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I'm looking into investing into a specific apartment. It hasn't been publicly listed as for sale yet, I just happen to know the current owner. The owner asked me to do my own research and make him an offer. The owner has a number in mind, but for now he wishes to keep that to himself.

I got two different local realtors to look the apartment up and visit it on-sight with me, to tell me how much they'd value the apartment at, so that I could look into making an offer if it would make sense as a function of loan-payments, maintenance, bills, rental income and so fourth.

I made it clear that I wanted to know the market-value, not how low I should necessarily offer if I were buying or how high I should sell if I were selling. Both ended up knowing that I were considering buying but I focused on getting to know the market value of the apartment. They happened to give me offer suggestions as-well which were in their recommended market-value ranges anyway.

Realtor A said the apartment should be valued at $162k - 170.6k and that I should make an offer for the lower amount and not accept anything above the upper limit of this range.

Realtor B said the apartment should be valued at $203k - 211.3k.

Both realtors are used to buying and selling houses and apartments in the area. Neither one has any connection to the seller. After the evaluation I told realtor B about Realtor's A evaluation and while he didn't exactly agree with it he did say that I could attempt to make initial offers at Realtor's A range (upper-limit) and see how the seller responds.

The (obvious?) problem

I'm not used to purchasing apartments or evaluating them. How do you go around this situation when two realtors come down to such a vastly different outcome, and they were both evaluating from the same perspective? Is this perhaps not that big of a gap as I'm seeing it being?

I understand that I can use some real estate investing formulas (such as the 1% rule) to estimate which price I should be looking for, knowing that the monthly rent from a tenant(s) would be in the range of $1381 - $1585 but that doesn't quite tell me how to address this situation. Although I could perhaps use it as a third range and then just take the median value and determine it as the market price.

How do I (and real-estate investors and people considering buying in general) proceed in coming down to a conclusion without attempting to low-ball the seller or aim to high, with such different ranges in hand? Should one look at the medians, start at the bottom, or get a third opinion? I understand you would not start offering at the exact market-price, but at the bottom, but that bottom (or the ceiling for that matter) is not very clear to me.

Edit:

I'm from Iceland and I'm quite sure that Realtors take care of all price evaluations and decide the recommended listings.

  • Not a proper answer, but when I'm buying stuff, I like to pick the lowest price mentioned and set that as the ceiling that I'm willing to pay. – Michael Nov 28 '19 at 18:33
  • Is getting a third realtor to give a valuation a possibility? If they (roughly) mirror one of the ranges above, that increases confidence in that range. If they were to come up with, say, $180k...$195k (i.e. bang in the middle), then $165k...$180k, possibly stretching to $190k is probably "ok". If they come up with something widely different... panic :-) – TripeHound Nov 29 '19 at 8:12
  • @TripeHound Yeah going to try to get 1-2 more to do an evaluation before having a chat with the seller. Feels like I shouldn't have to but in this case I don't seem to have a choice if I want to come down to an educated conclusion. I don't want to overpay, but at the same time I don't want to attempt to low-ball the seller, he's my friend's father-in law, and he happens to be a person who knows a lot about business and someone whom one could learn a lot from in the future. – Jonast92 Nov 29 '19 at 10:56
  • @Michael Not a bad strategy! – Jonast92 Nov 29 '19 at 10:57
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A proper appraisal is not usually done by a realtor, but realtors should know their markets and how to research.

Apartments/condos/townhouses are usually much easier to price than single-family houses because there are many comparable units in a relatively small area that can be used to get a good ballpark estimate. Starting with the comparable units you can then adjust up/down based on features that the unit you are interested has/doesn't have compared to the others.

That price variance is very significant, it suggests that one or both of them have done a bad job estimating. Since you know the owner I suggest having a proper appraisal done, it's typically a few hundred dollars, but worth it in cases like this and likely necessary for the sale (assuming financing is involved). Alternatively you could get a third estimate and then assume that the closest two are more accurate, but I'd suggest an appraisal.

Personally, I spend a lot of time researching the market in my area. The more time you spend paying attention to an area the easier it becomes, but even then you'll find places that sell for more/less than you expected. Also, there are enough complexities and potentials for price adjustments after going under contract that you can't actually know what the bottom line was. For example, my first house I offered an extra $3k in exchange for them covering all closing costs. So the purchase price was arguably higher than market. In my current house I offered $10k less than asking because they needed to live in the house for an unspecified amount of time until their house was completed. These sorts of things limit the usefulness of evaluating comparable units, but should still land in a reasonable range.

  • Where I'm from I believe its the norm for Realtors to do the price evaluation. I'm going to get a third or a fourth evaluation and then have a chat with the seller. You're right that it's better to spend more time and perhaps money (evaluations are normally free here though thankfully) to make sure that the number I come down to won't put a potential strain on the relationship with the seller. You're also right that high/low is irrelevant if the outcome is good for you. – Jonast92 Nov 29 '19 at 11:01
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I would see if there is an official open register where you can check the taxation value of the real estate. In The Netherlands you can check https://www.wozwaardeloket.nl/index.jsp and get for every address the taxation value of the real estate. Although the market value is often slightly higher than the value listed in the register, it gives you an additional clue for determining the value of the property.

  • Thanks. I can see the current valuation of the apartment but sadly it's usually way below or way above the actual price the apartment goes for. It's more about the raw apartment instead of the market value. – Jonast92 Nov 29 '19 at 14:12
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How do I (and real-estate investors and people considering buying in general) proceed in coming down to a conclusion without attempting to low-ball the seller or aim to high, with such different ranges in hand?

You are essentially trying to mimic what a seller does. Before they list the house on the market they ask several agents to prepare a marketing plan. This will include as part of it their estimate of how much you can sell the property for. The agent prepares not a single number, or even a range; they also include their methodology. They list the other properties that are similar in location, size, type, and have sold recently. They will also include some of the others that are similar and are currently on the market.

Now a seller also has to include in their decision the rest of the package: cost the agent will charge them, services they will provide, and how they expect to advertise the property. In your case this isn't your concern, except you may also be interested in the services provided by the agent that will be representing you if you are going to hire one.

If your two estimates are far apart, then you should get a third estimate. Get as many details as possible on their methodology, and it should include details on the comparable properties they used. Use this detailed information to see if their estimate makes sense.

In some jurisdictions it can be suggested to use tax records to make an estimate, but that only works if there is a known relationship to the price and the tax information. If the jurisdiction only recalculates values every three years, and the market is hot, or is dropping, those tax values are worthless as an estimate.

What complicates your situation is that you know the current owner, and you know they probably haven't done a full estimate of the value. They may be basing it on what somebody else in the complex sold their sort of similar place for last year. You don't want to take advantage of them by low-balling them and then they realize it later on. It would make talking to them uncomfortable. But you also don't want to overpay just because you are being overly concerned about their feelings.

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