Most of the inquiries I get about my foreign appraisal services are of properties that are not large enough to justify the expense of my trip, such as individual lots or homes. The above home is a 12-bedroom home, used for vacation rentals, located in the prestigious cliffside neighborhood of Las Playas in Acapulco. This home was used in the film “Blow”, starring Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz. I’ve visited this neighborhood before, too, as a tourist coming to visit the Quebrada, the famed diving cliff.
The actual valuation assignment was to appraise a one-third ownership interest in the home, which made it an even smaller assignment from the standpoint of a client’s cost limits, but a more difficult assignment because a partial interest has to be discounted for lack of liquidity, lack of control, lack of marketability and lack of mortgage financing. Finding comparable sales is very difficult, because only about one out of about every 500 property sales are of fractional interests.
When I appraised in Acapulco before, I collaborated with a local appraiser, Arquitecto Hector Huerta. (Most professionally recognized appraisers in Mexico are either trained architects or trained engineers.) To keep the cost down for the client, I suggested that they hire him to do the appraisal of the residence and then have them send the report to me for translation into English and application of the partial interest discount. The ultimate intended user was the Internal Revenue Service, so it had to be an English language report done by a “qualified appraiser”.
I used a technique known as “factor-based fractional discounting”, a technique developed by the Appraisal Institute, in which individual factors are quantified and discounted, such as asset risk, profitability, condition, liquidity, diversification, size of interest, lack of control, management and growth potential.
Liquidity was most difficult to measure. On the one hand, the ownership structure was corporate in nature, with any owner allowed to sell the shares any time. On the other hand, Acapulco has suffered through a shocking crime wave between the years 2009 and 2016, with drug gangs battling even in the tourist areas of the town, with about 3 murders per day. By comparison, Chicago, America’s murder capital and 4 times as large, averages less than 2 murders per day. The crime wave reduced Acapulco tourism by 85%. Local lodging occupancy averaged only 27% in 2014 but increased to 40% in 2015, as late in 2015 the governor called in the Mexican military to restore security to the city. So the liquidity situation was “easy to sell”, but “would there be buyers”?
As the security situation improves, there should be a return of travelers to this beautiful resort city, and vacation home ownership is conducive to fractional ownership.
And the client saved money on appraisal fees.