Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Fair Market Value Definition:

The hypothetical most probable price that could be obtained for a property by average, informed purchasers.

Related Terms: Appraisal, Valuation, Appraisement

picture of pet rockThe concept of fair market value is not new to the law. In Book 3, page 305 of Justinian's Institutes, circa 533 AD, these words were used: tantum bona valent, quantum vendi possunt (things are worth what they will sell for).

In Aikman v R., Justice Bowman of Canada's Tax Court adopted these words in regards to fair market value:

"....the words must be construed in accordance with the common understanding of them. That common understanding I take to mean the highest price an asset might reasonably be expected to bring if sold by the owner in the normal method applicable to the asset in question in the ordinary course of business in a market not exposed to any undue stresses and composed of willing buyers and sellers dealing at arm's length and under no compulsion to buy or sell.

"I would add that the foregoing understanding as I have expressed it in a general way includes what I conceive to be the essential element which is an open and unrestricted market in which the price is hammered out between willing and informed buyers and sellers on the anvil of supply and demand.

"These definitions are equally applicable to fair market value and market value and it is doubtful if the use of the word fair adds anything to the words 'market value'.

"The dominant word here is evidently value, in determining which the price that can be secured on the market -- if there be a market for the property (and there is a market for shares listed on the stock exchange) -- is the best guide."

To this must be considered the words of Justice Kellock of Canada's Supreme Court in Smith and Rudd (1950):

"In determining the fair market value where there is no competitive market at the date as of which the value is to be ascertained, other indicia may be resorted to....

"There may be reasonable prospects of the return of a market, in which case it might not be unreasonable for the assessor to evaluate the present worth of such prospects and the probability of an investor being found who would invest his money in the strength of such prospects; and there may be other relevant circumstances which it might be proper to take into account as evidence of its actual capital value."

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