Despite the fact that property appraisals are at the heart of the built environment – it’s how we determine the market value of the places in which we live, work and play – many individuals still don’t understand exactly what a commercial real estate appraiser does.

In a nutshell, commercial real estate appraisal is the process in which a trained and licensed professional assesses the value of a commercial property according to its intended uses. Many seek out commercial real estate appraisal companies when they are looking to buy or sell a storefront, an office building, vacant land, or any other property that’s not residential, while others hire a commercial real estate appraiser for tax appeal purposes.

However, that short description does not do justice to the importance of the work done by trained and licensed appraisers. These valuation professionals possess a unique understanding of the market and the many factors that can affect what a commercial property is worth, impacting decisions to buy, sell, and build. Below we discuss the most common types of commercial appraisal and the four steps involved in appraising commercial real estate.

Types of Commercial Appraisals

When evaluating a commercial property, it’s essential that you find a commercial real estate appraiser (as opposed to residential). Residential appraisers have different training requirements. Contact them, and they will ask you a few questions about the location and history of the property, and discuss commercial appraisal cost.

A commercial appraiser has access to specialized databases and understands how to parse and select which information is relevant. For instance, they will check the tax history, zoning, deeds, property damage, potential obsolescence, and other onsite elements to inform their final result. You can use the resulting valuation amount in court, to sell a property, or to change insurance.

If you’d like to read a good interview with a real commercial appraiser, check out this post featuring Jeffrey Harris of Harris Property Advisors.

First Step: Review the Documentation

Don’t make the mistake of trying to fool your commercial real estate appraiser into valuing your property higher than it’s really worth. Property appraisers are particularly bound by their integrity to perform accurate valuations, and they know all the tricks in the book. They know that they might be summoned to court if there’s ever a property dispute, so they make sure they set a number they can back up with proof.

Gather up any and all documentation related to income statements, property taxes, renovations, and more. Don’t withhold anything! Be transparent about the property’s history and let your commercial appraiser do their job. If you don’t have a required document, let them know. It happens frequently and your appraiser can recommend ways to solve the problem.

Second Step: Site Visit

When most people think about commercial real estate appraisals, they imagine a site visit that includes an in-person inspection of the property. This is an important part of the valuation process. Depending on the size and specifics of the commercial property, your appraiser may bring a team. It may take as little as one hour or longer. They may use a smartphone or tablet with the Valcre mobile app to photograph the property, and collect and organize their findings.

They will be looking to verify information in your documentation. They will also utilize their training to spot problem areas (and positive areas) that could alter the final valuation of the property. Don’t worry, they’re not there to judge your mess or which end tables you chose for the waiting room. They are primarily examining the structure itself and making observations.

Third Step: Research & Analysis

Now they must conduct the research and analysis portion of your valuation process. Your commercial real estate appraiser needs to review zoning records and neighborhood demographics to assess the value of your property. Are there any zoning restrictions or violations? What do the data trends indicate about the future viability and value of your property? If it’s a rental building, what are the vacancy rents, and what indications are there that rent is increasing (or decreasing) in your area?

This research can take weeks or months, depending on the size and complexity of the property. The commercial appraiser will go through records of public ownership, tax data, and other databases to compare and corroborate information. In combination with their onsite assessment, all of this information goes into the final calculation of your property’s value.

Final Step: Valuation

Finally, you’ll receive the valuation report . If the appraiser has used the cost approach, the value will be expressed as the amount it would cost to build a replica of your property. This is typically used to evaluate newer properties. Another common assessment approach is income capitalization, which is primarily used to assess income-generating properties like office buildings or any other leased property. Your valuation will take into account how much money your property could generate over its lifetime. A market sales comparison approach is the most common type, and it examines similar buildings and sales figures to determine the market value of your property.

Now that you have an official valuation in hand, you can thank your appraiser for a job well done. You are now in a strong position to negotiate a sale of your property.

Valcre is the premier appraisal software solution for the commercial real estate industry. The platform offers appraisers a singular tool that simplifies job and client management, allowing them to save countless hours by providing access to prior jobs, historical data and comps. Contact us for more information, to schedule a demo or if you’d like to explore our mobile app.