Just Compensation for Your Taken Property

Many factors go into determining fair compensation for your property. The government has a team working to calculate its idea of just compensation, but it may be far lower than you expect. Who’s looking out for you?

Eminent domain – Just compensation for your property


What is the Typical Process

When the government or a utility company operating under governmental authority decides to take your property under the power of eminent domain, the law states that fair compensation, known as “just compensation,” must be offered.

But in eminent domain, just compensation depends on more than a simple appraisal. Determining what constitutes “just compensation” is often at the heart of challenges to eminent domain.

Just compensation is typically defined as the impact, or loss, to the fair market value of your property. Fair market value does not consider what the seller would like to get for the property or the sentimental or other value that the seller attaches to the property. Instead, fair market value is defined as the highest price that a seller could get for a property from a knowledgeable buyer in a voluntary transaction (unlike eminent domain).

In other words, fair market value and the value of your land is a matter of opinion – and often negotiable. Before you agree to any offer, get a free case evaluation.

When you are notified that the government wants to take your private property under eminent domain, you may feel compelled to accept the first offer. However, this is not required, may not be in your best interest, and may not constitute just compensation.

The government (or another condemning authority) typically wants to get your property for the lowest amount possible. In our 100 years of combined experience, we’ve seen the government fail again and again to consider all of the complex factors that determine your property’s value – and how much compensation you may be owed – including:

  • Your property’s highest and best use – the highest value of the land, even if that’s not how the land is currently being used


  • Damages to the remainder of your land – the reduction in value of your remaining property if the government takes just a piece of it


  • True fair market value – a government appraisal is not always reflective of what a property would be worth on the open market


    • Relocation expenses – if your property no longer serves its purpose after the taking and you must move, many of those relocation costs should likely be included in your compensation


A qualified eminent domain lawyer can help a property owner fight for just compensation by working with experts such as:

  • Appraisers
  • Land planners
  • Civil engineers
  • Real estate agents
  • Surveyors

These experts can offer an independent evaluation of your property and seek out evidence to support your position that you deserve more compensation. At the NC Eminent Domain Law Firm, we have long-term relationships with experts from each of these fields and more to help us build our clients’ cases.

How does the condemning authority determine what it offers a property owner?

The condemner – let’s say it is the Department of Transportation – will have an appraiser analyze the property being taken and base its compensation offer on the result. However, that offer may not reflect fair market value at all.

Most property owners know what an appraisal is. Some know that there are multiple methods used by appraisers depending on the property, and different methods are used depending on the circumstances.

The three primary appraisal methods are:

Sales Comparison Approach

By looking at other similar properties’ sale prices, an appraiser can establish a value for the subject property. This is a common approach to appraising residential properties, but its conclusions may be incomplete in eminent domain cases. The sales comparison approach is also known as the market approach.

Cost Approach

This approach draws on the sales comparison approach to calculate the value of the land, then adds the cost of improvements on the land (minus the depreciation of those improvements) to arrive at a total value.

Income Approach

The income approach – also called the income capitalization approach – determines the value of the property based on the income it produces. There are a number of factors considered, including projected future income, and this kind of appraisal is vital in calculating compensation for takings of commercial and income-producing properties.

3 approaches to appraisals include sales comparison, cost, and income.
With different appraisal methods used for different properties depending on different market conditions, it’s easy to see why just compensation becomes an area of intense debate and negotiation. Consult with an experienced eminent domain attorney to try to ensure you’re not leaving any of your money on the table.

Determining fair market value for a partial taking

Partial takings, where the government is “only taking a piece,” are the most common type of eminent domain taking. Just compensation for the remaining property is related to the fair market value of the entire property but can get very tricky.

For example, let’s say you have a home or a business on one acre of land. The NCDOT comes along and wants to take 0.1 acres. Not ideal, but not the end of the world – but what if the partial taking makes your existing structures nonconforming with county building codes?

Or let’s say your property has unique features – maybe it has a natural spring or is adjacent to a main road your particular business relies on. How does anyone determine the fair market value of (or just compensation for) your land if there are no similar slivers of property with your unique features that have sold on the market?

And what about the damages caused to the remaining property? If the 0.1 acres taken include that natural spring, that could have a significant impact on the viability and value of your remaining land.

Before you agree to anything, speak with a knowledgeable attorney.

Powerful North Carolina eminent domain lawyers

At the North Carolina Eminent Domain Law Firm, we have experienced eminent domain lawyers, four of whom previously worked on behalf of the NCDOT. Let us help you fight for every bit of compensation you may deserve for your seized property.

There are only a handful of former NCDOT attorneys who now work for proeprty owners. We have four.
We work on a contingency fee basis, which means we advance all of the costs of building your eminent domain case and only collect a fee from any additional amount we secure for you over what the government offered.

Said another way, you cannot receive less total compensation than the initial offer by hiring us. The initial offer from the government is always 100% yours to keep. And if we don’t get you more money for your property, you don’t pay us anything. Guaranteed.

Since our firm began, we’ve increased the average initial compensation offer for our clients by more than 197%!1

Don’t simply accept the government’s offer for your property

Just because the government can use the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment to force you to sell your private property, that does not mean you have no rights. You do. And you are entitled to just compensation for what the government takes.

The government’s appraisal may be seriously undervaluing your property. Call the NC Eminent Domain Law Firm today at 1-877-393-4990 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.

Get a free case
evaluation today.

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
pressure or obligation to hire us after.

But please don’t wait to act. Waiting can hurt your case, and the cost is the same: free.

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