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Real estate appraisal, property valuation or land valuation is the process of developing an opinion of value for real property (usually market value). Real estate transactions often require appraisals because they occur infrequently and every property is unique (especially their condition, a key factor in valuation), unlike corporate stocks, which are traded daily and are identical (thus a centralized Walrasian auction like a stock exchange is unrealistic). The location also plays a key role in valuation. However, since property cannot change location, it is often the upgrades or improvements to the home that can change its value. Appraisal reports form the basis for mortgage loans, settling estates and divorces, taxation, and so on. Sometimes an appraisal report is used to establish a sale price for a property.
Besides of the mandatory educational grade, which can vary from Finance to Construction Technology, most, but not all, countries require appraisers to have the license for the practice. Usually, the real estate appraiser has the opportunity to reach 3 levels of certification: Appraisal Trainee, Licensed Appraiser and Certified Appraiser.
The second and third levels of license require no less than 2000 experience hours in 12 months and 2500 experience hours in no less than 24 months respectively. Appraisers are often known as “property valuers” or “land valuers”; in British English they are “valuation surveyors”. 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.
In the United States, mortgage valuations of improved residential properties are generally reported on a standardized form like the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report. Appraisals of more commercial properties (e.g., income-producing, raw land) are often reported in narrative format and completed by a Certified General Appraiser.
Types of value
There are several types and definitions of value sought by a real estate appraisal. Some of the most common are:
- 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 – the estimated amount for which an asset or liability should exchange on the valuation date between a willing buyer and a willing seller in an arm’s length transaction, after proper marketing and where the parties had each acted knowledgeably, prudently and without compulsion.
- Value-in-use, or use value – 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 may be above or below the market value of a property.
- Investment value – is the value to one particular investor, and may or may not be higher than the market value of a property. Differences between the investment value of an asset and its market value provide the motivation for buyers or sellers to enter the marketplace. International Valuation Standards (IVS) define:
- Investment value – the value of an asset to the owner or a prospective owner for individual investment or operational objectives.
- 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 time-frame.
Price vs value
There can be differences between what the property is really worth (market value) and what it cost to buy it (price). A price paid might not represent that property’s market value. Sometimes, special considerations may have been present, such as a special relationship between the buyer and the seller where one party had control or significant influence over the other party.
In other cases, the transaction may have been just one of several properties sold or traded between two parties. In such cases, the price paid for any particular piece is not its market “value” (with the idea usually being, though, that all the pieces and prices add up to the market value of all the parts) but rather its market “price”.
At other times, a buyer may willingly pay a premium price, above the generally accepted market value, if his subjective valuation of the property (its investment value for him) was higher than the market value. One specific example of this is an owner of a neighboring property who, by combining his own property with the subject property, could obtain economies-of-scale. Similar situations sometimes happen in corporate finance.
For example, this can occur when a merger or acquisition happens at a price which is higher than the value represented by the price of the underlying stock. The usual explanation for these types of mergers and acquisitions is that “the sum is greater than its parts”, since full ownership of a company provides full control of it. This is something that purchasers will sometimes pay a high price for. This situation can happen in real estate purchases too.
But the most common reason for value differing from price is that either the buyer or the seller is uninformed as to what a property’s market value is but nevertheless agrees on a contract at a certain price which is either too expensive or too cheap. This is unfortunate for one of the two parties. It is the obligation of a real property appraiser to estimate the true market value of a property and not its market price.
Market value definitions in the United States
In the United States, appraisals are for a certain type of value (e.g., foreclosure value, fair market value, distressed sale value, investment value). The most commonly used definition of value is Market Value. While Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (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 of a property (i.e., a right of ownership or a bundle of such rights), 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 Current Market Analysis (CMA) analysis and report is a set of assumptions about the market in which the subject property may transact. It affects the choice of comparable data for use in the analysis. It can also affect the method used to value the property. For example, tree value can contribute up to 27% of property value.
Three approaches to value
There are three traditional 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 sales comparison approach (comparing a property’s characteristics with those of comparable properties that have recently sold in similar transactions).
- The cost approach (the buyer will not pay more for a property than it would cost to build an equivalent).
- The income approach (similar to the methods used for financial valuation, securities analysis or bond pricing).
However, the recent trend of the business tends to be toward the use of a scientific methodology of appraisal which relies on the foundation of quantitative-data, risk, and geographical based approaches. Pagourtzi et al. have provided a review on the methods used in the industry by comparison between conventional approaches and advanced ones.
As mentioned before, an appraiser can generally choose from three approaches to determine value. One or two of these approaches will usually be most applicable, with the other approach or approaches usually being less useful. The appraiser has to think about the “scope of work”, the type of value, the property itself, and the quality and quantity of data available for each approach. No overarching statement can be made that one approach or another is always better than one of the other approaches.
The appraiser has to think about the way that most buyers usually buy a given type of property. What appraisal method do most buyers use for the type of property being valued? This generally guides the appraiser’s thinking on the best valuation method, in conjunction with the available data. For instance, appraisals of properties that are typically purchased by investors (e.g., skyscrapers, office buildings) may give greater weight to the Income Approach.
Buyers interested in purchasing single family residential property would rather compare price, in this case, the Sales Comparison Approach (market analysis approach) would be more applicable. The third and final approach to value is the Cost Approach to value. The Cost Approach to value is most useful in determining insurable value, and cost to construct a new structure or building.
For example, single apartment buildings of a given quality tend to sell at a particular price per apartment. In many of those cases, the sales comparison approach may be more applicable. On the other hand, a multiple-building apartment complex would usually be valued by the income approach, as that would follow how most buyers would value it. As another example, single-family houses are most commonly valued with the greatest weighting to the sales comparison approach. However, if a single-family dwelling is in a neighborhood where all or most of the dwellings are rental units, then some variant of the income approach may be more useful. So the choice of valuation method can change depending upon the circumstances, even if the property being valued does not change much.
The sales comparison approach
The sales comparison approach is based primarily on the principle of substitution. This approach assumes a prudent (or rational) 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 appraiser attempts to interpret and measure the actions of parties involved in the marketplace, including buyers, sellers, and investors.
Data collection methods and valuation process
Data is collected on recent sales of properties similar to the subject being valued, called “comparables”. Only SOLD properties may be used in an appraisal and determination of a property’s value, as they represent amounts actually paid or agreed upon for properties. Sources of comparable data include real estate publications, public records, buyers, sellers, real estate brokers and/or agents, appraisers, and so on. Important details of each comparable sale are described in the appraisal report.
Since comparable sales are not identical to the subject property, adjustments may be made for date of sale, location, style, amenities, square footage, 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 comparable is superior to the subject in a factor or aspect, then a downward adjustment is needed for that factor.[clarification needed] Likewise, if the comparable is inferior to the subject in an aspect, then an upward adjustment for that aspect is needed.[clarification needed] The adjustment is somewhat subjective and relies on the appraiser’s training and experience.
From the analysis of the group of adjusted sales prices of the comparable sales, the appraiser selects an indicator of value that is representative of the subject property. It is possible for various appraisers to choose a different indicator of value which ultimately will provide different property value.
Steps in the sales comparison approach
- Research the market to obtain information pertaining to sales, and pending sales that are similar to the subject property
- Investigate the market data to determine whether they are factually correct and accurate
- Determine relevant units of comparison (e.g., sales price per square foot), and develop a comparative analysis for each
- Compare the subject and comparable sales according to the elements of comparison and adjust as appropriate
- Reconcile the multiple value indications that result from the adjustment (upward or downward) of the comparable sales into a single value indication
The cost approach
The cost approach was once 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 (for “reproduction/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 almost always use replacement cost and then deduct a factor for any functional dis-utility associated with the age of the subject property.
An exception to the general rule of using the replacement cost is for some insurance value appraisals. In those cases, reproduction of the exact asset after a destructive event like a fire is the goal.
In most instances when the cost approach is involved, the overall methodology is a hybrid of the cost and sales comparison approaches (representing both the suppliers’ costs and the prices that customers are seeking). For example, the replacement cost to construct a building can be determined by adding the labor, material, and other costs. On the other hand, land values and depreciation must be derived from an analysis of comparable sales data.
The cost approach is considered most 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 (e.g., public assembly, marinas).
The income approach
The income capitalization Approach (often referred to simply as the “income 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.
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 a Net Operating Income (NOI). Usually, an NOI has been stabilized so as not to place too much weight on a very recent event. An example of this is an unleased building which, technically, has no NOI.
A stabilized NOI would assume that the building is leased at a normal rate, and to usual occupancy levels. 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 or major shopping centres. This technique applies market-supported yields (or discount rates) to projected 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.
When homes are purchased for personal use the buyer can validate the asking price by using the income approach in the opposite direction. An expected rate of return can be estimated by comparing net expected costs to the asking price. This return can be compared to the home owner’s other investing opportunities.
Scope of work
While the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) has always required appraisers to identify the scope of work needed to produce credible results, it became clear in recent years[when?] that appraisers did not fully understand the process for developing this adequately. In formulating the scope of work for a credible appraisal, the concept of a limited versus complete appraisal and the use of the
Departure Rule caused confusion to clients, appraisers, and appraisal reviewers. In order to deal with this, USPAP was updated in 2006 with what came to be known as the Scope of Work Project. Following this, USPAP eliminated both the Departure Rule and the concept of a limited appraisal, and a new Scope of Work rule was created. In this, appraisers were to identify six key parts of the appraisal problem at the beginning of each assignment:
- Client and other intended users
- Intended use of the appraisal and appraisal report
- Definition of value (e.g., market, foreclosure, investment)
- Any hypothetical conditions or extraordinary assumptions
- Effective date of the appraisal analysis
- Salient features of the subject property
Based on these factors, the appraiser must identify the scope of work needed, including the methodologies to be used, the extent of the investigation, and the applicable approaches to value. Currently, minimum standards for scope of work are:
- Expectations of the client and other users
- The actions of the appraiser’s peers who carry out similar assignments
The scope of work is the first step in any appraisal process. Without a strictly defined scope of work, an appraisal’s conclusions may not be viable. By defining the scope of work, an appraiser can properly develop a value for a given property for the intended user, and for the intended use of the appraisal.
The whole idea of “scope of work” is to provide clear expectations and guidelines for all parties as to what the appraisal report does, and does not, cover; and how much work has gone into it.
Types of ownership interest
The type of real estate “interest” that is being valued, must also be known and stated in the report. Usually, for most sales, or mortgage financings, the fee simple interest is being valued. The fee simple interest is the most complete bundle of rights available. However, in many situations, and in many societies which do not follow English Common Law or the Napoleonic Code, some other interest may be more common. While there are many different possible interests in real estate, the three most common are:
- Fee simple value (known in the UK as freehold) – The most complete ownership in real estate, subject in common law countries to the powers reserved to the state (taxation, escheat, eminent domain, and police power)
- Leased fee value – This is simply the fee simple interest encumbered by a lease. If the lease is at market rent, then the leased fee value and the fee simple value are equal. However, if the tenant pays more or less than market, the residual owned by the leased fee holder, plus the market value of the tenancy, may be more or less than the fee simple value.
- Leasehold value – The interest held by a tenant. If the tenant pays market rent, then the leasehold has no market value. However, if the tenant pays less than the market, the difference between the present value of what is paid and the present value of market rents would be a positive leasehold value. For example, a major chain retailer may be able to negotiate a below-market lease to serve as the anchor tenant for a shopping center. This leasehold value may be transferable to another anchor tenant, and if so the retail tenant has a positive interest in the real estate.
If a home inspection is performed prior to the appraisal and that report is provided to the appraiser, a more useful appraisal can result. This is because the appraiser, who is not an expert home inspector, will be told if there are substantial construction defects or major repairs required.
This information can cause the appraiser to arrive at a different, probably lower, opinion of value. This information may be particularly helpful if one or both of the parties requesting the appraisal may end up in possession of the property. This is sometimes the case with property in a divorce settlement or a legal judgment.
Real estate appraisal and data entry
Appraisers provide all the data needed to input in appraisal reports. A data entry team does the rest; it searches, consolidates and types the data into reports, such as subject data and comparable grid prior sales history. Most data entry organizations work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The appraiser sends empty reports, and the data entry team works all day and night, even while the appraiser is sleeping. This process increases the appraiser’s efficiency, and frees up his/her time.