A New Study on Photovoltaic Home Premiums

A new academic study titled “Exploring California PV Home Premiums” has been prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy.

You can download it here:

California PV Home Premiums

The study uses a regression analysis to conclude that premiums are paid for PV homes at a rate of $5,911 per kW in size–larger systems command higher premiums.  They additionally find that premiums decrease by $2,411 for each year of system age–older systems provide smaller premiums.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s January 2014 report, the average retail price of electricity for residential customers in California was 16.4 cents per Kilowatthour in November 2013.  At the same time, Hawaii’s average residential rate was 37.0 cents per Kilowatthour.  More than double the rate!

While an appraiser would need to investigate the local Hawaii market to test sensitivity, it seems logical that the Hawaii market might command even higher premiums for its installed PV base.

Please read my disclaimer.

The Appraisal of Real Estate, 14th Edition – New AI Video

The Appraisal Institute recently published the 14th edition of The Appraisal of Real Estate, the premiere textbook in the real estate valuation field.

The Appraisal of Real Estate - 14th Edition

2013 Appraisal Institute President Rick Borges, MAI, SRA discusses the new book in this video:

Appraisal research and reference are now much more efficient when using the PDF version of the book.  Words and phrases are easily searchable and citations from the text are straightforward.

Thank You Rick!

The Hawaii Chapter of The Appraisal Institute was honored to host Mr. Borges and Fred Grubbe, MBA, CAE (CEO of The Appraisal Institute) in Honolulu earlier this year–it was a wonderful event that will be talked about for years to come.   A shameless photo-op with the 2013 President and yours truly:

Richard L. Borges, II, MAI, SRA and Chris Ponsar, MAI

Richard L. Borges, II, MAI, SRA and Chris Ponsar, MAI, SRA

Maui Million Dollar Home Sales ($1.0M+) – Day 4 of 10 – “Who Sold Them”?

From January 1, 2012 through September 16, 2013, a total of 231 “million dollar plus” homes sold in Maui County, generating total volume in excess of $525 million.  There are many ways that Hawaii real estate appraisers analyze sales statistics for luxury homes.  Because a proper market study for this segment would run many pages, I am posting one article per day for ten days.

Day 4 of 10 – Maui Million Dollar ($1.0M+) Single Family Homes By Agent

Consider the following graph and chart, 24 agents have sold four or more “million dollar homes” in the study period (ties sorted by first name alphabetical order):

Maui Million Dollar Home Sales By Agent

Maui Million Dollar Home Sales By Agent

Maui Million Dollar Single Family Home Sales By Agent
Sold From 1/1/2012 through 9/16/2013


Agent Name
# of
$1.0M+ Sales
1 Wendy R Peterson 11
1 William B Moffett Jr. 11
3 Robert H Dein 10
4 Mary Anne Fitch 8
5 Lori L Powers 7
5 Robert R Myers 7
5 Tom Tezak 7
8 John H Page-Papazian 6
8 Steve Blackington 6
10 Bob Hansen 5
10 Debbie Arakaki 5
10 Dennis Rush 5
10 Jeremy Stice 5
10 Martin Hauen-Limkilde 5
10 Nancy J Callahan 5
10 Vincent Palmieri 5
17 Courtney M Brown 4
17 Cynthia Warner 4
17 Dano Sayles 4
17 Diane K Pool 4
17 Jeannie Kong 4
17 Josh Jerman 4
17 Kathy Ross 4
17 Riette G Jenkins 4

Bottom Line: This is the big time.

No analysis required.  This data speaks for itself.  We’re talking about real estate professionals at the top of their game here.  They all deserve aloha and praise!

Questions or comments?  Please leave them in the comment  box below, I would be happy to clarify and/or expand.

Aloha, Chris

Maui Million Dollar Home Sales ($1.0M+) – Day 3 of 10 – “How Big Are They?”

From January 1, 2012 through September 16, 2013, a total of 231 “million dollar plus” homes sold in Maui County, generating total volume in excess of $525 million.

There are many ways that Hawaii real estate appraisers analyze sales statistics for luxury homes.  Because a proper market study for this segment would run many pages, I am posting one article per day for ten days.

Day 3 of 10 – Maui Million Dollar ($1.0M+) Single Family Homes By Living Area

Consider the following graph and chart:

Maui Million Dollar Sales By Living Area

Maui Million Dollar Sales By Living Area

Maui Million Dollar Single Family Homes By Living Area
Sold From 1/1/2012 through 9/16/2013
Living Area in SF # of Sales % of Total
0-999 5 2.2%
1000-1999 32 13.9%
2000-2999 68 29.4%
3000-3999 75 32.5%
4000-4999 28 12.1%
5000-5999 17 7.4%
6000-6999 2 0.9%
7000-7999 2 0.9%
8000-8999 1 0.4%
9000-10000 1 0.4%
Total 231 100.0%

Luxury homes having between 2,000 and 4,000 square feet of living area represent the “sweet spot” of the Maui luxury market, comprising more than 60 percent of the Valley Isle’s million dollar home sales since the beginning of 2012.

Bottom Line: Bigger Isn’t Necessarily Better

97.4 percent of all “million dollar plus” single family homes sold on Maui since 2012 have 6,000 square feet of living area or less.  While it is certainly possible to build larger residences, and some very wealthy individuals have, if you’re building much larger than 5,000 square feet, you might be going beyond what the market prefers.

Questions or comments?  Please leave them in the comment  box below, I would be happy to clarify and/or expand.

Aloha, Chris

Bonus  – Superadequacy

The data above suggests that building much larger than 5,000 square feet may not be consistent with market preferences.  If true, real estate appraisers refer to this phenomena as a “superadequacy”, which is defined below:


An excess in the capacity or quality of a structure or structural component; determined by market standards.

Source: Appraisal Institute, The Dictionary of Real Estate Appraisal, 5th ed. (Chicago: Appraisal Institute, 2010

Maui Million Dollar Home Sales ($1.0M+) – Day 1 of 10 – “Where are the million dollar homes located?”

Since January 1, 2012, a total of 231 “million dollar plus” homes have sold in Maui County, generating a total dollar volume in excess of $525 million.

There are many ways that Hawaii real estate appraisers analyze luxury sales statistics.  Because a proper market study for this segment would run many pages, I will be posting one analysis per day for the next ten days.

Day 1 of 10 – Maui Million Dollar ($1.0M+) Single Family Homes By District

Consider the following graph and chart:

Day 1 - Maui $1.0M Sales By District

Maui Million Dollar Home Sales By District

Maui Million Dollar ($1.0M+) Single Family Homes By District
Sold From 1/1/2012 through 9/16/2013
District # of Sales % of Total
Wailea / Makena 42 18.2%
Lahaina 24 10.4%
Kaanapali 23 10.0%
Kula / Ulupalakua / Kanaio 20 8.7%
Maui Meadows 19 8.2%
Kihei 16 6.9%
Haiku 15 6.5%
Kapalua 15 6.5%
Spreckelsville / Paia / Kuau 15 6.5%
Makawao / Olinda / Haliimaile 11 4.8%
Napili / Kahana / Honokowai 11 4.8%
Wailuku 5 2.2%
Lanai 4 1.7%
Pukalani 3 1.3%
Molokai 2 0.9%
Olowalu 2 0.9%
Hana 1 0.4%
Kahakuloa 1 0.4%
Kipahulu 1 0.4%
Maalaea 1 0.4%
Total 231 100.0%

Maui’s three resort districts of Wailea / Makena, Kaanapali, and Kapalua are in bold.  As shown, almost 35 percent of Maui’s million dollar home sales since January 1, 2012 come from these three master planned communities. The second tier visitor areas of Lahaina, Kihei, and Napili/Kahana/Makawao log an additional 22 percent of the “million dollar” single family home sales on the Valley Isle.

Maui Resort and Second Tier Neighborhoods

Maui Resort and Second Tier Neighborhoods


Bottom line:  Location matters.

While upcountry locales are showing strong sales figures in the million dollar and above segment, Maui’s master planned resorts of Wailea/Makena, Kaanapali, and Kapalua lead the way.

Questions or comments?  Please leave them in the comment  box below, I would be happy to clarify and/or expand.

Aloha, Chris

New Book – The Appraisal of Real Estate, 14th Edition

The newest edition of the appraisal bible, “The Appraisal of Real Estate, 14th Edition” is being released in mid-September 2013.  It’s a book that will act as the Gold Standard for real estate appraisers worldwide.

According to the Appraisal Institute, it will be available for the first time in digital formats: as a PDF in September 2013 and in E-pub and Kindle formats in January 2014!

It is an essential text if you are in the appraisal field, or engage appraisers in your practice:


The Appraisal of Real Estate - 14th Edition

UPDATE: The Appraisal Institute just released the table of contents for the 14th Edition.

You can download the PDF here: The Appraisal of Real Estate 14th Edition – Table of Contents

I’m looking forward to Chapter 14, “Statistical Analysis in Appraisal”–it appears to be new in this edition.

Table of Contents
Foreword – ix
Acknowledgments – xi

PART I Real Estate and Its Appraisal
Chapter 1 Introduction to Appraisal – 1
Chapter 2 Land, Real Estate, and Ownership of Real Property – 11
Chapter 3 The Nature of Value – 19
Chapter 4 The Valuation Process – 35

PART II Identification of the Problem
Chapter 5 Elements of the Assignment – 49
Chapter 6 Identifying the Type of Value and Its Definition – 57
Chapter 7 Identifying the Rights to Be Appraised – 69

PART III Scope of Work Determination
Chapter 8 Scope of Work – 87

PART IV Data Collection and Property Description
Chapter 9 Data Collection – 95
Chapter 10 Economic Trends in Real Estate Markets and Capital Markets – 129
Chapter 11 Neighborhoods, Districts, and Market Areas – 163
Chapter 12 Land and Site Description – 189
Chapter 13 Building Description – 219

PART V Data Analysis
Chapter 14 Statistical Analysis in Appraisal – 275
Chapter 15 Market Analysis – 299
Chapter 16 Highest and Best Use Analysis – 331

PART VI Land Value Opinion
Chapter 17 Land and Site Valuation – 359

PART VII Application of the Approaches to Value
Chapter 18 The Sales Comparison Approach – 377
Chapter 19 Comparative Analysis – 397
Chapter 20 Applications of the Sales Comparison Approach – 427
Chapter 21 The Income Capitalization Approach – 439
Chapter 22 Income and Expense Analysis – 463
Chapter 23 Direct Capitalization – 491
Chapter 24 Yield Capitalization – 509
Chapter 25 Discounted Cash Flow Analysis and Investment Analysis – 529
Chapter 26 Applications of the Income Capitalization Approach – 541
Chapter 27 The Cost Approach – 561
Chapter 28 Building Cost Estimates – 581
Chapter 29 Depreciation Estimates – 597

PART VIII Reconciliation of the Value Indications and Final Opinion of Value
Chapter 30 Reconciling Value Indications – 641

PART IX Report of Defined Value
Chapter 31 The Appraisal Report – 649

PART X Appraisal Practice Specialties
Chapter 32 Appraisal Review – 671
Chapter 33 Consulting – 683
Chapter 34 Valuation for Financial Reporting – 689
Chapter 35 Valuation of Real Property with Related Personal
Property or Intangible Property – 703

Appendix A Professional Practice and Law – 717
Appendix B Regression Analysis and Statistical Applications – 733
Appendix C Financial Formulas – 753
Bibliography – 797
Index – 819

Interest Rates and Hawaii Residential Prices–Are They Really Connected?

I posted an article a few days ago that examined the theoretical relationship between interest rates and purchasing power.  The calculations beg the question “are interest rates and Hawaii home prices actually connected?”

Logic says “of course!”, the data suggests “not so much!”

Let’s assume a 20 percent down payment, market loan fees (points), and monthly payments of 35 percent of a household’s gross income.

The following chart shows State of Hawaii median income, condominium median prices, single family median prices, and national average interest rates for 30-year mortgages from 1987 through 2011 (the latest year for which all data points are available).

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Freddie Mac, Hawaii State Data Book, and Chris Ponsar, MAI

Based upon the income and interest rates shown, the median Hawaii family could afford a monthly payment of $1,021 in 1987, and $1,722 in 2011.  These payments equate to affordable home prices of $114,370 in 1987, and $341,898 in 2011. (A pretty hefty increase in purchasing power, driven largely by lower interest rates)

Lets see how the figures track with historic price fluctuations in the Hawaii residential real estate market.

Hawaii Home Affordability vs Median Prices

The red and green trendlines track single family and condominium prices in the study period–as shown, condos and single family home prices track pretty well.

How about affordability (the purple trendline) based on interest rates ?

The long term trend is clearly positive for all variables, with affordable price, condo price, and single family price all being about 3x higher in 2011 than they were in 1987.

But that’s not the question most folks are asking.  The market participants I talk to are generally trying to answer the question “If interest rates go up (this year, or next year), will prices go down (this year, or next year)?”  Is it a causal relationship?

What do you think?  Personally, beyond long term growth, I don’t see a strong relationship in the data, and neither is a solid correlation revealed in geeky statistical analyses.

Why isn’t the correlation better?

Higher interest rates do equate to lower affordability for a particular household, but why doesn’t that relationship translate well into median prices?

A few suggestions:

  1. Median prices are not the best way to measure market trends–overall dollar volume and the raw number of sales may provide more insight (and material for a future article)
  2. Hawaii’s population continues to grow faster than new housing units are developed–fundamental demand grows incrementally in both good times and bad. (Which explains the overall upward trend in prices, but not the ups and downs in particular years)
  3. When monthly payments go up, families still need shelter.  For those families contemplating a home purchase, spending on discretionary items will likely suffer first (say vacations or luxury items)–these spending habit adjustments allow families to absorb a certain amount of extra monthly payment caused by increased interest rates.
  4. When prices start to decline, sellers may opt not to put their home on the market.  Financially stable homeowners can afford to “hold out” for their desired price, which restricts supply, and in turn has a stabilizing effect on prices.

Frankly, when I began researching the data for this article, I expected to see a pretty reasonable relationship between affordability and median prices–instead, we see that from the perspective of a current homeowner, prices appear not to fluctuate on a “dollar for dollar” basis with interest rates. From an appraiser/appraisal perspective, it is imperative to observe how the market reacts to the rising rates that are currently anticipated, not just automatically assume lower prices if interest rates rise.

Comments and/or Questions?  Please leave them in the comments section below–I’d be happy to clarify or expand.

Aloha, Chris

Hawaiki Tower Analysis – An alternative to traditional comps and adjustments.

For many appraisers in Hawaii, a common but challenging assignment is to value a single unit in a high-rise luxury condominium project.

There are dozens of luxury high-rises in Honolulu.  This article takes a look at Hawaiki Tower, a 46-story condominium with 417 residential units. It is situated immediately across the street from Ala Moana Shopping Center and benefits from highly desirable ocean views.

Hawaiki Tower HeroPhoto Credit: Mathew Ngo – REALTOR®

At first, it might seem straightforward to value a unit in this building.  For example, in the past 12 months, 14 residential units at Hawaiki Tower have sold, as shown in the chart below:

Hawaiki Sales - Past 12 MonthsSources:  HiCentral MLS, and Chris Ponsar, MAI

From an appraiser’s point of view, what’s not to love?  We’ve got a bunch of seemingly clean data to work with. This is largely true, but a closer look reveals the following:

  • 10 sales of two-bedroom units in the past year, and 4 sales of one bedroom units.
  • Floor levels range from 8 to 43
  • Unit sizes range from 842 to 1,618 square feet of living area.
  • Sale prices range from $575,000 to $1,616,000
  • Prices per square foot range from $642 to $1,187

In other words, sale prices and unit characteristics fall in a wider range than one might expect, and an appraiser looking at any particular unit will be challenged to provide solid market support for adjustments.  Not impossible, but definitely difficult.

Let’s look at an alternative: The Multiplier Method

The following chart tracks resales at Hawaiki Tower since construction completion in 1999.

Hawaiki Resale as pctSources:  HiCentral MLS, Hawaii Information Service, and Chris Ponsar, MAI

At first, this might appear to be a summary of run-of-the-mill sale prices, but it isn’t.  This chart tracks each sale price at Hawaiki Tower as a percent of its original developer’s sale price.   As shown, the 150 percent threshold was crossed sometime around 2004, with the march past 200 percent taking shape in 2012. (We’re definitely getting into appraiser geek stuff here)

The benefits of this approach are rooted in the idea that when Hawaiki Tower was first completed and sold out in 1999-2001 (a time of relatively stable pricing where almost 75 percent of the project closed in the first 12 months after completion), the developer and more than 400 buyers came to individual agreements on price.  Buyer preferences for items such as ocean view, unit size, floor level, floor plan, etc are “baked in” to the original developer closing prices.

If we take another look at the Hawaiki Tower sales from the previous 12 months, a tighter trend reveals itself in the “% of original price” and “multiplier” columns:

Hawaiki Multiplier Chart

In the prior 12 months, on average, the 10 two-bedroom sales at Hawaiki Tower traded for 2.2x their original sale prices.  One-bedroom units are trailing a bit, selling for about 1.9x the original developer’s price–a possible indication that one-bedroom units are less desirable, in comparison to two-bedroom units, than they were in 1999, a market preference that many real estate agents and appraisers have observed.

What does it all mean?

Based on the sales activity at Hawaiki Tower over the past 12 months, units have closed in the range of 1.6-2.8x original prices, with most activity happening in the 1.9-2.3x range.  As a property owner, real estate agent, or other professional interested in market value, it would seem reasonable to set value expectations in these ranges.

If you’re interested to know what your unit sold for originally in the 1999-2001 sell out period, send me a note and I’ll zip it over to you (the whole 400-unit list seems a bit overwhelming for this article).  Alternatively, you can look up the public record sales activity for any property on Oahu at http://www.honolulupropertytax.com.  Go to the property search tab and enter your address or tax map key if you know it (again, drop me a line if I can help).

Comments and/or Questions?  Please leave them in the comments section below–I’d be happy to clarify or expand.

Aloha, Chris

The Three Approaches To Value: Sales Comparison, Cost, and Income Capitalization

In a nutshell:

Real estate is valued by an appraiser who considers one or more of the three approaches to value:

  • The Sales Comparison Approach evaluates sales of properties that are similar to a subject property.  After differences are accounted for, the comparables should represent a reasonable value range for the subject.
  • The Cost Approach calculates the cost to construct new improvements on a site, less any depreciation due to age or other factors.  This depreciated cost is then added to the value of the underlying land.
  • The Income Capitalization Approach measures the present worth of (a) future income generated by a property and (b) its eventual resale value.

In depth:

In appraisals of real estate, appraisers are most frequently asked to develop an independent and unbiased opinion of market value for a subject property.

Market value is determined by an appraiser who analyzes three types of market data: comparable sales, cost to replace (or reproduce), and income.  The process of analyzing data from these sources is commonly referred to as “The Three Approaches To Value”.

The following discussion explains each approach.

Sales Comparison

“Sales Comparison is King” – Numerous Appraisal Institute Instructors

Sales Comparison is the approach to value that the public is probably most familiar with.  In this approach, real estate appraisers research and analyze sales of similar properties (“comparables” or “comps”) in order to compare them to a subject property.  Sales comparison is usually the most insightful valuation method when numerous timely sales of similar properties are available to study.

To the greatest extent possible, appraisers strive to find comparables that buyers would consider to be acceptable substitutes for the subject property.  When I select comps, I always ask myself the question: “If the subject property was not on the market, what would the most probable buyer purchase instead?”  The goal is to find the most timely sales of properties that an appraiser feels would compete with the subject property in the open market.

After comparables are selected, an appraiser develops his or her opinion of value by considering factors that buyers and sellers consider to be important.  In the case of a single family home, bedrooms, bathrooms, land area, ocean views, and age/quality of construction are among the factors that would typically be considered.  In most cases, mathematical adjustments are made to each comparable sale in order to allow for fair comparisons.  If a comparable has a superior trait, such as an extra bedroom, it is adjusted downward to match the subject.  If a comparable has an inferior trait, like a one car garage (instead of two at the subject), it may be adjusted upward to equate it to the subject property.

Simple Adj ScheduleA Simple Adjustment Schedule

After all adjustments, the comparables should indicate the relevant range of values for the subject property.  The appraiser’s job is then to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the comparables and adjustments, and come to a value conclusion via the sales comparison approach.

Cost Approach 

Generally speaking, the cost approach is based on the idea that a rational real estate buyer would not usually pay meaningfully more for a property than it would cost to build new.  The cost approach is most useful in valuing new improvements.  In addition, it is often the best (and sometimes the only) method for valuing properties that are rarely sold and/or generate little or no income (such as schools, churches, parks,or military properties).

The cost approach involves three basic steps:

  1. Estimating the cost to reproduce (or replace) the existing improvements .
  2. Deducting any depreciation that is present.  (The most common form of depreciation is physical deterioration from age, but changing market tastes and external considerations can reveal types of depreciation known as “functional obsolescence” and “external obsolescence“, both of which I can discuss in a later article.)
  3. Adding the value of the depreciated improvements to the value of the land underneath the property.  (The land is valued separately using the sales comparison approach.)

After land value is added to the depreciated value of improvements, the total represents the value of the property via the cost approach.

A side note for a future discussion:  It is common for appraisers to express the idea that the value indicated by the cost approach “sets the upper limit of value”.  Those interested in an in depth refutation of this concept are encouraged to obtain a copy of Nelson Bowes’ new book In Defense of the Cost Approach, published by the Appraisal Institute.

Income Capitalization Approach

The income approach is often summarized as “the present value of future benefits“.  Properties that generate positive cash flow can be appraised using a  “present value” or “time value of money” concept.  The income approach estimates the present value of (a) future income generated by a property and (b) its eventual resale value.

The term “capitalization” refers to the mechanism by which future income can be converted into a present value.  There are two types of capitalization: Direct and Yield.

Direct Capitalization considers one year of income and converts it to a property value.  The direct capitalization technique is often referred to as “Direct Cap” or using a “Cap Rate“.

In my view, the simplest way to understand direct capitalization is using an “income multiplier“.  Consider the following chart:

multiplier image

The three sales generate annual income of $50,000, $25,000 and $100,000 and sold for $500,000, $250,000, and $1,000,000, respectively.  In other words, each of the properties sold for 10 times their annual income.  Using this market data, it would be reasonable to conclude that the market is paying 10 times annual income for properties of this type.  Given this math, a property with annual income of say $75,000 would be valued at $750,000.

A “Cap Rate” is the inverse of an income multiplier.  If an income multiplier is 10x, which is the same thing as 10/1 (10 divided by 1), then the cap rate is 10% (1 divided by 10).

A 10x multiplier and 10% cap rate are too convenient.  Take a look at this chart to see how the relationship between multiplier and cap rate varies:

multiplier vs cap rate

Yield Capitalization differs from Direct Capitalization in one fundamental way:  It considers multiple years of stabilized income and the eventual resale of the property.  The multiple years of income are converted to a present value using a “discount rate”.  The application of this process is sometimes called a “Discounted Cash Flow” or “DCF“.  Yield Capitalization considers multiple variables and can become very complex.  It is most appropriate for properties that are forecast to have uneven future cash flows (perhaps a large tenant is moving out in 3 years).  I’ll write more about this intricate valuation tool in a future article.

Comments and/or Questions?  Please leave them in the comments section below–I’d be happy to clarify or expand.

Aloha, Chris