We often need to put on evidence about the value of assets. We try to use experts, such as appraisers, auctioneers, or brokers. But sometimes we just do not have an expert.
On occasion, the only testimony available is that of the owner. Under Wisconsin law, owners are competent to testify as to the value of his or her home.
The weight to be given to that testimony, though, depends on large measure upon the basis for that testimony. Owners who reach a conclusion as to value based upon the tax bill or having viewed an online service, such as Zillow or Trulia, offer little to the court. They may not even be permitted to testify about what they saw on the tax or internet records, as that testimony may be heresay.
We teach our clients what is important about testimony and how they can develop perceptions which may be valuable to their case and convincing to the court. For example, an owner’s perception of value may be based upon the original purchase price and the amount spent on improvements. A valid and admissible perception might also be arrived at by study of properties which have been listed in the neighborhood and a comparison of those properties to the owner’s home.
We generally do not like to rely solely upon the owner’s testimony. We would much rather have testimony from an expert. Experts may be appraisers or even brokers experienced in selling homes in the area.
Valuation is often a critical issue in bankruptcy cases and should never be taken lightly. Be sure you understand how your assets are likely to be valued and the effect that value may have on your case.