Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Appraisal in Tepotzotlan, Mexico
The story sounded compelling: 26 hectares of flat, residentially zoned land at the northern periphery of the Mexico City metropolitan area, not far from the Autopista, the major north-south highway leading to Mexico City, 42 kilometers south. Next door was said to be a gated subdivision with a golf course. The owners claimed to have had a bank appraisal in 2006 establishing a value of 177 million pesos, equivalent to about $16 million USD at that time.
The idea of the site’s potential for residential subdivision seemed plausible at first. As modern life takes over Mexico City, it has increasingly grown like an American city, with residents fleeing to growing suburbs and the city population actually declining, similar to Chicago, Detroit or Baltimore. The subject property initially sounded like an ideal location for a new housing subdivision.
The paper chase
One of the documents I requested from the landowner was the most recent predial (property tax receipt). I use it to double-check items such as owner, location, tax ID number (clave catastral), and assessed value, which I hope might point me in the right direction of true market value.
I was provided instead with a predial from 1992, indicating an assessed value of 87,696,000 pesos. Why would they do something like that?
At today’s exchange rate of 12.18 pesos to one dollar, the land would have been worth $7,200,000 back then, but that would be in nuevos pesos, which were not established until 1993, after a period of hyperinflation, when Mexico issued the “new peso” to replace and be valued at 1000 old pesos. The exchange rate on the date of the predial would have been 3064 “old” pesos to one dollar, with the assessed value being equivalent to only $28,621 USD!
Thus, the purpose of providing a predial dated prior to 1993 was an attempt to confuse me. The alleged bank appraisal from 2006 never materialized, either.
The property inspection
After exiting from the Autopista, we traveled another half hour on roads that progressively got narrower and rougher, making numerous turns as we traveled through residential neighborhoods with speed bumps on every block. The paved roads then ended and we traveled on narrow, rutted dirt roads.
Arriving at the site, I found it to be a hillside. The elevation dropped by 150 feet from top to bottom.
Immediately west was a neighborhood of makeshift shacks and dirt roads.
Immediately south was a neighborhood of modest, concrete block structures on small lots, served by paved roads. Graffiti was prevalent.
Immediately north was the countryside. Immediately east was the gated subdivision I had heard about.
After walking about the subject property, we drove to the gated community next door to perhaps give me some idea of the residential development potential of the subject site.
The guardhouse was closed. One of the four gates was open to traffic, however. Once inside, I saw mostly vacant lots, a few structures, some which appeared to be vacant, and no golf course. Census data indicated that only 18 households live in this subdivision. The developer is still advertising to build attractive new 3-bedroom homes of 2500 to 2600 square feet for 1.2 million pesos unfurnished or 1.5 million pesos furnished, equivalent to about $98,000 and $123,000.
Sales of large parcels were not to be found, so I turned to listings. The most similar property in terms of size and proximity was in the next town west, but its H500A (municipality of Tepotzotlan) zoning allowed 5 times as much residential density as the subject site – 20 dwellings per hectare or 8 dwellings per acre. Its listing price translated to about $72,000 per hectare, for five times the allowable density. Other local parcels were priced as low as $20,000 per hectare (although that one was in a more remote location).
It soon became apparent that the appraised value was going to fall far short of the $16 million that the lender was led to believe. Moreover, this particular lender’s minimum loan size is $1 million with a maximum loan-to-value ratio of 50% for raw land, so there was no real possibility of getting a deal done here.
Vernon Martin, the founding principal of American Property Research, performs paid research, due diligence and valuations regarding commercial and residential real estate throughout the world. He has 33 years of commercial appraisal experience and has worked in 22 countries, 43 U.S. states, and four Canadian provinces. He started his career at the global firm Jones Lang Wootton and went on to become the chief commercial appraiser at 3 national (U.S.) lending institutions, formerly taught Real Estate Valuation at California State University, Los Angeles and has authored many professional journal articles and two books. He has degrees from the University of Chicago and Southern Methodist University and is a Certified General Appraiser and a Certified Fraud Examiner. For more information, call 1-323-788-1605, or e-mail him at vm@AmericanPropertyResearch.com.