About Real Estate Appraisals

The Real Estate Appraisal, property valuation or land valuation is the practice of developing an opinion of the value of real property, usually its Market Value. The need for appraisals arises from the heterogeneous nature of property as an investment class: no two properties are identical, and all properties differ from each other in their location - which is one of the most important determinants of their value. So there cannot exist a centralised Walrasian auction setting for the trading of property assets, as there exists for trade in corporate stock. The absence of a market-based pricing mechanism determines the need for an expert appraisal/valuation of real estate/property.

Although some areas require no license or certification at all, a real estate appraisal is generally performed by a licensed or certified appraiser (in many countries known as a Property Valuer or Land Valuer and in British English as a "valuation surveyor"). If the appraiser's opinion is based on Market Value, then it must also be based on the Highest and Best Use of the real property. For mortgage valuations of improved residential property in the US, the appraisal is most often reported on a standardized form, such as the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report. Appraisals of more complex property (income producing, raw land) are usually reported in a narrative appraisal report.

There are several types and definitions of value sought by a real estate appraisal:

  • Market Value – The price at which an asset would trade in a competitive Walrasian auction setting. Market Value is usually interchangeable with Open Market Value or Fair Value. International Valuation Standards (IVS) define Market Value as: Market Value is the estimated amount for which a property should exchange on the date of valuation between a willing buyer and a willing seller in an arms-length transaction after proper marketing wherein the parties had each acted knowledgeably, prudently, and without compulsion.
  • Value-in-use – The net present value (NPV) of a cash flow that an asset generates for a specific owner under a specific use. Value-in-use is the value to one particular user, and is usually below the market value of a property.
  • Investment value - is the value to one particular investor, and is usually higher than the market value of a property.
  • Insurable value - is the value of real property covered by an insurance policy. Generally it does not include the site value.
  • Liquidation value -- may be analyzed as either a forced liquidation or an orderly liquidation and is a commonly sought standard of value in bankruptcy proceedings. It assumes a seller who is compelled to sell after an exposure period which is less than the market-normal timeframe.

In the US, appraisals are performed to a certain standard of value (foreclosure value, fair market value, distressed sale value, investment value). The most commonly used definition of value is Market Value. While USPAP does not define Market Value, it provides general guidance for how Market Value should be defined:

a type of value, stated as an opinion, that presumes the transfer or sale of a property as of a certain date, under specific conditions set forth in the definition of the term identified by the appraiser as applicable in an appraisal.

Thus, the definition of value used in an appraisal or CMA analysis and report is a set of assumptions about the market in which the subject property may transact. It becomes the basis for selecting comparable data for use in the analysis. These assumptions will vary from definition to definition but generally fall into three categories:

Three approaches to value - There are three general groups of methodologies for determining value. These are usually referred to as the "three approaches to value"which are generally independent of each other:

* The cost approach    * The sales comparison approach    * The income approach

The appraiser using three approaches will determine which one or more of these approaches may be applicable, based on the scope of work determination, and from that develop an appraisal analysis. Costs, income, and sales vary widely from one situation to the next, and particular importance is given to the specific characteristics of the subject.

Appraisals of properties that are typically purchased by investors may give greater weight to the income approach, while small retail or office properties, often purchased by owner-users, may give greater weighting to the sales comparison approach. While this may seem simple, it is not always obvious.

The cost approach was formerly called the summation approach. The theory is that the value of a property can be estimated by summing the land value and the depreciated value of any improvements. The value of the improvements is often referred to by the abbreviation RCNLD (reproduction cost new less depreciation or replacement cost new less depreciation). Reproduction refers to reproducing an exact replica. Replacement cost refers to the cost of building a house or other improvement which has the same utility, but using modern design, workmanship and materials. In practice, appraisers use replacement cost and then deduct a factor for any functional disutility associated with the age of the subject property.

In most instances when the cost approach is involved, the overall methodology is a hybrid of the cost and sales comparison approaches. For example, while the replacement cost to construct a building can be determined by adding the labor, material, and other costs, land values and depreciation must be derived from an analysis of comparable data.

The cost approach is considered reliable when used on newer structures, but the method tends to become less reliable for older properties. The cost approach is often the only reliable approach when dealing with special use properties.

The sales comparison approach in a real estate appraisal is based primarily on the principle of substitution. This approach assumes a prudent individual will pay no more for a property than it would cost to purchase a comparable substitute property. The approach recognizes that a typical buyer will compare asking prices and seek to purchase the property that meets his or her wants and needs for the lowest cost. In developing the sales comparison approach, the state licensed real estate appraiser attempts to interpret and measure the actions of parties involved in the marketplace, including buyers, sellers, and investors.

Method of Data Collection Data are collected on recent sales of properties similar to the subject being valued, called comparables. Sources of comparable data include real estate publications, public records, buyers, seller, real estate brokers and/or agents, appraisers, and others. Important details of each comparable sale are described in the appraisal report. Since comparable sales are not always identical to the subject property, adjustments are sometimes make for date of sale, location, style, bathrooms, square foot, site size, etc. The main idea is to simulate the price that would have been paid if each comparable sale were identical to the subject property.If the adjustment to the comparable is superior to the subject, a downward adjustment is necessary. Likewise, if the adjustment to the comparable is inferior to the subject, an upward adjustment is necessary. From the analysis of the group of adjusted sales prices of the comparable sales, the state licensed real estate appraiser selects an indicator of value that is representative of the subject property.

Steps in the Sales Comparison Approach 1. Research the market to obtain information pertaining to sales, listings, pending sales that are similar to the subject property. 2. Investigate the market data to determine whether they are factually correct and accurate. 3. Determine relevant units of comparison (e.g., sales price per square foot), and develop a compararive analysis for each. 4. Compare the subject and comparable sales according to the elements of comparison and adjust as appropriate. 5. Reconcile the multiple value indications that result from the adjustment of the comparable sales into a single value indication.

The income capitalization approach is used to value commercial and investment properties. Because it is intended to directly reflect or model the expectations and behaviors of typical market participants, this approach is generally considered the most applicable valuation technique for income-producing properties, where sufficient market data exists to supply the necessary inputs and parameters for this approach.

In a commercial income-producing property this approach capitalizes an income stream into a value indication. This can be done using revenue multipliers or capitalization rates applied to the first-year Net Operating Income. The Net Operating Income (NOI) is gross potential income (GPI), less vacancy and collection loss (= Effective Gross Income) less operating expenses (but excluding debt service, income taxes, and/or depreciation charges applied by accountants).

Alternatively, multiple years of net operating income can be valued by a discounted cash flow analysis (DCF) model. The DCF model is widely used to value larger and more expensive income-producing properties, such as large office towers. This technique applies market-supported yields (or discount rates) to future cash flows (such as annual income figures and typically a lump reversion from the eventual sale of the property) to arrive at a present value indication