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Real Estate Valuation

Real Estate Valuation
The income approach to evaluating real estate is similar to the process for valuing stocks, bonds, or any other income-generating investment. Most analysts use the discounted cash flow (DCF) method to determine an asset’s net present value (NPV). NPV is the property value in today’s dollars that will achieve the investor’s risk adjusted return.The NPV is determined by discounting the periodic cash flow available to owners by the investor’s required rate of return (RROR). Since the RROR is an investor’s required rate of return for the risks involved, the value derived is a risk-adjusted value for that individual investor. By comparing this value to market prices, an investor is able to make a buy, hold, or sell decision.

Stock values are derived by discounting dividends, bond values by discounting interest coupon payments. Properties are valued by discounting net cash flow or the cash available to owners after all expenses have been deducted from leasing income. Valuing a property involves estimating all the rental revenues and then deducting all expenses required to execute and maintain those leases.

All income estimates come directly from leases. Leases are contractual agreements between tenants and a landlord. All rent and contractual increases in rent (escalations) will be spelled out in the leases, as well as options for space and rent concessions. Owners also recoup part or all of the property expenses from tenants. The manner in which this income is collected is also stated in the lease contract. There are three main types of leases:

  • Full-service leases
  • Net leases
  • Triple-net (NNN) leases

In full-service leases, tenants do not pay anything in addition to rent. In net leases, tenants usually pay their portion of the increase in expenses for the period after they move into the property. In triple-net leases, the tenant pays a pro-rata share of all property expenses.

The following are the types of expenses that have to be considered when preparing an income valuation:

  • Leasing costs
  • Management cost
  • Capital costs

Leasing costs refer to the expenses necessary to attract tenants and to execute leases. Management costs refer to property level expenses, such as utilities, cleaning, taxes, etc. as well as any costs to manage the property. Income less operating expenses equals net operating income (NOI). NOI is the cash flow derived from normal operations of the property. Cash flow is then derived by subtracting capital costs from NOI. Capital costs are any periodic capital outlays to maintain the property. These include any capital for leasing commissions, tenant improvements, or capital reserves for future property upgrades.

Buy, Sell or Hold
When purchasing a property, if an investor’s assessed value is greater than the seller’s offer or appraised value, then the property can be purchased with a high probability of receiving the RROR. Conversely, when selling a property, if the assessed value is less than a buyer’s offer, the property should be sold. In addition, if the assessed value is in line with the market and the RROR offers an adequate return for the risk involved, the owner may decide to hold the investment until there is a disequilibrium between the valuation and market value.

Value can be defined as the greatest amount that someone would be willing to pay for a property. When purchasing an asset, financing should not affect the ultimate value of the property because each buyer has different financing options available. However this is not the case for investors who already own properties that have been financed. Financing must be considered when deciding on an appropriate time to sell because financing structures, such as prepayment penalties, can rob the investor of his or her sale’s proceeds. This is important in cases where investors have received favorable financing terms that are no longer available in the market. The existing investment with debt may provide better risk-adjusted returns than can be achieved when reinvesting the prospective sales proceeds. Adjust risk RROR to include the additional financial risk of mortgage debt.

The Bottom Line
Whether buying or selling, it is possible to produce a valuation model accurate enough to assist in the decision-making process. The math involved in creating the model is relatively straightforward and within the grasp of most investors. After gaining some rudimentary knowledge about local market standards, lease structures and how income and expenses work in different property types, one should be able to forecast future cash flows.