Appraisal and Valuation 
Source: This information is courtesy of the Bureau of Real Estate Appraisers in California

Property valuation may be considered the heart of all real estate activity. Only a practical understanding of real estate values will enable real estate brokers and salespersons to carry out their functions in a useful and dependable manner in serving their clients and in meeting their obligations to the general public.

Licensed or certified appraisers are governed in their competency by the Competency Rule in the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), promulgated by the Appraisal Foundation. All licensed and certified appraisers in California must comply with USPAP in appraisal assignments.

Theoretical Concepts Of Value And Definitions

Definition of Appraisal

To appraise means the act or process of developing an opinion of value; an opinion of value. (USPAP, 2010-2011 Edition, pg. U-1) It may be said that value is the present worth of all rights to future benefits, arising out of property ownership, to typical users or investors. An appraisal report is usually a written statement of the appraiser’s opinion of value of an adequately described property as of a specified date. It is a conclusion which results from the process of research and analysis of factual and relevant data.

Real estate appraising methods are being standardized by virtue of the experience and practice of qualified people in all parts of the country who encounter the same types of valuation problems, and who by various methods and processes succeed in solving them in an equitable manner. It is natural, however, that differences of opinion may exist as to the value of specific parcels of real estate and the means of estimating their value.

Property rights are measurable. Real estate as a tangible thing can be measured. It includes both land and improvements and exists independent of any desire for its possession. To distinguish between its physical aspects and rights in and to real property, the latter are called property interests in real estate.

These interests - ownership in fee simple and other lesser interests - have been discussed in preceding chapters. Property rights in real estate are normally appraised at Market Value. There are many definitions of Market Value, but a good working definition is the most probable price the property would bring if freely offered on the open market with both a willing buyer and a willing seller.

Rights in real property are referred to as Bundle of Rights, which infers: right to occupy and use; to sell in whole or in part; to bequeath (give away); and, to transfer by contract for a specific period of time (lease). It also implies the right not to take any of these actions.

These rights are limited by: the government power of taxation; eminent domain; police power (for safety, health and general welfare of the public, such as zoning, building codes); and, right of property to escheat (revert) to the state in the event the owner dies and leaves no heirs.

The rights in a property must be known by the appraiser before making a proper valuation, and the appraiser must also be able to distinguish between personal and real property. Market value is the object of most appraisal assignments, and appraisals mainly are concerned with fee simple estate valuation as opposed to partial interest value.

The widespread need for appraisals is apparent. Everyone uses real estate in one way or another and must pay for its use, which involves a decision about value. Practical decisions concerning value must be based upon some kind of an appraisal or evaluation of real property collateral.

The term evaluation has a special meaning and use for institutional lenders since passage of the Federal Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA). In reality, it is an appraisal, an estimate of value.

Although an appraisal may be transmitted orally, it is usually a written statement of an opinion of value and is referred to as an appraisal report.

Traditional Approaches to Value

Basically, there are three approaches to property valuation used by appraisers. Each gives a separate indication

of value, yet the approaches are all interrelated and all use market comparison techniques. All three approaches are considered in each complete assignment. However, all three are not always employed, depending upon the property type and the process and report type agreed to by the client and the appraiser.

The approaches to value are: Sales Comparison (or Market Data) Approach; Cost Approach; and Income Approach.

The Appraiser's Role in the Real Estate Profession

The licensed or certified appraiser, by reason of professional training, experience, and ethics is responsible for furnishing clients with an objective third party opinion of value, arrived at without pressures or prejudices from the parties involved with the property, such as an owner or lender.

The appraiser has a heavy personal and professional responsibility to be correct and accurate in opinions of value. Otherwise, the appraiser's clients may easily suffer loss and the appraisers professional reputation may also suffer.

True forces affecting value. It is necessary that appraisers be exceptionally sensitive to their roles in accurately assessing the true forces affecting value. In accomplishing this, the appraiser cannot allow the general neighborhood composite of ethnic, religious, or minority populations or the general condition of neighborhood improvement to detract from a clear and objective evaluation of the property appraised on its own merits.

It is also the appraiser's responsibility to keep the appraisals timely in a changing market.

It is no longer prudent to rely solely on past sales of comparable property. The appraiser must use all pertinent data and appraisal methods to insure the appraised value is, in fact, the closest estimate of the price the property would bring if freely offered on the open market.

Recent world events has resulted in property appreciation spirals to historic highs, along with creative financing approaches to generate sales This has been followed by a collapse in property values and extraordinary levels of foreclosure and bankruptcy. Such times required exceptional appraiser sensitivity to the true market forces.

The professional appraisal associations have responded with increased emphasis on education in current appraisal and financial techniques. The dynamics of such a volatile market require the appraiser to keep abreast of new techniques and market forces. Recognizing this, California statutes enforced by the Office Of Real Estate Appraisers (OREA) require continuing education for licensed and certified appraisers. Those requirements are set forth in the OREA portion at the end of this chapter.

Appraisal Report

An appraisal report sets forth the data, analysis and conclusions of the writer. When put in writing, it protects both appraiser and client. Reports vary in scope and length. The following information should be included and is more specifically outlined in Standards 1 and 2 of USPAP:

1. A final value opinion is expressed in terms of dollars for the property which is being appraised.

2. The value opinion can be made for any date in the past, and, with some care, for any date in the future.

The time of inspection of the physical improvements is generally taken as the effective date of value unless otherwise informed by either the property owner, owner's attorney, or a court of law. The date of the final writing and delivery of the report is the date of the appraisal, not to be confused with the effective date of value.

3. Adequate description of the property. The street address, including city and state, as well as a complete legal description as set forth by the deed in the County Recorder's Office, should be shown, and the physical structures should be clearly described. The length of this description will depend upon the length and extent of the report.

4. The latitude of the reasoning in determining the value opinion will depend upon the type of report and the complexity of the appraisal problem.

5. Market data, and other factual data. This includes information on the city and neighborhood which affects the value opinion; information gathered on the site, improvements and the environment of the neighborhood which should be processed by means of one or more of the approaches to value; and, the preliminary estimate of value should be reconciled by means of logic and reasoning in order to arrive at one value conclusion for the property. Lengthy details are usually omitted in letter reports, but appraiser retains the information as backup in a work file.

6. Signature and certification. Appraisal reports must be signed by the writer, include the license number, and in most instances are preceded by a statement to the effect that the writer has no present or contemplated interest in the property. Requisites of an appraisal are set forth in the USPAP, which was adopted in 1989 by the Appraisal Standards Board of the Appraisal Foundation.

Types of Appraisal Reports (and USPAP Terminology)

1. Letter report. This type of report is generally used when the client is familiar with the area, and the reporting of supporting data are not necessary. The report consists of a brief description of the property, the

type of value sought, the purpose served by the appraisal, the date of value, the value opinion and the signature of the appraiser. This is known as a Restricted Use Report and is governed by Standards Rule 2-

2(c) of the USPAP. Specific language is required to put readers on notice that this report type is for use by the client only with restrictions.

2. Form report. To ensure uniformity in the underwriting of loans, common property types have standardized form reports. Examples of form reports include the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report (URAR) and the Small Residential Income Property Appraisal Report (SRIPAR). This type of report is normally used by lending institutions, such as banks, insurance companies, saving and loan associations, and governmental agencies. Generally, it consists of simple check sheets or spaces to be filled in by the appraiser. The report varies from two to eight pages in length and includes the pertinent data about the property, with photos, maps, plats and sketches. Today these types of reports are classified as Summary Reports and are governed by Standards Rule 2-2(b) of USPAP. This category of report can also be a narrative format, but the data presented will be generally in a summary format with more information than a restricted report.

3. Narrative report. This type of report can be a complete document including all pertinent information about the area and the subject property as well as the reasons and computations for the value conclusion. It includes: maps, photographs, charts and plot plans. It is written for court cases and out-of-town clients who need all of the factual data. It gives the comprehensive reasoning of the appraiser as well as the value opinions. These reports are often classified as Self-Contained Reports, which are governed by Standards Rule 2-2(a) of USPAP. Narrative reports can also be prepared in a summary format, which are regulated by Standards Rule 2-2(b) in USPAP.

Any of these report types could be done on a form or in a narrative format. The contents and the depth of discussion, not the format, define the report type in USPAP terms.

Purposes and Uses of Appraisals

The basic purpose of an appraisal is to estimate a particular value, i.e., market value, check for support of sales price, loan value, investment value, etc. Some of the uses for requiring the estimate of value are:

1. Transfer of ownership of property.

a. An appraisal assists buyers and sellers in arriving at a fair and equitable sales price. An appraisal of physical property may also include an opinion of its age, remaining life, quality or authenticity.

b. The listing agent needs an estimate of value of the property before accepting a listing from the owner.

If the agent can show by means of an appraisal the appraised market value of the property, and obtain a listing at that figure, a sale more likely will result. The real estate practitioner should be prepared to demonstrate a knowledge of both comparative and economic values.

c. Where a trade is involved, appraisals tend to assist in clarifying the opinions of value formed by both parties to the trade.

d. Valuations are necessary for the distribution of estate properties among heirs.

2. Financing and credit.

a. The lender has an appraisal made of the value of the property to be pledged as security for a mortgage loan.

b. Measuring economic soundness of real estate projects involves feasibility studies in relation to financing and credit.

3. Appraisal for taxation purposes.

a. Appraisals are needed by governmental bodies to establish the proper relationship between land and improvements for real estate taxes (ad valorem taxation).

b. Properties subject to estate taxes must be evaluated for the purpose of levying federal and state taxes.

c. Appraisals of income-producing properties are necessary to property owners for the basis of depreciation. Normally, only improvements can be depreciated, not the land. An allocation of the market value between land and improvements is a requisite for accounting and taxation purposes.

4. Condemnation actions.

a. With the right of eminent domain being vested in governmental agencies, it is important that properties under condemnation be evaluated at market value to properly estimate purchase price, benefits, and damages to the property being affected.

5. Insurance Purposes.

a. Appraisals are based principally upon the cost of replacement. This is important for the purpose of insuring properties for fire insurance.

b. Appraisals are useful in setting claims arising from insurance contracts after a property has been destroyed.

6. Miscellaneous reasons for appraisals.

a. Catastrophic damage. Establishing market value of property before and immediately after the damage. b. Estimating market rents for negotiation of leases.

c. Appraisals for inheritance and gift tax purposes. d. Fraud cases.

e. Damage cases.

f. Division-of-estate cases. A distribution of property under the terms of a will, in divorce proceedings, or between rival claimants, frequently requires that the value of the property involved be determined by appraisal.

Principles of Valuation

A knowledge of basic assumptions, postulates or premises that underlie appraisal methods is essential to an understanding of the purpose, methods and procedures of valuation. The following principles of value influences are the more important for a general understanding of the appraisal process.

Principle of conformity. Holds that maximum value is realized when land uses are compatible and a reasonable degree of architectural harmony is present. Zoning ordinances help set conformity standards.

Principle of change. Real property is in a constant state of flux and change, affecting individual properties, neighborhoods and cities. The appraiser follows trends and influences and is sensitive to changes in conditions that affect the value of real estate. Economic, environmental, government, and social forces affect all markets, especially real estate.

Principle of substitution. This principle is the basis of the appraisal process. Simply stated, value will tend to be set by the cost of acquiring an equally desirable substitute. The value of a property to its owner cannot ordinarily exceed the value in the market to persons generally, when it can be substituted without undue expense or serious delay. In a free market, the buyer can be expected to pay no more, and a seller can expect to receive no less, than the price of an equivalent substitute.

A property owner states that owner's house is worth $95,000. Buyers in the market can obtain a substitute property with the same features and utility for only $90,000. The seller’s house, therefore, has a value of approximately $90,000, not $95,000.

Principle of supply and demand. Holds that price varies directly, but not necessarily proportionately, with demand, and inversely, but not necessarily proportionately, with supply. Increasing supply or decreasing demand tends to reduce price in the market. The opposite is also true.

Principle of highest and best use. The best use of a parcel of land, known as its highest, best and most profitable use, is that which will most likely produce the greatest net return to the land over a given period of time. This net return is realized in terms of money or other amenities.

The application of this principle is flexible. It reflects the appraiser's opinion of the best use for the property as of the date of his appraisal. At one period of time, the highest and best use of a parcel of land in a downtown business district might be for the development of an office building; at another time, a parking lot may be the highest and best use.

A single-family house on a commercial lot may not be the highest and best use for the site. A four-unit apartment on multiple zoned land suitable for 30 units is probably not the long-term highest and best use of the land.

The appraiser applies four accepted tests in arriving at the highest and best use for a property. The use must be

(1) Legally permissible; (2) Physically possible; (3) Economically feasible; and (4) The most productive use.

There may be two highest and best uses, one with the site vacant and the other as improved. These must be reconciled into a final highest and best use determination for the property being appraised.

Determining highest and best use includes assessing potential buyers’ motives, the existing use of the property, potential benefits of ownership, the market’s behavior, community or environmental factors, and special conditions or situations which come to bear on appraisal conclusions of value.

Principle of progression. The worth of a lesser-valued object tends to be enhanced by association with many similar objects of greater value (inadequacy or under-improvement).

Principle of regression. The worth of a greater-valued object is reduced by association with many lesser- valued objects of the same type (super adequacy or over-improvement).

Principle of contribution. A component part of a property is valued in proportion to its contribution to the value of the whole property or by how much that part’s absence detracts from the value of the whole. Maximum values are achieved when the improvements on a site produce the highest (net) return, commensurate with the investment.

Principle of anticipation. Value is created by anticipated future benefits to be derived from the property. In the Market Value Analysis, appraisers estimate the present worth of future benefits. This is the basis for the income approach to value. Simply stated, the income approach is the analysis of the present worth of projected future net income and anticipated future resale value. Historical data are relevant because they aid in the interpretation of future benefits.

Principle of competition. Competition is created where substantial profits are being made. If there is a profitable demand for residential construction, competition among builders will become very apparent. This could lead to an increase in supply in relation to the demand, resulting in lower selling prices and unprofitable competition, leading to renewed decline in supply.

Principle of balance. Value is created and sustained when contrasting, opposing, or interacting elements are in equilibrium, or balance. Proper mix of varying land uses creates value. Imbalance is created by an over- improvement or an under-improvement. Balance is created by developing the site to its highest and best use.

Principle of four-stage life cycle. In due course, all material things go through the process of wearing or wasting away and eventually disintegrating. All property is characterized by four distinct stages: growth, stability, decline, and revitalization.

Single properties, districts, neighborhoods, etc., tend generally to follow this pattern of growth and decline. It is also evident this process is frequently reversed as neighborhoods and individual properties in older residential areas are renewed and restored.

Revitalization and modernization in inner-city older neighborhoods may result from organized government programs or as a result of changing preferences of individual buyers. Most neighborhoods remain in the mature or stable stage for many years, with decline being hardly noticeable as renewal becomes essentially an ongoing process.