Thursday, December 10, 2015

What's It Really Worth?

"What do you think it's worth?" That's the (literally in some cases) million dollar question. No one wants to sell for less than actual value or pay more than, but no one, appraisers, tax authorities, Realtors nor Zillow, has an always accurate method for determining present value of a property. In the rare situation of multiple recent sales of identical properties we can get very close. For everything else, looking at recent sales of the most similar properties, holding a wet finger in the breeze and adjusting accordingly is the best anyone can do to estimate current value. These adjustments are where the variations happen.

How much more, if any, is an identical 10th floor unit worth over a 4th floor? 3rd over 1st? How much should I deduct for no garage or add for a second garage? No elevator? High ceilings? Forty year old versus 15 year old building? Is a weekly rental unit worth more than a three month minimum rental unit? How much discount for a compromised ocean view? Is a complex with tennis courts worth more? How about reserve account balances? There are so many variables that the best anyone can do is come up with their best idea and hope to land on the good side of their estimate.

This is where it can get interesting. If I do my homework and crunch the numbers carefully and come up with a number that I trust is close, I will probably still have to be flexible if I hope to consummate a sale as the other party's opinion of value is almost certain to be different than mine. If I treat my number as a line not to be crossed, I am setting up for failure. I have seen deals fall apart with buyers and sellers whose drop-dead numbers were ridiculously close but which neither would violate. If I am selling in a dropping market, it may not matter if I accept an offer for less than I had hoped. Same holds true for buying in a rising market. If similar properties have been appreciating, paying more than my opinion of value might make sense. This is especially true when inventory is low. For everyone involved  it helps to remember that both sides' numbers are ESTIMATES.

Where do we start? Let's look at our bread and butter property here in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral, a direct ocean condo with at least two bedrooms and two baths. The usual starting point for properties of similar size and condition with similar attributes is price per square foot. Units currently for sale (with one notable exception) have an asking price per square foot ranging from a high of $454 to a low of $154 per square foot. Both the high and the low may actually be priced to perfection. There are 18 units asking more than $300 per square foot. Only one unit has sold for more than $300 a square foot in the last 90 days. Remember, opinions and differences thereof. For the record, sixteen of those $300+/sf units are less than 15 years old. Newness generally commands a premium.

The bulk of the recently sold units with an unobstructed east ocean view sold for between $215 and $295 per square foot with half landing between $250 and $260 per square foot. To put that in perspective, that means a typical 1300 square foot 2/2 unit has recently been selling in a range of $279,500 to $383,500. Don't marry your opinion of value. There is a lot of wiggle room surrounding it.

Our takeaway: Your opinion of value, just like mine and every seller's and every buyer's is just an opinion. The owner of the luxury Cocoa Beach condo who just increased his price to $691 per square foot this morning no doubt thinks his opinion of value is correct. Now if he can just find a buyer with the same opinion he may be able to sell. Before a Meridian penthouse closed last month for $1,250,000 I thought that $500 a square foot was crazy for any condo here. My opinion had to change. Flexibility, my people.

"When I found the skull in the woods, the first thing I did was call the police. But then I got curious about it. I picked it up, and started wondering who this person was, and why he had deer horns." ___Jack Handy