Legislation was introduced in the Pennsylvania General Assembly to expand the ability of real estate sales professionals to provide Broker Price Opinions and Comparative Market Analyses outside of the real estate brokerage context. This legislation would amend the Real Estate Licensing and Registration Act and the Real Estate Appraisers Certification Act.

A Comparative Market Analysis or Broker Price Opinion is developed by a licensed real estate broker, associate broker, or salesperson and provides an estimate of the probable selling price or leasing price of a particular parcel of property. Currently, a Pennsylvania licensed real estate broker or salesperson is permitted to perform a CMA in the real estate brokerage context for “the purpose of determining the asking/offering price for the property by a specific actual or potential consumer or for the purpose of securing a listing agreement with a seller.” Brokers and salespersons are currently prohibited from doing CMAs outside the brokerage context because a value or price opinion provided for a fee is defined in PA law as an “appraisal” and requires an appropriate appraisal license or certification to be held by the individual performing that work

The legislation – SB 869 – was introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate on April 18, 2013. It is sponsored by Sen. Robert M. Tomlinson and has 16 co-sponsors. Senator Tomlinson is the Chair of the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee.
 

One of the communities hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy is preparing to use eminent domain to take easements from oceanfront homeowners who are holding up a beach replenishment project, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. These homeowners won’t sign easements that would allow federal officials to carry out the work. Mantoloking saw every one of its 521 homes damaged. The Mayor stated the town has no choice if it wants to survive. He said Mantoloking has either signed easements or has verbal commitments from 121 of 128 oceanfront homeowners.

The Bipartisan Policy Center issued a report proposing changes to current appraisal policy. Although it was primarily focused on reducing the government’s role in the nation’s housing finance system, it had appraisal related recommendations. For example, it recommended banning the use of distressed home sales as comparables which the BPC said was helping to decrease local home values and buyers’ ability to secure financing.

The BPC Housing Commission is led by former U.S. Sens. George Mitchell, Mel Martinez and Kit Bond and former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros. The report titled “Housing America’s Future: New Directions for National Policy,” can be found bipartisanpolicy.org/sites/default/files/BPC_Housing%20Report_web.pdf
 

The Appraiser Qualification Board issued the Second Exposure Draft of Proposed Interpretation and Revision to the Real Property Appraiser Qualification Criteria. The AQB is an independent board of The Appraisal Foundation and composed of at least five practicing appraisers who are appointed by the Foundation’s Board of Trustees for three-year terms. Under the provisions of Title XI of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA), the AQB establishes the minimum education, experience and examination requirements for real property appraisers to obtain a state certification. In addition, the AQB performs a number of ancillary duties related to real property and personal property appraiser qualifications.

“In 2006, the AQB issued an Interpretation to the Criteria, addressing continuing education for appraisers returning from active military duty. Based on recent events such as Hurricane Sandy, the AQB has recognized that appraisers impacted by a state- or federally-declared disaster may be similarly situated,” the board wrote. “Therefore, the AQB is exposing a revision to the previously adopted Interpretation (that will apply to the current, or 2008 Criteria), as well as a revision to the already adopted Criteria (that becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2015).”

The changes can be found at The Appraisal Foundation’s website appraisalfoundation.sharefile.com/d/s5763fd573e94aafa.
 

The North Carolina House of Representatives has passed legislation to amend the state Constitution to limit certain eminent domain powers. House Bill 8 would specifically prohibit condemnation of private property except for a public use and provides for the payment of just compensation with right of trial by jury in all condemnation cases. The N.C. House passed the Bill 110-8.

The Bill – an obvious continued reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London, Conn. (2005) – would put the constitutional amendment on the General Election ballot in November 2014. It does not appear to change the law other than to specifically include it in that state’s constitution.
 

I am often asked whether governmental actions can cause a taking even if the government does not formally initiate an eminent domain case. These cases are known as "de facto" or "inverse condemnations" and are difficult to prove. However, establishing a de facto taking can have substantial benefits.

 

The Commonwealth Court recently affirmed a trial court’s ruling finding that we proved a de facto taking in Philadelphia.

 

Our client was in the process of developing a property for residential condominiums. It took substantial steps including obtaining architectural and engineering designs and lining up financing. PennDOT, however, targeted the property for a road project and announced in August, 2006 that it was going to condemn the property. PennDOT did not initiate a condemnation action until May, 2009. However, we alleged that PennDOT’s action destroyed any opportunity to develop the property for its "highest and best use" – condominiums – and caused a de facto taking.

 

After a two day hearing involving testimony of four experts and numerous fact witnesses, the Judge ruled that PennDOT’s actions constituted a de facto taking by December 2006. PennDOT appealed. After briefing and oral argument, the Commonwealth Court affirmed that ruling and found that we proved a de facto taking.

 

This has a significant impact on the case. For example, the property will now be valued as of December 2006 and not May 2009. PennDOT will also be required to pay professional fees (attorneys, experts, etc.) for the entire case.

PennDOT announced the award of the largest construction contract in agency history, a $212.3 million contract to improve Interstate 95 and its interchange at Cottman Avenue (Route 73) in Northeast Philadelphia. According to PennDOT, “This record-setting contract is for the second stage of our two-stage program” for this project. PennDOT awarded the low-bid $212,325,000 contract to Walsh Construction Company II, LLC of Canonsburg, Pa. The contract is financed with 90 percent federal and 10 percent state funds. Construction is scheduled to begin in August and finish in late summer 2017.

I am often asked whether governmental actions can cause a taking even if the government does not formally initiate an eminent domain case. These cases are known as “de facto” or inverse condemnations and are difficult to prove. However, establishing a de facto taking can have substantial benefits. We recently were successful in establishing a de facto taking in Philadelphia.

Our client was in the process of developing a property for residential condominiums. It took substantial steps including obtaining architectural and engineering designs and lining up financing. PennDOT, however, targeted the property for a road project and announced in August, 2006 that it was going to condemn the property. PennDOT did not initiate a condemnation action until May, 2009. However, we alleged that PennDOT’s action destroyed any opportunity to develop the property for its “highest and best use” – condominiums – and caused a de facto taking.

After a two day hearing involving testimony of four experts and numerous fact witnesses, the Judge ruled that PennDOT’s actions constituted a de facto taking by December 2006. This has a significant impact on the case. For example, the property will now be valued as of December 2006 and not May 2009. PennDOT will also be required to pay professional fees (attorneys, experts, etc.) for the entire case.

PennDOT has shown signs that it is pursuing property acquisitions for Route 422 projects in Berks and Montgomery Counties (PA). PennDOT published a notice on September 3, 2011 in The Pottstown Mercury newspaper that it intends to acquire property in Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township for that portion of its 422 reconstruction project. Property owners are also receiving notices of potential acquisition for various other 422 projects.

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court recently ruled that PennDOT met its burden to condemn agricultural property for a project in Lebanon County. In Dept. of Transp. v. Agricultural Lands Condemnation Approval Board, PennDOT sought to condemn productive agricultural lands for a transportation use. Pursuant to the Farmland Protection Policy Act, the Agricultural Lands Condemnation Approval Board considered the PennDOT project. It found that PennDOT did not prove that there was no reasonable and prudent alternative to the alternative selected by PennDOT and denied PennDOT’s request to use its condemnation power to acquire the lands. On appeal, the Commonwealth Court reversed holding that the Board acted capriciously and ignored overwhelming evidence that there was no reasonable and prudent alternative to the condemnation of the lands.