Appraising commercial real estate is a particularly unique process, and one that if not done carefully and correctly can have a profound impact on the value of a commercial property for many years to come. To dive deeper into the topic of commercial appraising, including the industry trends and challenges, Omni Realty Group enlisted the expertise of Judy Striewig and M. Shane Rorke, Certified General Appraisers and Co-Founders of JSR Appraisal Group, Inc.
JSR Appraisal Group, Inc. is a commercial appraisal firm located in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, which serves the South Central Pennsylvania market. Together, Judy and Shane opened the firm on January 1, 2015. With 25 years of appraisal experience, Shane has appraised most all types of commercial real estate. In recent years he has focused on land subdivision appraisal work and has tracked many Central Pennsylvania markets for in-depth absorption analysis. Judy’s 15 years of appraisal experience began in 2004 when she entered the industry as an apprentice in the residential appraisal arena. In 2008 she made the move to appraise commercial real estate.
With Judy and Shane’s wealth of knowledge, Omni asked them to weigh in on the most essential questions surrounding the commercial appraisal industry. Here are their answers.
Omni: What do you view as the strengths of your commercial appraisal firm?
JSR: We track most all commercial sales in several markets in South Central Pennsylvania. This data is entered and tracked in our commercial sale database that provides both a detailed and summary picture of sale transactions. This enables us to analyze market transactions and keep an eye on what is happening in the market.
Second, while we are not a large firm, we have four staff members that work together sharing data and ideas on property types, trends, and other real estate issues. We regularly talk to brokers, developers and business owners to gain a pulse on market nuances and business trends.
Omni: How will automated valuation models impact the commercial appraisal process?
JSR: The commercial appraisal process has not been as impacted by automated valuation models as the residential appraisal process for several reasons. First, the quantity of data is much smaller than residential sales. Second, commercial properties are often bought based on the income they produce. This information is typically not available through public sources and is often confidential. And third, a valuation model may be appropriate for certain types of commercial properties like office buildings or warehouse facilities, assuming rental rates are ‘at market’. However the commercial real estate market has such a varied type of product with many specialized buildings, there may not be sufficient amount of data for a valuation model to be effective.
While my thoughts on using a packaged valuation model for commercial (and even residential) real estate are leery, I do believe analysis of large data sets would be helpful to the profession. The use of regression testing to provide rules of thumb to assist in making adjustments and decisions on comparing properties would be helpful. For example, we often consider making an adjustment for properties of different sizes (based on the economies of scale principle). I see a true benefit in models that use regression analysis to provide guidelines for different pricing based on size of a property and other similar property characteristics.
Omni: What are some of the recent regulatory changes on valuation rules and do you foresee this impacting your profession?
JSR: There have been two recent regulatory changes on valuation rules, but we don’t see either of these as having a significant impact. In June of 2018, Pennsylvania passed into legislation a law that allows State Real Estate Brokers, Associate Brokers and salespeople to provide Broker Price Opinions (BPO). Brokers are limited to performing BPO’s for financial institutions in conjunction with properties owned by the institutions that meet certain criteria. They remain prohibited from providing valuation services for mortgage financing, eminent domain, tax appeals and valuation scenarios. Additionally, the FDIC is contemplating raising the appraisal threshold from $250,000 to $500,000 for commercial real estate transactions, and $250,000 to $400,000 for residential real estate transactions.
Omni: What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a commercial appraiser?
JSR: Appraisals are often viewed as a necessary step or hurdle to obtain financing. (Yes, we know this.) And because of this the borrower often picks the ‘cheapest’ bid provided. The borrower has no idea how much experience the appraiser has with the specific property type or what due diligence will be performed in developing an opinion of value.
A second challenge is that the only part of the appraisal report that gets any attention from the borrower is typically the final value. The support and analysis that went into developing the value opinion are often not considered or read by the borrower. And, if a buyer really takes the time to review the report, there is a lot of pertinent information about the property within the report, other than the value opinion. In today’s busy times, I am not sure this will change anytime soon. However I would like to see the borrower use the document as a source of information about the property as well as an objective viewpoint in value.
Omni: What most often causes a disconnect between an appraiser’s and an owner’s opinion of value?
JSR: Often, a buyer’s business is interwoven with a commercial building. Take a well performing restaurant with good management and a well-known reputation. Most commonly when we appraise the property we are appraising the real estate only and not the business value. Our value opinion must isolate the real estate, and exclude any value attributed to the business which includes the reputation and operation. This sometimes results in a real estate value opinion lower than the opinion of the owner of the thriving business. We must look at a property as if that management and reputation were taken away, what would the real estate sell for on the open market.
There have been times when we are asked why we need leases or historical income and expenses to appraise a building. “Isn’t the value, the value?” we are asked. As mentioned earlier, commercial real estate is often valued by the income it produces and long-term leases have significant impact on value. Would you pay the same price for a building that produces leased income of $100,000 annually for the next 20 years or an identical building that produces leased income of $50,000 annually for the next 20 years?. While this may sound obvious, it often is not taken into consideration when a value differs from what an owner has in mind.
Omni: Is there anything else you wish to add that could offer insight into Central PA’s commercial real estate market right now?
JSR: While we do not have any earth shattering observations, we can share some of the trends we see, of which some are obvious.
- Retail that can be purchased on-line is struggling, while retail that requires ‘hands on’ shopping is prospering.
- The retail restaurant business has grown at a rapid pace in the last few years. Younger generations eat out much more frequently than previous generations, and this sector of retail is strong.
- Because of our central location and access to highway systems, the South Central Pennsylvania Industrial Market is our strongest real estate market.
- The apartment market in the City of Harrisburg continues to grow with new apartments being quickly absorbed as they come on-line. Rental rates for nicely renovated apartments are $700 to $800 for studios, $800 to $1,000 for 1-bedroom units and $950 to $1,250 for 2-bedroom units. Based on the rental rates and occupancy rates, these properties are yielding high values. However there has been no recent sales of these newly renovated apartments to truly gauge how investors look at renovated apartments in the City as pure investments.
- There has been significant price appreciation in the professional office market for good quality, stabilized assets. Cap rates are below 8.00% with some recent transactions in the low 7.00% range that have long-term, credit rated tenants in place. Cap rates for single-tenant medical office buildings are sub 7.00%.
When working with a commercial real estate appraiser, there are several important things to keep in mind. Look for one who is experienced and reputable in your local market and who can demonstrate on-going, extensive research of market sales and lease activity. You also want to work with someone who encourages open dialogue and discussion to ensure the scope of work and appraisal assignment meets your expectations and needs. Omni Realty Group thanks Judy and Shane of JSR Appraisal Group, Inc. for sharing their insight and expertise in this blog. You can learn more about JSR Appraisal Group, Inc. at www.jsrappraisal.com.
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