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IRS Publication 561- Real Estate Valuation

Methods to Real Estate Appraisal for Federal Gift and Estate Taxes

The IRS has several documents related to the appraisal of real estate. This page briefly describes Publication 561 and the three approaches to value set forth in this document.

Executive Summary

In summary, three approaches to value are possible within the appraisal process. They are the sales comparison, income and cost approaches. However, Publication 561 calls these the “comparable sales, “capitalization of income”, and “replacement cost new or reproduction cost minus observed depreciation” methods. Generally, the use of at least two or three methods (approaches) is preferred, and the replacement cost new minus observed depreciation method is generally not considered a stand-alone method.

The comparable sales method is very similar to the generally accepted sales comparison approach that most appraisers follow, the main difference being that the IRS requires more details on the comparable sales (such as reporting the Actual and Assessed Values established by the Assessor, to name a few). Also, they state that “Only comparable sales having the least adjustments in terms of items and/or total dollar adjustments should be considered as comparable to the donated property.”

The capitalization of income method is basically the income approach that most appraisers are familiar with, keeping in mind that ample support and documentation within the appraisal is necessary to determine the appropriate net operating income and cap rate.

The replacement cost new or reproduction cost minus observed depreciation method is also very similar to the cost approach that most appraisers are familiar with. The main aspect of this approach is that it is generally regarded by the IRS as setting the upper limit on value, and, is best used as secondary support to one or both of the other methods.

Any property worth more than $5,000 must have a qualified appraisal done by a qualified appraiser.

The IRS states that “Because each piece of real estate is unique and its valuation is complicated, a detailed appraisal by a professional appraiser is necessary.” A detailed appraisal would generally refer to either a Summary or Self-Contained Appraisal Report.

Publication 561 Details

Refer to Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property for the complete document.

The Real Estate Section reads as follows:

“Real Estate

Because each piece of real estate is unique and its valuation is complicated, a detailed appraisal by a professional appraiser is necessary.

The appraiser must be thoroughly trained in the application of appraisal principles and theory. In some instances the opinions of equally qualified appraisers may carry unequal weight, such as when one appraiser has a better knowledge of local conditions.

The appraisal report must contain a complete description of the property, such as street address, legal description, and lot and block number, as well as physical features, condition, and dimensions. The use to which the property is put, zoning and permitted uses, and its potential use for other higher and better uses are also relevant.

In general, there are three main approaches to the valuation of real estate. An appraisal may require the combined use of two or three methods rather than one method only.

1. Comparable Sales

The comparable sales method compares the donated property with several similar properties that have been sold. The selling prices, after adjustments for differences in date of sale, size, condition, and location, would then indicate the estimated FMV of the donated property.

If the comparable sales method is used to determine the value of unimproved real property (land without significant buildings, structures, or any other improvements that add to its value), the appraiser should consider the following factors when comparing the potential comparable property and the donated property:

  • Location, size, and zoning or use restrictions,
  • Accessibility and road frontage, and available utilities and water rights,
  • Riparian rights (right of access to and use of the water by owners of land on the bank of a river) and existing easements, rights-of-way, leases, etc.,
  • Soil characteristics, vegetative cover, and status of mineral rights, and
  • Other factors affecting value.

For each comparable sale, the appraisal must include the names of the buyer and seller, the deed book and page number, the date of sale and selling price, a property description, the amount and terms of mortgages, property surveys, the assessed value, the tax rate, and the assessor’s appraised FMV.

The comparable selling prices must be adjusted to account for differences between the sale property and the donated property. Because differences of opinion may arise between appraisers as to the degree of comparability and the amount of the adjustment considered necessary for comparison purposes, an appraiser should document each item of adjustment.

Only comparable sales having the least adjustments in terms of items and/or total dollar adjustments should be considered as comparable to the donated property.

2. Capitalization of Income

This method capitalizes the net income from the property at a rate that represents a fair return on the particular investment at the particular time, considering the risks involved. The key elements are the determination of the income to be capitalized and the rate of capitalization.

3. Replacement Cost New or Reproduction Cost Minus Observed Depreciation

This method, used alone, usually does not result in a determination of FMV. Instead, it generally tends to set the upper limit of value, particularly in periods of rising costs, because it is reasonable to assume that an informed buyer will not pay more for the real estate than it would cost to reproduce a similar property. Of course, this reasoning does not apply if a similar property cannot be created because of location, unusual construction, or some other reason. Generally, this method serves to support the value determined from other methods. When the replacement cost method is applied to improved realty, the land and improvements are valued separately.

The replacement cost of a building is figured by considering the materials, the quality of workmanship, and the number of square feet or cubic feet in the building. This cost represents the total cost of labor and material, overhead, and profit. After the replacement cost has been figured, consideration must be given to the following factors:

  • Physical deterioration—the wear and tear on the building itself,
  • Functional obsolescence—usually in older buildings with, for example, inadequate lighting, plumbing, or heating, small rooms, or a poor floor plan, and
  • Economic obsolescence—outside forces causing the whole area to become less desirable.”