Evaluating an owner's asking price is crucial to your investment. The seller can set the asking price at whatever he or she wants. There are no laws or rules that must be followed when setting an asking price for a property. In fact, there are many strategies for pricing a property that can be related to motivation, negotiation, emotional investment in a property, and so many others..
Let's first look at some possible seller strategies for pricing a property so we understand how pricing can be dependent upon so many issues.
The seller could have an idea in his or her head as to what the property is worth, and, without any consultation, pick a price out of thin air. Or they could look at comparable sales (comps) of properties that have sold near the property to determine a fair market value. They can then price the property higher or lower, depending on how motivated the seller really is.
If there are no comps to compare properties, the seller may have to judge a property's worth based on a different type of property, property that sold a long time ago, and adjust for appreciation, or even look at neighboring, comparable cities that could indicate what the property is actually worth.
A truly fair seller could get appraisals done by a few different people, and take the average of the values.
Keep in mind, however, appraisals can be very expensive and are at best a guesstimate as to what a property is worth.
The best way to evaluate a seller's asking price is to blatantly ask the Realtor or seller, how the price was determined, and to give supporting evidence.
You may find yourself in a situation where the broker has a pile of comps, perhaps an appraisal, and supporting documentation as to why the property is priced at what it is. If you find yourself in this situation, beyond validating and verifying the supporting documents, you will very easily be able to evaluate if the asking price is above, at, or below market value. This is the easiest situation in which to find yourself.
Unfortunately, although this previous example is how every property should be presented to a buyer, it is not always realistic. You may have to ask the broker for comps and do the research yourself in order to evaluate the seller's asking price.
If the property is in your own community, then, as a real estate insider, you should know your real estate market inside and out. However, if you are searching in an unfamiliar area, you will need to request the services of other commercial real estate players.
If you do decide that the seller's asking price is in alignment with your investment strategy and goals, and you put the property under contract, the next step would be to get an appraisal done by an independent party that has no interest in the subject property whatsoever, in order to validate your assumptions.
This appraisal, after all, will be similar to a bank's appraisal and help to determine how much money can be loaned on the project. The closer you are to the bank's appraisal, the better shape you will be in to meet project costs, debt service and make your desired profit.
Knowing what a property is really worth and evaluating the seller's asking price are two major ways that you can approach making a sound and final decision regarding an investment. Always have supporting and verified documentation for the subject property so you know exactly what you are getting and for what price.