Obsolescence in Real Property:
How Can It Affect My Value?
What is Obsolescence?
Obsolescence is defined as “the process of becoming obsolete or outdated and no longer used.” Obsolescence can impact a multifamily property in many ways to lower the property’s value. Both owners and appraisers should be aware of any potential obsolescence at play when evaluating a property’s market value.
Types of Obsolescence
There are three main types of obsolescence that can play a role in a multifamily property’s value: 1) Functional, 2) Economic, and 3) Physical.
Functional obsolescence deals with the function of the property and how, generally over time, the property’s original function is not as useful. For example, consider an older building constructed without elevators at a time before modern elevators were common. When the building was new this would have been perfectly normal. However, if that same building still existed today, it would have functional obsolescence because we expect elevators in apartment buildings with 3+ floors.
Economic obsolescence is often the most frustrating for an owner because it is always an external force impacting the property outside of that owner’s control. A great, and timely, example of this type of obsolescence is COVID-19 and the impact it had on our economy. Many businesses had to either shut down or suspend activities causing financial hardship on many families. With little cash coming in during the peak pandemic months, families often could not pay their full (or any) rent owed to multifamily property owners. This external impact on the income a property could generate is a textbook example of economic obsolescence.
Physical obsolescence is probably the most easily avoidable of the three types of obsolescence. Physical obsolescence is often brought on due to deferred maintenance that causes damage or accelerated deterioration of an asset. A good example of this would be not replacing a roof in a timely fashion, and then having extensive water damage throughout the property years later that would require extensive work to fix. This physical obsolescence lowers the value of the property.
While obsolescence is not always easy to spot, both property owners and the appraiser should be diligent in looking for its impact on a property’s market value.
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