Pacific Rim Business Brokers Pty Limited

7.  Valuations

The majority of motel sales depend upon bank finance.  Banks in turn depend upon the report of a professional valuer.  Therefore, the most sensible way to examine the methods of valuing a motel is to examine the methods used by professional valuers.  There is little point in a buyer and seller agreeing upon a price if that price is way above the price in a valuer’s report.  This leads to the absurd situation where a buyer expends all his energy talking the price down in negotiations with the seller, and then is forced to talk the price up in an effort to convince his bank that the valuer’s report is too conservative.


Banks lend a percentage of the price in a valuer’s report, not a percentage of the price agreed by the buyer and seller.  If, for example, a bank is currently lending 65% on motel purchases, a motel with an agreed price of $1,100,000 and a valuation of $1,000,000 will receive a loan of $650,000.


Valuers try to understand the motel market by looking for examples of other motels that have recently sold.  Most valuers conclude that at the moment:


Sydney freehold motels sell for returns on investment between 10% and 12%

Coastal freehold motels sell for returns on investment between 12% and 14%

Rural freehold motels sell for returns on investment between 13% and 15%

Leasehold motels sell for returns on investment between 28% and 33%


At Pacific Rim Business Brokers we keep an updated list of past sales, so our clients know how valuers are likely to view their potential purchases.


The best way to understand a professional valuer’s valuation is to read a valuation report.


The reports are usually divided into the following major sections.

  1. Summary

  2. Title Details

  3. Statutory and Council Details

  4. Site Identification

  5. Improvements

  6. Qualifications

  7. Comparative Market Data

  8. Trading Analysis

  9. Valuation Methods

  10. Replacement and Insurance Value

  11. Valuation 

1.  Summary

In the summary the valuer sets out his instructions – who asked him to value the property – the date of inspection and the date of valuation and whether the property represents suitable security for lending purposes. 

2.  Title Details

Title details include the Lot Number, Deposited Plan Number and Folio Identifier.  If there are any encumbrances, encroachments, restrictions or covenants these are noted as they may adversely affect the rights of the owner and hence the value.

3.  Statutory and Council Details

Statutory and Council details include the zoning and highest and best use description.  Highest and best use is defined as the most profitable legal use to which the land may be put.  In most cases a motel operation represents the highest and best use, but there are cases where conversion to strata units or even demolition and redevelopment may be more profitable.

4.  Site Identification

The site identification includes the physical description of the motel’s boundaries, the distance from the motel to major centres and developments in the surrounding area.  Services and amenities, such as water, sewerage, telephone and electricity are identified.  The road system, access and exposure are also noted.

5.   Improvements

Improvements include a physical description of the motel including details of the construction, furnishing, accommodation type, restaurant, manager’s residence and office.  If any major structural defects are apparent these are noted, although most valuations include a disclaimer stating that the valuer is not a structural engineer and therefore not an expert in this area.

6.   Qualifications

In this section the valuer tells the client what he has not done.  For example, he may not have sighted a certificate of compliance, an environmental report or unregistered leasing agreements.  While the valuer may have been told that all plant and equipment is unencumbered and in good working order he will point out that he has not tested all equipment or sighted any license, hire purchase or lease agreements.  The valuer is basically relying upon the statements of the owner or manager.

7.   Comparative Market Data

Comparative market data includes information from external sources – usually the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the NRMA Accommodation Guide and the local tourist authority - regarding the number of motels in the area, visitor arrivals, length of stay, occupancy rates etc.  This information is compared with data from the motel.

8.   Trading Analysis

The valuer analyses the trading figures of the motel and notes the amounts that should be added back to the net profit.  Add backs usually include interest, depreciation, management wages (depending on the size and nature of the operation) repairs, maintenance and replacements that are of a capital nature, or are non-repeatable expenses, and abnormal losses or profits (eg sale of assets).  

9.   Valuation Methods

In this section, the meat of the valuation, the valuer uses a number of methods to arrive at a value for the subject property.  The standard methods employed are:

  1. Traditional Capitalisation Approach

  2. Direct Comparison Approach

  3. Hypothetical Lessor's Interest and Lessee's Interest

a.      Traditional Capitalisation Approach

By examining comparable sales of similar motels, the valuer sets out a range of yields, or returns on investment.  The yield is the average annual net profit before interest, depreciation and owner’s wage divided by the sale price.  Yields tend to vary with size and location.  Large Sydney motels will sell on lower yields than small country motels.  Similarly, coastal motels sell on lower yields (ie they are more expensive) than inland motels.  Therefore, it is important for the valuer to note sales of motels of a similar size in a similar area at a date as close to the valuation date as possible.  If he feels that the average yield for a motel of the type under examination is 14%, then if the motel is netting $400,000 he will value it at $2,857,000.


While the traditional capitalisation method is probably the best way to value a motel, it does have a number of drawbacks, namely:


  1. There may be no comparative sales data.

  2. Comparative sales data may be misleading.  The registered sale price of a motel may not be its true price.  There may be a secondary contract for the sale of the goodwill, plant and equipment which is not a public document.

  3. The owner’s wage may have to be adjusted.  Motel A may be run by a husband and wife team working 100 hours a week, while Motel B is run by a single owner working few hours with high staff wages.  If the valuer is not aware of these operational considerations, he may not correctly compare the two yields.

  4. The net profit may be high or low in one year for reasons not usually associated with normal motel trading results.  (Floods, bushfires etc).

  5. The motel operation may be improving or declining, in which case the valuer should focus on the last year’s trading results and likely future profits, not the average of the last few years.

  6.  The motel may be under performing due to poor management.  If reasonable management can quickly turn around its performance the valuer will take this into account.  Naturally there is a bit of guesswork in this area.

b.   Direct Comparison Method

This method examines recent sales of other motels on a price per room basis.  As the price per room varies between $20,000 and $200,000 it is important that the valuer compares properties of a similar age, physical condition, location and profit stream.    If Motel A has 20 rooms and sells for $1,000,000 ($50,000 per room) it cannot be compared to Motel B with 20 rooms and twice the net profit.

c.   Hypothetical Lessor’s and Lessee’s Interest

This valuation method divides the motel into a landlord’s passive investment and a lessee’s active investment.  If the commercial return a landlord in the motel market expects is 9%, and the return a lessee expects is 30%, then with a little mathematical juggling the valuer can produce a price that will satisfy both a lessor and lessee.


The first thing a valuer must know is the industry rental standard, and here he will encounter difficulties.  There are various rules of thumb for defining rental standards and none of them are very satisfactory.  Rules that define rent as a percentage of revenue are misleading because they do not take into account the effect of a restaurant.  If Motel A has no restaurant and revenue of $400,000 it will be more profitable than Motel B with a restaurant and revenue of $400,000.  This is because the cost of food and restaurant staff will reduce the profit of Motel B.


An industry standard which is reasonably widely accepted states that rent should be no more than 45% of profit.  Once again, all the problems relating to profit are encountered (owner’s hours of work, increasing or declining profits, underperformance due to poor management etc).  If, however, the valuer overcomes these difficulties and sets the net profit at $400,000, then rent should be no more than $180,000.


For a 9% return the landlord would be prepared to pay $2,000,000.  The tenant, who will enjoy a net profit after rent of $220,000, would be prepared to pay $733,333 for a 30% return.  The total value of the motel would therefore be $2,733,333.


With a net profit of $400,000 to an owner operator, this price produces a 14.6% yield using the capitalisation method in section a. 

10.   Replacement and Insurance Value

In the current market, the cost of building a motel greatly exceeds the cost of purchasing an existing operation.  Therefore replacement value generally does not resemble market value.


Insurance value depends upon the type of policy.  As replacement value exceeds market value and an insurance policy aims at replacing lost property, insurance value should also exceed market value.

11.   Valuation

In the final section, the valuer brings all the strands together and sets out what he considers to be the current market value.