Real estate appraisal, property valuation or land valuation is the process of valuing real property. The value usually sought is the property's Market Value. Appraisals are needed because compared to, say, corporate stock, real estate transactions occur very infrequently. Not only that, but every property is different from the next, a factor that doesn't affect assets like corporate stock. Furthermore, all properties differ from each other in their location - which is an important factor in their value. So a centralized Walrasian auction setting can't exist for the trading of property assets, such as exists to trade corporate stock (i.e. a stock market/exchange). This product differentiation and lack of frequent trading, unlike stocks, means that specialist qualified appraisers are needed to advise on the value of a property. The appraiser usually provides a written report on this value to his or her client. These reports are used as the basis for mortgage loans, for settling estates and divorces, for tax matters, and so on. Sometimes the appraisal report is used by both parties to set the sale price of the property appraised.
In some areas, an appraiser doesn't need a license or any certification to appraise property. Usually, however, most countries or regions require that appraisals are done 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 (e.g. -- income producing, raw land) are usually reported in a narrative appraisal report.
Price versus 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 isn't its market 'value' (with the idea usually being, though, that all the pieces and prices add up to market value of all the parts) but rather it's 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 why the value can be different that the price paid, is that one of the two parties (buyer or the seller) is uninformed as to what a property's market value is, but nevertheless agrees to buy or sell it at a certain price which is 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 specific real property and not its 'market price'.
Market value definitions in the USA
In the US, 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 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 (Current Market Analysis) 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.
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:
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.
The 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 that 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 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 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 doesn't change much.
The cost approach
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 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 the destructive event (fire, etc.) 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. 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 sales comparison approach
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 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 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, 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 aren't 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. Likewise, if the comparable is inferior to the subject in an aspect, then an upward adjustment for that aspect is needed. 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.
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 comparative 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
Main article: 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.