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The Smallest Details can have the Largest Impact

Leading up to the birth of our second little one, I found myself going over the list of what to bring to the hospital to ensure we were fully prepared.  Some of the most important items included diapers, as our almost two year old daughter would say… Momma and Dadda’s clothing, and the ever so important, highly analysed, overly scrutinised… take-home outfit.  While I had originally second guessed my completed to-do list and fully packed, yet functional “go bag” (as I like to call it), the planning and comprehensive process paid off with a stress free stay at Hotel IWK.  Looking back at my eight years with Turner Drake & Partners Ltd.’s Valuation Division, I can recall multiple instances where a small detail had a big impact on the overall assignment.  If not for checking off my due-diligence list, these details may have gone overlooked. 

Below is a list of the areas I spend extra time on when valuing a property:

Zoning/Planning Information

Typically when valuing a property, a zoning map and accompanying Land Use By-Law can be found on the city or town’s website.  Once the existing use is deemed permitted under the current zoning by-law, the next step should not be to move on and consider this section of the report complete.  Instead, the next step is to be speak with the local planner to determine if the existing Planning Strategy is either currently, or will soon be, under review and if that could affect the property in the near future.  An example that I came across was a commercial building with a limited commercial zoning designation.   The property was located on a highly desirable corner; however its maximum height was limited and the redevelopment potential was restricted.  After speaking with the Town Planner, I not only uncovered the zoning designation was in the process of being changed to allow high density residential apartment buildings, but also that the maximum height would be increasing substantially as this street was designated for revitalising the immediate commercial area.  You can surely bet the property owner was pleasantly surprised.

Comparable Sales

I have come to realise that this old saying does hold true with any real estate transaction … “every sale has a story”.  While I would like to assume that all transactions satisfy the criteria of a fair sale, sadly I have been mistaken.  I consistently come across different situations that have impacted the sale price.  If not for speaking to one of the parties involved in the transaction, the sales information may have been misleading.  An example is selling a property to an existing tenant.  The tenant indicated they were willing to pay above market value as their business was established at its current location and this would save them the costs and hassle of moving.  Another example is a sale between two related parties.  While the Deed Transfer appeared to be between unrelated parties, an investigation on the Registry of Joint Stocks may determine otherwise.  I sometimes pat myself on the back, envisioning that Sherlock Holmes himself may not have uncovered this convoluted sale.  Unfortunately, this means another cup of coffee for me and further research for that ever desirable perfect comparable sale.

Easements and Right-Of-Ways

Sometimes reading a Legal Description is as complex as reading Shakespeare… “thence, North at a stone’s throw distance to the old birch tree…”.  While this description sounds like poetry, it proves troublesome when the property has since been fully improved with no birch tree for miles.  A nearby oak tree was noticed from the subject property; however is located within the sidewalk’s planter box so I assumed that was not the reference point.  Nevertheless, a Legal Description should always be read (sometimes deciphered) and the easement and right-of-way portion should be verified on every assignment.  I recently came a across a property owner looking to redevelop their property.  While the property looked good on paper (i.e. large level site with good access from the road and redevelopment occurring in the area), I discovered that a public sewer line bisected the middle of the property which restricted any development above this easement.  This had a large impact on the possible buildable area, overall design, and likelihood of the redevelopment occurring. 


While no two valuations are ever the same, by creating a standardised to-do list that covers some of the essential components of a valuation assignment, no small detail should ever go unnoticed (or take-home outfit left behind!).

Our Valuation Division never overlooks the details. For more information on our valuation services, feel free to contact Matthew Whittleton, the author of this blog post, a Consultant in our Valuation Division and Manager of our Saint John, NB operations, at (902) 429-1811 or .

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