Eminent domain glossary

Eminent domain glossary of useful terms to help you better understand the facts when discussing your potential eminent domain casesSome of the terms used to talk about eminent domain may be confusing. This eminent domain glossary of useful terms is being provided to help you better understand the facts when discussing eminent domain cases:


An appraiser offers an opinion about the value of your land.

The Department of Transportation has appraisers working for them to determine how much to offer you for your property. However, real estate valuation is not an exact science, and one appraiser’s opinion of the value of your property may vary widely from the opinion of another appraiser. An eminent domain attorney will work with an appraiser on your behalf to try to maximize the value of your property.


Condemnation refers to the process of taking private property for public use. The term should not be confused with condemning a property as a health or safety risk.

Fair market value

The fair market value of your property is that which a willing and informed buyer would pay you in the current market. The fair market value can be used as a starting point for negotiations in eminent domain proceedings.

Highest and best use

Highest and best use refers to the use of a property that produces the highest value. For example, if the property were to be used for commercial development, it may have a higher value, as opposed to if it were being used for residential purposes.

Inverse condemnation

The government may do things that lower the value of your property, and if you are not compensated for this, it is referred to as inverse condemnation. An example of inverse condemnation could be building an airfield near your home that creates excessive noise.

Just compensation

When the government takes your property under eminent domain, it is required to provide you with just compensation. If just compensation is provided, you should be in the same financial position as you were before the property taking. Most challenges to eminent domain revolve around disagreement over what amount truly constitutes just compensation in individual cases.


Your property must be determined necessary for public use in order for the government to take it under eminent domain. Further, the government must show that all of the portion of the property being taken is necessary for that public use project. In other words, if only 100 feet of property is needed to install utility lines, the government cannot take 200 feet.

Partial taking

Public use projects such as a road widening or utility installation may only require a portion of land. In such instances, the government may initiate a partial taking of your land – such as a strip of 100 or 200 feet for these examples – and would provide compensation for that portion of land.

Public use

The government must show that your property is necessary for public use in order to take it under eminent domain. Typical examples of public use projects include construction of new schools, police or fire stations, and libraries, road projects and utility projects.

Total taking

A total taking occurs when the government must take all of your property for a public project. Just compensation must be provided for the full value of the property in such a case.

100+ years of combined experience

If you have been notified that the government plans to take your property under eminent domain, call the NC Eminent Domain Law Firm at 1-877-393-4990 for a free evaluation of your case.

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There are only a handful of attorneys in NC who practice eminent domain exclusively, and even fewer with NCDOT experience. We have several. That’s why its worth getting in touch with us for a free case evaluation.

Here’s how it works:

1) Tell us about your situation.

2) We research your property as needed, using DOT maps, our own technology, and experience to see the exact effects.

3) We let you know what we think a fair offer would be. This evaluation is free, and there’s no
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