The sole question raised by this appeal in the present expropriation suit is whether the trial court erred in fixing the amount awarded to the property owner for the taking.
After trial, the district court awarded the owner the sum of $30,000 for his improved city property. The plaintiff school board's appeal seeks reduction of this award to $21,125; the defendant property owner has answered the appeal, requesting that the award be increased to $47,175.
The property expropriated
The measure of fair compensation for property to be awarded the owner in expropriation proceedings is ordinarily "the market value, or the price which would be agreed upon at a voluntary sale between a willing seller and a willing purchaser, taking into consideration all available uses to which the land might be put," State through Department of Highways v. Ragusa, 234 La. 51, 99 So.2d 20, 21, and cases therein cited. See also comprehensive Comment, "Expropriation—A Survey of Louisiana Law", 18 La.L.Rev. 509 (1958) at 538 et seq.
The market value placed upon the subject property by the expert realtors testifying on behalf of the school board was $21,125. They arrived at this figure by taking into consideration recent sales of, and by capitalization of the rentals of, allegedly comparable property. Because of the great discrepancy between such appraisal and the two valuations ($35,000 and $47,054 respectively) of the property by the defendant owner's witnesses, the trial court upon its own motion appointed realtor Cliff Probst as the court's expert to examine and evaluate the property.
Able counsel for the school board appellant argues that the court erred in so doing and urges that instead the lower valuation by the school board's expert realtors should have been accepted, because: (1) the school board's appraisals (unlike that by the court's expert) were based upon recent sales of comparable property, which the jurisprudence indicates to be the best guide to determine the market value of property sought to be expropriated, State v. Sullivan, 235 La. 314, 103 So.2d 458, Recreation and Park Commission of East Baton Rouge Parish v. Perkins, 231 La. 869, 93 So.2d 198; (2) in arriving at a market value by capitalization of income, the rental amounts and the rate of capitalization used by the school board's realtors were allegedly better based upon comparable property and less a matter of individual opinion than were such figures utilized by the court's expert in arriving at his higher valuation.
As to the first argument, the only recent allegedly comparable sales upon which the school board's valuation was made were three acquisitions of, and an agreement to buy at a certain price, properties in the immediate neighborhood by the school board itself in the course of the same acquisition program for construction of a public school for which the present property is sought to be expropriated. We think the trial court did not err in accepting the opinion of the court-appointed expert that these could not be regarded as comparable sales because they were not "willing seller" transactions. Aside from the obvious lack of comparability of some of the properties,
There being no recent comparable sales by which to appraise the current market value of the subject property, the trial court could properly accept the testimony of the expert appointed by it, who attempted to establish market value by
Mr. Probst, the court-appointed expert, reached his capitalized value of the property as follows: From gross estimated annual rental value of $3,360,
In estimating market value by the capitalization method, the school board's experts estimated a gross annual rental of $2,563,
Likewise, despite the appellant's attack upon the court's expert's using a capitalization rate of 7½% return upon the net revenues in arriving at the market value herein, we are unable to hold that the court erred in accepting the expert's testimony that such was the rate of return to be expected by an investor purchasing the
Insofar as the defendant-appellee's demand for an increase in the award asserted by answer to the appeal, we may briefly state that the testimony of the expert realtor testifying on behalf of the defendant owner shows that he arrived at a much higher valuation than did all the other experts by using as allegedly of comparable nature the sale or rental of properties which are patently more valuable than the subject property. The other witness as to value testifying for defendant was not an expert realtor, and it was within the discretion of the trial court to assign far less weight to such testimony than to that of the qualified experts. Cf., Town of Slaughter v. Appleby, 235 La. 324, 103 So.2d 461.
The trial court's factual determination as to the value of the property expropriated, reached after hearing the witnesses and viewing the property and then only after educing the testimony of a court-appointed expert who was cross-examined by both parties, is entitled to great weight; and being neither manifestly excessive nor manifestly insufficient in amount will be affirmed. State v. Tramuta, 234 La. 741, 101 So.2d 450; State v. Burkes, 234 La. 659, 101 So.2d 193; State v. Sauls, 234 La. 241, 99 So.2d 97; State through Department of Highways v. Ragusa, 234 La. 51, 99 So.2d 20.
For the reasons assigned, the judgment of the District Court is affirmed.