On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division, Bergen County.
Crane, Milmed and King. The opinion of the court was delivered by Crane, P.J.A.D.
Defendants Leon W. Koziol and Genevieve Koziol, former owners of a two-acre parcel of meadowland real property in East Rutherford, appeal from a final judgment entered in the Law Division adjudging the value of the condemned property to be $137,000.
Defendants contend that the trial judge erred in ruling that their appraisal expert witness could not testify as to what the
purchaser of a comparable parcel of realty told the appraiser about whether the property was filled. Our review is somewhat hindered by the fact that defendants' counsel did not, as he was entitled to under R. 1:7-3, make a specific offer of what he expected to prove by the answer of the witness. See Duffy v. Bill , 32 N.J. 278, 294 (1960); Farber v. Margolin , 46 N.J. Super. 557, 561-565 (App.Div.1957). Nevertheless, it does appear from the record that counsel sought to elicit from the witness what the purchaser had told the witness relative to whether the parcel was filled or not. In one question the witness was asked: "Can you tell us what Albert Frasetto told you relative to the condition of the property when he bought it?"
Later the witness was asked: "Did you regarding that important valuation factor, inquire of the purchaser to that property regarding fill and its affect on the purchase price?"
The witness answered, "Yes, I did." and was then asked: "Can you tell us what the seller [sic] told you in that regard?"
Objections to all of the questions were sustained on the ground that they called for hearsay. The trial judge construed N.J.S.A. 2A:83-1 as permitting testimony of a witness as to the sales price as told to him by someone else but ruled that the statute did not permit other hearsay testimony as to factors affecting the selling price. While we would have preferred to have an offer of proof on the record, from the questions asked and the ruling of the trial judge, the issue is sufficiently clear to justify our review. State v. Pollack , 43 N.J. 34, 40 (1964).
In our view the trial judge took too narrow and restrictive a view of the purpose of N.J.S.A. 2A:83-1. The statute provides that:
In any action or proceeding for the acquisition or sale of land, or any interest or interests therein, or on review of the assessment for taxes of any real property, any person offered as a witness in any such action or proceeding shall be competent to testify as to sales of comparable land, contiguous or adjacent to the land in question, or in the vicinity or locality thereof, from information or
knowledge of such sales, obtained from the owner, seller, purchaser, lessee or occupant of such comparable land, or from information obtained from the broker or brokers who negotiated or who are familiar with or cognizant of such sales, which testimony when so offered, shall ...