United Cmty. Bank (Georgia) v. Wolfe, No. COA14-1309, 2015 WL 4081940 (N.C. Ct. App. July 7, 2015).
After borrowers defaulted on a loan secured by real property, the lender foreclosed and bought the property at the foreclosure sale for less than the outstanding debt. The lender brought a post-foreclosure action for a deficiency judgment. Under North Carolina law, where the foreclosing lender is the high bidder at a foreclosure sale, the debtor may defend a deficiency action on the statutory ground that the property was actually “fairly worth” the amount owed to the creditor. Id. at *1. The trial court granted summary judgment for the lender, concluding that a borrower affidavit stating merely the conclusion that the property was “fairly worth the amount of the debt” did not suffice to create a jury issue. Id.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals of North Carolina reversed, holding that the borrower’s conclusory affidavit was sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact requiring jury resolution. The court explained that where the value of real property is a factual issue, the property owner’s opinion of value is presumed competent to prove the property’s value. Unlike any other witness, a property owner need not establish the owner’s qualifications before expressing an opinion of the property’s value. The lender presented “strong evidence” suggesting that the property was not worth the amount of the debt owed at the time of foreclosure – the lender’s appraiser valued the property at the bank’s foreclosure bid, and the lender ultimately sold the property for far less than its winning bid. Id. at *4. The court nevertheless concluded that the borrower’s opinion of the value of the property was substantial evidence for a jury to conclude otherwise.