What Does a Commercial Real Estate Appraiser Do?

Learn more about what commercial real estate appraisers do, and why they’re a necessity.
commercial real estate appraiser


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When people think of appraisers they usually think of residential appraising.

But, what if it’s more than that?

Most people’s only experience with an appraiser is when they buy a home.  The role of commercial real estate appraiser may not be as well-known, but they have many similarities. What does a commercial real estate appraiser do? Commercial appraisers estimate the value of different types of commercial properties including:

  • Land
  • Office buildings
  • Industrial buildings
  • Shopping centers
  • Hotels

Estimating the value of different types of commercial properties takes different levels of expertise.  No matter their level of expertise, appraisers always complete a valuation using one of three approaches: The cost approach, the sales comparison approach, or the income approach.

The Cost Approach

The cost approach is estimating value based on the cost to build a property. This approach is based on the idea that people associate cost with value. In other words, you would not build a property if it was worth less than the cost to construct. First, appraisers estimate the cost to construct the property (known as the replacement cost). Next, they make deductions for physical deterioration, functional issues, and external market factors.

The Sales Comparison Approach

The sales comparison approach is the most straightforward approach. In it, appraisers compare the sales of similar properties to the property that is being appraised. When enough data is available, this is often the preferred approach to estimate value.


The Income Approach

The income approach is based on the income potential of the property. It is based on the theory that an investor will purchase a property because of the expected income stream. Appraisers will estimate the net operating income of a property by reviewing multiple sources. These sources include:

  • Historical operating data
  • Comparable properties
  • Market information

The most common method of performing an income approach is the direct capitalization method. Here, appraisers value the estimate by capitalizing an income stream, or in other words, dividing the net operating income by a capitalization rate. A capitalization rate is determined by dividing the net operating income by the sale price of a property.

Why Commercial Appraisals are Requested

A commercial real estate appraiser uses these tools to estimate value to solve valuation issues for various needs. The most well-known need for commercial appraisals is for new loans. However, there are many other situations in which an appraisal is required, such as real estate tax purposes, dividing assets in divorce proceedings, and for eminent domain work.

The process of completing an appraisal begins with defining the scope of the assignment, and deciding which tools need to be used to solve the valuation problem. Next, the appraiser generally inspects the property, to have a good grasp of the quality and condition of the property. Then, one or more of the valuation approaches described above are then used to estimate value.

How to Become a Commercial Real Estate Appraiser

More information is available at the Appraisal Foundation.    The Appraisal Foundation sets the minimum requirements for licensing, but check requirements in your state. The minimum standards set by the Appraisal Foundation are:

  • A Bachelor’s degree
  • 300 hours of required coursework
  • 3,000 hours of work experience supervised by a general certified appraiser

Generally, the process to become state certified takes about three years.

Often, the most challenging part of getting into the field is finding a certified appraiser willing to train you. Because of this, getting involved in the Appraisal Institute is a great way to find that mentor. The Appraisal Institute is the world’s largest professional association of appraisers. It has chapters in every state, and allows for great networking opportunities. One of many other benefits of the Appraisal Institute is that they offer high-quality education.

This profession allows you to be on the leading edge of what is going on in your local market and provides a lot of variety. Most commercial appraisers get the opportunity to appraise different property types, so each day is different. You could be appraising vacant land one week, an office building next week, and a hotel the week after that. So, while three years may sound like a long time, I can speak from experience that the time goes by quickly.

About the Author

Matt Speer, MAI is Chief Product Officer at realquantum and a busy appraiser in the Kansas City metro area.


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