An appraisal is a professional appraiser’s opinion of value. The preparation of an appraisal involves research into appropriate market areas; the assembly and analysis of information pertinent to a property; and the knowledge, experience, and professional judgment of the appraiser. Appraisals may be required for any type of property, including single-family homes, apartment buildings, condominiums, office buildings, shopping centers, industrial sites, farms, etc. The reasons for performing a real property appraisal are just as varied. They are usually required whenever real property is sold, mortgaged, taxed, insured, transferred, or developed. For example, appraisals are prepared for:
The role of the appraiser is to provide objective, impartial, and unbiased opinions about the value of real property—providing assistance to those who own, manage, sell, invest in, and/or lend money on the security of real estate. Appraisers assemble a series of facts, statistics, and other information regarding specific properties, analyze this data, and develop opinions of value. Each appraisal assignment challenges the appraiser’s ability to put analytical skills into practice, exercise sound judgment, and communicate effectively.
All states require appraisers to be state licensed or certified in order to provide appraisals to federally regulated lenders. Some states require appraisers to be licensed or certified to provide appraisals for other parties as well. To become licensed or certified, you must pass an examination that is administered by your state’s appraisal board. AER appraisers are all certified, licensed and insured, and have completed all continuing education requirements on an ongoing basis.
The Appraiser Qualifications Board (AQB) of The Appraisal Foundation is authorized by Congress to establish the minimum requirements for Certified General Real Property Appraiser and Certified Residential Real Property Appraiser classifications. AER appraisers are all certified, licensed and insured, and have completed all continuing education requirements on an ongoing basis.
There are several types and definitions of value sought by a real estate appraisal. Some of the most common are:
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.
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.
There can be differences between what the property is really worth (market value) and what it cost to purchase the property (price). A price paid might not represent that property’s market value. Sometimes, special considerations may be 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 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 the buyer) 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.
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:
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 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. Likewise, if the comparable is inferior to the subject in an aspect, then an upward adjustment for that aspect is 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 a different property value.
Steps in the sales comparison 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 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 centers. 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.
Machinery and equipment used in business is considered to be personal property by lenders and government agencies. Merger and acquisition appraisals consider all aspects of a business including fixed asset equipment. AER appraisers are qualified to appraise business machinery and equipment (all personal property) and review fixed asset records for ghost assets that affect the accuracy of both corporate books and property tax records. Like real property appraisals, personal property appraisals follow similar approaches to value and are performed for similar reasons.