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  • Writer's pictureColin Dubel

Different Valuation Approaches from an Appraiser

Commercial real estate appraisers use several approaches to determine the value of a property. The three most commonly used methods are the Sales Comparison Approach, Income Approach, and Cost Approach.

  1. Sales Comparison Approach: This approach involves comparing the property being appraised to similar properties that have recently sold in the same area. The appraiser analyzes the differences between the subject property and the comparable properties, such as location, size, amenities, and condition. The appraiser then adjusts the sales price of the comparable properties to account for these differences and arrives at an estimated value for the subject property. This approach is commonly used when there are sufficient comparable sales available in the market.

  2. Income Approach: This approach is used to determine the value of income-producing properties, such as rental properties or office buildings. It involves estimating the income the property is expected to generate in the future and then capitalizing that income into a present value using a capitalization rate. The capitalization rate is derived from the market by analyzing similar properties and their associated income and expenses.

  3. Cost Approach: This approach involves estimating the cost to rebuild or replace the property and then subtracting the depreciation from the cost to arrive at an estimated value. This approach is commonly used for new or unique properties where there may not be sufficient comparable sales data available.

Overall, the Income Approach is considered the most commonly used approach for valuing commercial real estate properties because it is applicable to a wide range of properties and considers both the income potential and risk associated with the investment. However, the Sales Comparison Approach is also frequently used, particularly in areas with a high volume of transactions and a large number of comparable properties available. The Cost Approach is typically used as a check and balance to ensure that the value estimated by the other approaches is reasonable.


Here are some simplified examples of each approach:

  1. Sales Comparison Approach: Let's say you are appraising a small retail property in a shopping center. You find three comparable properties that have recently sold in the same area for $200,000, $210,000, and $215,000. However, those properties have different sizes, amenities, and conditions. After analyzing the differences, you adjust the sales price of the first property downward by $10,000 because it has a smaller size and less visibility, adjust the second property upward by $5,000 because it has better amenities, and leave the third property as is because it's the most comparable to your subject property. Based on these adjustments, you arrive at an estimated value of $215,000 for your property.

  2. Income Approach: Let's say you are appraising a small apartment building that generates rental income of $100,000 per year. You estimate that the operating expenses, including property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and management fees, will be $30,000 per year. You also analyze the market to determine a capitalization rate of 7%, which represents the expected return on investment for the property based on its risk profile. Using the formula: Value = Net Operating Income / Capitalization Rate, you arrive at an estimated value of $1,142,857 for the property.

  3. Cost Approach: Let's say you are appraising a newly constructed office building that cost $10 million to build. You estimate that the building has a useful life of 30 years, and there is no physical or functional depreciation. Therefore, the total depreciation would be $10,000,000 / 30 = $333,333 per year. After subtracting the depreciation from the total cost, you arrive at an estimated value of $9,666,667 for the property.

If you have any questions about this article or would like to discuss a scenario of your own with our team, please feel free to contact Colin Dubel at colin@harborwestcommercial.com or 949-735-6415.

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