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# Thursday, August 6, 2015

There is a common misconception that valuing unimproved parcels of land (i.e. not built on or cultivated land) is fairly straightforward.  Although there is no shortage of land sales to draw from … the sheer number of variables involved with value and mixed nature of the sales makes valuing unimproved property, which includes islands, one of the most challenging exercises in real estate valuation and appraisal. Over my career I have become familiar with the most important variables to consider when valuing land and briefly share them below. This is by no means a complete list but does demonstrate the complexity involved with valuing land.

It all begins with a conversation with a client regarding their unimproved property. A typical conversation will usually go something like this:

“I am looking to have a valuation completed on my property for sale purposes.  I have received an offer and I want to know if it’s reasonable.  They are offering me $375,000 for 250 acres which is $1,500/acre.  Does that sound reasonable to you?”

This is a difficult question to answer without knowing the details of the property.  In our profession the accepted method for valuing land is to determine an appropriate per unit rate, which is based on similar properties that have sold, and then applying that to the property being valued. However, this approach is often flawed due to the number of input variables involved with value.  For example, you could have two parcels of land that are the same size located adjacent to one another, with one of those parcels having extensive waterfrontage and the other having very little.  So does it make sense to value both of these parcels using an overall per acre rate? Let’s take a look at the most crucial variables …

Access

The type and amount of access can be a large contributory factor to value.  The property, for example, might have enough linear road frontage to be subdivided thus creating several lots.  However, if the road is only maintained and accessible for a portion of the year it can have a significant impact on value.  Alternatively, the property may be accessible by way of a right-of-way.  If that’s the case it would be necessary to review the right-of-way documents to understand what the restrictions are for use of the right-of-way.

Size, Shape and Topography

The overall size, shape and topography of the parcel are also variables which need to be considered.  The parcel may be very long and narrow, short and wide, or have steep terrain or be fairly level, which can have a significant impact on its use and value. 

Location

Location, location, location  If the parcel sits adjacent to a developing residential area it would likely attract a higher value than a property situated in a more rural setting with little development.  Location of the property is very important to consider.

Waterfrontage

Does the property have extensive waterfrontage to a river, a lake or the ocean?  If so, is it susceptible to flooding during certain times of the year?  Is the shoreline badly eroding or is it permanently in a state of wetland?  What is the depth of the adjacent water and does the water level drop significantly during the summer months?  All of these factors affect value and must be explored.   

Cover Type

Another critical variable is the type of land cover.  If the likely use of the property is for forestry harvesting than the cover type would be a critical input variable.  Often times we are asked to value property which contains unique cover types including old growth forests or hemlocks. 

Zoning and Other Restrictions

Even in rural areas where properties are not typically subject to the same level of land controls, there are often restrictions on the use of the property.  For example, the property may be located within a designated wilderness area or within an area designated as a watershed.  These types of restrictions can severely limit the use of the property and thus impact its value.    

Conclusion

Back to the original question; is this offer reasonable?  Well that all depends on a number of factors that need to be investigated before providing any input ... 

The morale of my blog post: Nothing is ever as straightforward as it seems, especially when it involves valuing land.  

If you have questions regarding the value of your property or are interested in learning more, feel free to contact Nigel Turner, Senior Manager of our Valuation Division, at (902) 429-1811 or NigelTurner@TurnerDrake.com.

Thursday, August 6, 2015 9:39:18 AM (Atlantic Daylight Time, UTC-03:00)  #    -
Valuation