When Benchmark Agribusiness started in 1988, most of our appraisal requests came from bankers. That's not true anymore. We now do just as many appraisals for attorneys as bankers. It's not hard to figure out why when you consider all of the different reasons the legal profession needs appraisals.

Support services we've provided for our attorney clients in the past include, but are not limited to:

Forensic Appraising - How can you be in the television age of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation without working the word "forensic" into the conversation? Forensics apply to the appraisal industry, too. There is a host of background information about any farm available at courthouses, county engineer's offices, USDA offices and on the World Wide Web, but you need to know where to find it and how to use it. Did you know that the Mitchell County Engineer's Office has an aerial photo of the entire county as of 1976 that shows where nearly all of the drainage tile lines were at that time? We do. If you don't know when a building was built, we can probably guess it within 10 years. Did you know that Harvestore silos first started installing white roof caps instead of blue in 1967? We do.

Chattel Appraising - Many times it is also important to have an inventory of not only the buildings and land, but also of the stored grain, livestock and livestock feed. If you need the machinery and rolling stock appraised, we can refer you to well-qualified folks who specialize in the area.

Expert Testimony Regarding Economic Damages - Fred Greder, the principal appraiser, has had the opportunity to testify several times in lawsuits where livestock confinement sites have been accused of causing a reduction of value to rural residential acreages that surround the facility. Greder has developed a list of at least ten different factors that would have a bearing on whether proximity to a livestock facility would cause the value of the neighboring property to go down. Some of the factors aren't as readily apparent as you might think. We also have experience in determining what, if any, impacts are caused by other types of development or usage on neighboring properties.

IRS Code Section 2032A - "Special Use Valuations" - Since December 31, 1976, estate representatives of those who have died have been permitted to elect on the federal estate tax return to value eligible real property devoted to farming or other closely-held business use at its special use or "use" value rather than fair market value. The most important ingredient involved in the "special use valuation" process is gathering cropland cash rent information. We are fortunate to have developed an extensive network of contacts with landlords, professional farm managers and attorneys providing us insight into the current cash rent situation throughout the region.

Retrospective Appraisals - Two or three times a year we get a call wondering whether we can tell somebody what a farm was worth 5, 10, 15 or more years ago. A divorce settlement may hinge on the value of the farm at the time of the marriage, or Aunt Gertrude's 10-year-old estate still hasn't been settled. No problem. We have sales databases going back over 25 years and farmland market surveys going back 40 years. All that practice at estimating the original age of houses and outbuildings comes in very handy for these retrospective appraisals, too.

Fractional & Minority Interest Discounts - A fractional interest in a farm probably won't be worth as much per acre as the whole farm for several reasons. Those reasons include longer marketing times, partitioning costs, drainage issues and reduced field efficiency. The size of the discount depends on several factors. We've never had one of our fractional interest discounts questioned by the Internal Revenue Service.

Partitioning Consulting - This is a growing part of the appraisal practice. Not every member of the "baby boom generation" has the same goals for the farm they inherited from the "greatest generation". Sometimes the only way to satisfy everybody is to split the farm. That is not as simple as it sounds. The sum of the parts might not be equal to the total. We can help minimize the reduction in value. Sometimes splitting the farm sounds like the expedient thing to do but, it might not be the effective thing to do. We can help sort out the difference.

Alternative Valuation Dates for Estates - Each estate has the option to elect to value the farmland at an "alternative valuation date". The "alternative valuation date" is six months after the original date of death. Usually, the fee to develop the alternative valuation is much less than the original fee because of the head start.

Private Auction Consultation - Private auctions conducted by attorneys - also called sealed bid auctions - have become particularly popular since the bio-fuels industry ignited the land markets in 2006. The title of the company newsletter of November 2005 was "The Do's & Don'ts of Sealed Bid Auctions". Check it out. (That newsletter is archived along with all of the other Benchmark company newsletters on the Newsletter page of this website.) We are available to help walk you and your clients through the process, starting with the very important decision of whether the private auction is the appropriate way to go. Not every farm should be sold by auction. Greder has attended several private auctions (even submitted a bid or two) and has become familiar with the dynamics of the auction.

Even if you don't see your specific rural real estate need outlined above, Benchmark Agribusiness may be able to help your law firm serve its farm-owning clients more effectively and completely. Call us at 641-424-6983 to find out.