of cure relates to anything that is removed or damaged and has to be replaced afterwards. This can include fencing, gates, signage, driveways that affect your home or your business, whatever's being affected by this project. If that has to be fixed or replaced afterwards, what is the full value of all that? 

The third value factor is one that's a lunique to eminent domain, which is "damages to the remainder". If a highway project is going to take a strip of property in front of your business, how is that going to affect the value of the remaining property, particularly your ability to sell that property down the road or use that property to generate income through your business?

This is a unique element of eminent domain. And that's why a lot of times, you end up having to use the services of an eminent domain appraiser, who is used to valuing the three elements. First, the "take" of the property itself, the portion that's taken. The second part is the cost to cure. And the third is the "damages to the remainder", which can sometimes be more valuable than the other two combined. 

David Todd
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Austin TX Family Law, Personal Injury and Eminent Domain Attorney