Fair Market Value?
In my post yesterday about a building lot listed for sale on Thornhill Road I hinted that its asking price of $850,000 precluded a builder from making a profit and hence was too high. A reader then asked what a fair price would be for the lot. I think my answer is that “fair” has nothing to do with it. In a better market, where houses on Thornhill could command $2,000,000, $850,000 for this lot might fly. But, as Mr. Rumsfeld so famously said,you don’t sell your house on the market you’d like to have, you sell it on the market you do have. With that, he marched his troops into Iraq and the rest is history.
The market right now will not support a Thornhill price of $2,000,000. In fact, I’m not sure it will support anything much above $1,250,000 in which case, accounting for building costs, the market value of this lot is … very small. Don’t like that? Don’t sell, and wait for better days.
When I opined that relaxing the mark to market rule for banks might make sense several readers promptly corrected and educated me. The current value of anything, be it toxic loans or real estate, is whatever buyers will pay for it, not what its owner hopes it will be worth in the future. I did reprint a letter I received from a (soon-to-be unemployed) mortgage broker who said it wasn’t “fair” to make banks mark their unwanted loans down to zero because, while the market might consider them worthless now, surely a better time would come and some value would be discovered. When better times come, then those loans might indeed be worth something. But right now, securities with no buyers and real estate that no builder or even end user wants has no market value. Let’s hope that changes soon.