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How accurate are real estate or property valuations?


When analyzing property company accounts it is important to take a variety of things into account. Some companies want to play up their worth some like to play it down and some companies like to keep people in the dark. However where a property company decides to place its assets in its accounts may offer some clues. For example a if a property company decides to place its assets in fixed assets or current assets can often determine how the property is valued. If properties are shown in the fixed asset points in a company's accounts they will appear alongside any plant and equipment the company owns. Or the properties may be listed in the current assets alongside stock and materials and other things that are being turned over rapidly by buildings.


A company that sees itself as a long term holder of properties as an occupier or an investor is likely to show them as fixed assets. A trader of properties will likely show them as current assets. The distinction can affect the accounting and tax treatment of the property.


If the properties are listed in the current assets then they are listed at the lower of cost and net realizable value. Sometimes they are shown at cost plus a proportion of the interest charges on borrowing incurred to buy them. If the properties are recorded as fixed assets they are also recorded at cost. But if the director feels that the value is different which he or she feels is important to shareholders then the companies act requires him or her to disclose it. The disclosure required is "with such degree of precision as is practicable".  In this case the properties are divided up into freeholds and short and long leaseholds. The act requires investment properties to be revalued every 5 years by an independent valuer and they should be valued every year by a qualified professional (which does not have to be external).

Another point is that if a company buys or sells to one of its own directors. An independent valuer is required for obvious reasons. External valuations are also required if the company in question is the subject of a takeover. In this case the company about to be taken over often publishes a valuation of its completed properties but also the valuation of any development properties it owns in their current state.


Another document that provides considerable detail on a companies properties is the prospectus which is issued when the company issues a secured loan, such as a mortgage debenture stock. But in this case the properties covered will only be those issued as security for a loan.