Commercial Loans Blog

Valuing Apartment Buildings

Posted by George Blackburne on Mon, Jul 20, 2009

Here Are Some Quick Valuation Methods Used By Commercial Real Estate Brokers and Appraisers

Suppose you are a commercial loan broker or commercial mortgage banker. A commercial borrower comes to you and applies for a multifamily loan on his 32-unit apartment building. He absolutely needs $3 million in apartment financing. Is his commercial loan request reasonable, or is he wasting your time?

If you knew approximately how much his apartment building was worth, you could quickly check the loan-to-value ratio to make sure that it didn't exceed 75%. Few multifamily lenders, other than Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the FHA, will make apartment loans in excess of 75% LTV today.

One quick technique is the Gross Rent Multiplier. Take the annual rent of the apartment project and multiply it by the typical multiplier for your area. For example, suppose the annual gross rents for this project are $500,000 (about $1,300 per month per unit). If apartment buildings in this area are selling for a Gross Rent Multiplier of between 7 and 9 and the project is just of average quality, you might multiply $500,000 by 8 to give you a rough estimate of value of $4 million. A loan request of $3 million versus a $4 million value (75% LTV) is about the maximum loan amount that the borrower could hope to get.

Another technique is a market approach to valuation called the Price Per Unit. Suppose comparable apartment projects in this area are selling for $90,000 to $130,000 per unit. Because the subject apartment building is average and it is located in an average area of town, you might choose to use $110,000 per unit.  Thirty-two units times $110,000 per unit gives you an estimated value of around $3.52 million. Gee, a $3 million loan against a $3.52 million property isn't looking too promising. If you're busy, maybe you don't take on this loan, especially if the borrower absolutely must get $3 million.

"But, George, my office is located in Billings, Montana. I don't have a clue how much apartment buildings are selling for per unit in Atlanta, Georgia."

Here's a trick. The commercial brokerage firm of Marcus & Millichap ( is well-known for refusing to take listings on over-valued multifamily properties. In other words, if the market value of an apartment building is $3 million, they won't list the building for $4 million.  So go to their web site, find some nearby and comparable apartment buildings, and determine the listing price per unit. Then you should probably reduce the price per unit by 7% to 10% to get a rough estimate of the market.  You can do the same thing using

Another commercial property valuation technique, the Capitalization Method, could be used to value the multifamily property. Suppose the borrower hands you a fact sheet containing a reasonable looking pro forma operating statement. If you knew that apartment buildings were selling in that area for 5.75% to 6.75% cap rates, you could merely divide the NOI by the cap rate to arrive at a rough estimate of the value of the building. For example, suppose the borrower provides you with a reasonable-looking pro forma perating statement. According to his own numbers, his NOI is just $220,000 per year. If you divide $220,000 in net operating income by an estimated market cap rate of 6.25%, you'll get around $3.5 million.

This borrower is probably hosed. He has a $3 million ballooning loan, and yet the building is only worth around $3.5 million. Unless this guy can bring another $400,000 in equity to the closing table, he may end up losing the apartment building in foreclosure. His best bet is to plead with the lender for an extension or a loan modification. By quickly valuing the property, you may have saved yourself a lot of wasted effort.

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