3 Ways COVID-19 Has Impacted Real Estate Valuations– August 20, 2020

Valuation plays a critical role in real estate, from appraisals for residential mortgages to the sales of commercial real estate. But the COVID-19 crisis and resulting economic uncertainty pose some challenges for valuation experts across the country.

1. Stay-at-Home Orders Impact on Physical Access

Site visits have long been an integral part of the valuation process, but stay-at-home orders blocked access to many properties earlier this year. They could cause the same problem as virus spikes hit various parts of the country.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have recognized this hurdle by temporarily permitting exterior-only and desktop appraisals for eligible mortgages. Banking regulators allowed certain commercial and residential loans to close without having an appraisal completed, though appraisals have been required within 120 days of closing.

Savvy valuators quickly turned to technologies, like Google Earth, Street View and drones, to help fill in the gaps created by the inability to physically access properties. They’re also taking advantage of the online databases of municipality property assessment records to obtain necessary information.

2. Fewer Comparable Sales

Under the comparable sales method, valuators look at the sales prices of similar properties in recent transactions, making adjustments for differences between those properties and the subject property. It’s debatable whether pre-COVID-19 sales can be considered comparable with post-pandemic sales, though.

Valuators are looking beyond comparable sales and considering individual circumstances on a more granular level. This approach acknowledges that generalities are of limited value when COVID-19 may have different effects on different properties in the same neighborhood.

3. Turbulent Economic Conditions

Essential data inputs for valuations are shifting constantly, sometimes daily. Unemployment numbers have been at historical highs, while interest rates have been at notable lows. The stock market has fluctuated dramatically.

Businesses that were healthy months earlier have boarded up, threatening the continued vitality of neighborhoods and increasing expected vacancy rates. Struggling tenants may have fallen behind on monthly payments. Governments are mandating rent relief but also providing financial support to prop up troubled companies. Plus, operating costs may be higher to comply with health and safety concerns, as well as to adapt property use and features for changes in demand.

Valuators must address all these factors in their reports. But users of those reports must understand the limitations and consider obtaining fresh appraisals when fewer uncertainties exist.


This year hasn’t been kind to many property values; but, regardless of the type, it’s truly important to have an accurate, data-based assessment of value.

Contact Lisa Loychik at lloychik@cohencpa.com or a member of your service team to discuss this topic further.


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Cohen & Company is not rendering legal, accounting or other professional advice. Information contained in this post is considered accurate as of the date of publishing. Any action taken based on information in this blog should be taken only after a detailed review of the specific facts, circumstances and current law.