Right of Way Appraisal: Listening to Your Property Owners

Being a right of way appraiser can sometimes be a struggle, as you have to wear multiple hats at the same time.

At any given time, you have to…multiple hats

  1. Understand the project acquisition (put on your pseudo-engineer hat),
  2. Track down the property owner (detective hat),
  3. Set up a site inspection and describe the acquisition to the property ownership (agency representative hat),
  4. Hear out the property owner and understand what their concerns are with the acquisition area (good listener hat),
  5. Understand if those concerns contribute to a change in the fair market value of the property (appraiser hat),

… and all while remaining a 100% unbiased vessel of the market.

For me, one of the most important considerations when completing a right of way appraisal project is making that connection with the property owner and adequately understanding their concerns. If no contact is made with the property owner during the appraisal phase, then the acquisition agent has no idea of the concerns going into the negotiation process and may be blind-sided. Having an appraiser who is willing to go the extra mile, reach out not only via letter in the mail, but also by multiple phone calls, and even a LinkedIn message can sometimes do the trick (yes, I’ve done it before!). This allows the appraiser to meet with the property owner(s), hear their concerns, relay back some of those concerns to the agency, in the form of a Request for Information (RFI), and get those concerns answered or even remedied all before the acquisition phase begins.

One example of making that critical connection with the property owner was a recent roadway widening project. The property owner was very understanding of the project’s needs and construction in the manner proposed. The property owner was well versed and understood their property better than most other property owners that I meet. The owner adequately described their concerns to me, which was the possible removal of a driveway—something which wasn’t inherently clear in the mapping. I was then able to take that information back to the client (in the form of an RFI), and the acquisition mapping was changed to exclude that portion of the property so that the property owner’s secondary driveway would not be impacted. The property owner later disclosed that she was a retired engineer, so the proposed acquisition area mapping was a simple read for her. She thanked me multiple times for hearing her questions and working to ensure that the client fully understood the impacts. In this instance, we were able to remedy her main concern prior to the acquisition phase, serving both the property owner and client, and keeping the project on track.

Stories like this are the reason that I love being a right of way appraiser. I am actually helping the community with their transportation needs and am still able to hear the property owner’s concerns and address them to help move the project to completion.

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