Business personal property (BPP) can be challenging to value because of the limited quantity of data available and primary reliance upon the sales comparison approach. Relatively speaking, a voluminous quantity of data is available when valuing real estate as opposed to valuing business personal property. Many real estate appraisals consider three approaches to value: cost approach, sales comparison approach and the income approach. By contrast, most business personal property appraisals depend primarily upon the sales comparison approach. While it is possible to develop a reasonable estimate of the market value for business personal property, the values tend to be more subjective than the value of real estate.
The sales comparison approach depends upon principles of substitution and supply and demand. Purchasers of business personal property will seek alternatives and choose the alternative most beneficial for them considering cost, quantity and quality. For real estate, comparable sales data is available with in-depth descriptions of the real estate, including quantity and quality. For business personal property, is more difficult to obtain accurate information regarding the quantity and quality of property involved in a sale. For example, assume the XYZ Company recently closed its Chicago operation and sold the furniture, phone system, network servers, personal computers and related items for an office with 30,000 square feet of space and 120 employees. The sales data includes the quantity of desks, chairs, file cabinets, personal computers, network computers, etc. However, it does not contain precise information regarding the condition and age of each of these items. Real estate is more homogeneous and easier to describe versus the sale of a quantity of business personal property.
Real estate appraisers often gain insight from preparing each of the three approaches to value for real estate assignments. However, personal property appraisers typically focused primarily upon the sales comparison approach. They do not have the benefit of contrasting the value conclusion via the sales comparison approach with values via the cost approach and income approach.
It is important to define the asset being valued. Referring back to our example of the XYZ Company which closed its office, is the assignment to ascribe a value to each item as though it is going to be sold individually or is it to assign a value to the aggregate collection of furniture, computers and equipment? An alternate approach would be to define a value based upon selling subsets of the whole. For example, the furniture to one purchaser and the computers and phone system to a second purchaser.
The definition of value also substantially affects the value conclusion. Market value would typically be defined as the value assuming both the buyer and seller are knowledgeable regarding the property, neither the buyer nor seller is under distress to buy or sell and an adequate amount of time is allowed to market the property. A liquidation value would also assume that both buyer and seller are knowledgeable regarding the assets. However, it would assume a very brief period of time to sell the property. Value in use describes the value of the assets to the current owner. It is not indicative of what a third party would likely pay to purchase the assets.
In addition to performing an appraisal to estimate the market value of business personal property, other techniques sometimes considered for valuing business personal property are IRS depreciation schedules and appraisal district depreciation schedules. These may or may not result in a value conclusion that is similar to market value. However, it is the writer’s experience that they typically produce a value in excess of true market value.