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The estimate of a property's market value involves a systematic process in which the problem is defined; the work necessary to solve the problem is planned; and the data required is obtained, analyzed and interpreted into an estimate of value.  In this process, three basic approaches are used by the appraiser.  The Cost Approach, the Direct Sales Comparison Approach, and the Income Capitalization Approach.


In the Cost Approach, depreciation is deducted from the cost new of the improvements and this figure is added to the land value to indicate the value of the whole property.  Generally, land value is obtained through sales comparison.  The reproduction cost new of the improvements is estimated based on current prices for component parts of the building less depreciation, which is computed by analyzing the disadvantages or deficiencies of the existing building as compared to a new building.


The Sales Comparison Approach is used to estimate the value of the land as though vacant and/or the property as improved.  The appraiser gathers data on sales of comparable properties and analyzes the nature and conditions of each sale, making logical adjustments for dissimilar characteristics.  Typically, a common denominator is found.  For land value, the unit of comparison is usually price per square foot or price per acre.  For improved properties, it may be price per square foot, price per unit, or a gross rent multiplier.  The Sales Comparison Approach produces a good indication of value when sales of similar properties are available.


The Income Capitalization Approach is predicated on the assumption that a definite relationship exists between the amount of income a property can earn and its value.  In other words, value is created by the expectation of benefits to be derived in the future.  In this approach, the anticipated annual net income of the subject property is processed to produce an indication of value.  Net income is the income generated before payment of any debt service.  Income is converted into value through capitalization, in which net income is divided by a capitalization rate.  Factors such as risk, time, interest on the capital invested, and recapture of the depreciating asset are considered in selecting the capitalization rate.  The appropriateness of this rate is critical, and it may be developed in various ways.


The final step in the valuation process is the reconciliation or correlation of the value indications.  In the reconciliation, the appraiser considers the relative applicability of each of the approaches used, examines the range of the value indications, and gives most weight to the approach that appears to produce the most reliable solution to the appraisal problem.  The purpose of the appraisal, the type of property, and the adequacy and reliability of the data are analyzed; also considered in assessing the reliability of each approach to value.  To apply the three approaches to value, information pertaining to the fair market value of the subject property must be derived from the market because the appraiser seeks to anticipate the actions of buyers and sellers in the market.