Introduction to Acquisition Issues and Valuations

The Department have particular acquisition routes which may be used to acquire , additionally the Department have particular requirements for valuation of land and property acquired.

We provide some guidance on various particular acquisition routes which may be used to acquire land for social housing. Particular acquisition circumstances may require specific treatment under the Department's Scheme Approval policies and procedures.

Further, the Department has specific requirements for valuations of land and property acquired for social housing development which constitute conditions or pre-qualifications for Housing Association Grant (HAG). All schemes involving an acquisition element will require the services of an independent qualified valuer to assess the market value of the land/property for Grant purposes.  In all schemes – including Works Only schemes - the services of a valuer may be required to undertake valuations in connection with the preparation of the Economic Appraisal.

Any queries on the issues raised should be directed to:
NIHE Development Programme Group Telephone: 028 9031 8400

Acquisition Issues 

Investment Decisions - Associations are free to use their own resources to acquire land/ property ‘at risk’, i.e. to acquire prior to Project Approval stage. If Associations make speculative purchases they do so at risk and cannot thereby expect to pre-empt the NIHE (DPG) investment decisions.  As the NIHE (DPG) is not able to guarantee future funding, Associations are expected to accept the risks involved in making purchases, which may subsequently not turn out to be justified or supported.

Note:

  • there is no time limit on an Association from when it acquires land/property ‘at risk’ until it decides to bid for a ‘slot’ in the Social Housing Development Programme (SHDP); 
  • it should be noted that the NIHE (DPG) is under no obligation to include in the Programme any land/ property bought ‘at risk’ unless it meets normal scheme approval criteria

Land and property purchases prior to the current programme year - The term ‘Historic Market Value’ is normally applied to the acquisition costs for such schemes. There are scheme proposals where an Acquisition and Works scheme is submitted for Project Approval and where the land/property has already been purchased by the Association (that is acquired by the Association prior to the programme year without using HAG funding). It is necessary, in those cases, to determine an eligible acquisition cost for inclusion in the total approved costs figure, against which grant is determined.  

The maximum eligible acquisition cost will be the current value of the land or property, as confirmed by the District Valuer or an Independent Qualified Valuer, and valid at the date of Project Approval.  There can be no exceptions to this rule (e.g., if it would be more advantageous to the Association to use actual acquisition cost because values have decreased), and Associations will be expected to obtain an up-to-date valuation in the case of all such historic acquisitions.

Donated Land - Where land or property has been donated to an Association without charge, the Association cannot claim Grant from the NIHE (DPG) on this element. The land costs should be shown as NIL on the scheme submission. The above ‘Historic Market Value’ facility, therefore, will not apply in cases where land or property has been donated to the Association rather than having been acquired with its own resources.  It would not be appropriate for Grant to be used to realise the full value of the land or property in such circumstances.

Where land/property is part-gifted to an Association, i.e. sold to an Association at below market value at date of execution of the purchase contract, the value of the gift needs to be assessed by a Valuer and any Grant from the NIHE (DPG) and will be based on ‘Historic Market Value’ rules for the element that the Association purchased.

The ‘Historic Market Value’ facility will not apply if the Association wishes to transfer such schemes or parts of such schemes, which have already been approved, to a different scheme type.  

Land/ property available from Government Departments and Non-Departmental Public Bodies (NDPB) - Land/property suitable for housing use may be available from a number of sources, including - Government Departments, Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE), Roads Service, Health Boards/Trusts etc. Ownership of the land is re-assigned to the association by either ‘book’ transfer with land costs treated as a public subsidy or by way of direct purchase. In both instances the value of the site is determined by the market value at the date of execution of the contract. Re-valuation of transfer sites at scheme approval is not necessary. A valid valuation at the date of execution of the contract is required to be provided at scheme approval stage.

For more information see Public Sector Land and Public Subsidy.

Disposal of land held for planning purposes - This is not surplus public sector land/ property, but land/ property acquired by Government Departments under the Planning and Compensation Order 1991 (SI 1991 No 1220).  This land is disposed in order to secure the best use of the land/property and to ensure the proper planning of the area in which the land is situated.  Normal Government rules for the disposal of surplus land/ property do not apply to any land disposed under this Order.

Compulsory acquisition of land/ property for Housing Association Schemes - Arrangements have been in place since March 1994, for the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) to be responsible for any vesting of land/property for Housing Association schemes.  

For more information see  Compulsory Acquisition of Land for HA Schemes

Land/Property acquired from another Housing Association - The transfer of land and property between Associations is a relatively rare occurrence.  Associations should discuss any proposed transfer with the NIHE (DPG).

Valuations

Independent Valuation Requirements - Where the Association is required to provide a valuation undertaken by an independent qualified valuer, the Association may employ either:

  • the District Valuer - of Land and Property Services or
  • an independent qualified valuer

District Valuer (Land & Property Services) - undertakes valuation and estate agency work and provides advice on valuation matters to Government Departments, Non-Departmental Public  Bodies and other organisations receiving public funding.  Each District Valuer is responsible for a defined geographical area within the Land and Property Services network which includes all of Northern Ireland.  

District Valuers can:

  • provide estimates of land and property value and negotiate the acquisition of interest in land including Home Loss and Disturbance Payment
  • advise on interim management and negotiate lease renewal/rent review
  • advise on marketing/disposal
  • carry out asset valuations for accounting purposes
  • provide valuation advice in connection with Economic Appraisals

All valuers employed in Land and Property Services are members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and valuations provided by the District Valuer carry the approval of the Department. 

Associations should note that valuations provided by Land and Property Services are required when acquiring surplus public sector land. 

Independent Qualified Valuer - is defined as either:

  • a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
  • a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland or
  • a Building Society panel/ staff valuer acting for the society providing the development finance

When the Association uses independent valuers it will be expected to employ a reasonable diversity (subject to availability), selected on the grounds of competence, performance, local knowledge and best value

N.B. NIHE (DPG) will, if deemed appropriate, make enquiries with the District Valuer (Land & Property Services) to ensure that the independent valuation is suitable.  If necessary, NIHE (DPG) will formally request a full valuation from the District Valuer (Land & Property Services) for comparison and make high level enquiries with the Planning authorities.

If an Association subsequently disputes the (Land & Property Services) District Valuer’s assessment / valuation, NIHE (DPG) will instruct Land & Property Services to commence negotiations with the Association’s appointed valuer with a view to reaching a mutually acceptable revised valuation.  

Valuation Situations - Valuation Basis – any valuation should be based on the valuation and reporting requirements laid down in the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors Red Book.  The main valuation situations are described below:

Market Value - is a figure that a willing buyer and seller would agree upon having marketed land or property accordingly.  The market value figure may require to be clarified by stating exactly what is being valued and any assumptions that are inherent to the valuation e.g., any restrictions by the Vendor/others on the density likely to be achieved.  

Market value will apply to all property types whether residential or commercial.  Market value can also include any element of “hope value” where it is assumed planning permission will be forthcoming, and ignores any mortgages, debentures or other charges over the property. Assumptions related to the value may cover such elements as title, condition of land/buildings, services, site access and planning conditions, contamination and hazardous substances and environmental factors. These assumptions must be stated in any report.

Market Value will apply to land/property that is being bought from the private sector or transferred from a Government Department or Non-Departmental Public Body such as the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE).  Market value of land is generally on the basis of ‘no encumberances’, and vacant possession for dwellings acquired for demolition, rehabilitation, or letting as Existing Satisfactory Purchases (ESPs) or Off-the-Shelf purchases.

Constraints - Any constraints on development such as the need to divert or move water mains, electric or telecommunications cables, wayleaves, overhead electric cables, badger setts, trees, abnormal site development, ground features including possible archaeological digs, dealing with contaminated ground, demolition or site clearance etc, will only be reflected in the value if any willing buyer considers these to be constraints.  
Associations are reminded of the prequalification for Site Appraisal prior to a commitment to purchase which should identify any potential issues. Any such constraints that could affect or restrict the proposed use of the land/property must be notified to the valuer.
For more information see:

Commercial Valuations - The value of land is dependent on demand and planning permission.  If land or property has commercial planning use and there is demand for such use in the locality an Association may be required to pay the “going rate” which reflects the commercial use of the site.  If there is either no demand or no existing, planned or historic planning use, residental value may be more appropriate in the circumstances.  The Association should request the valuer to indicate in his estimate of value whether the value achieved reflects any use other than residential.  In such cases, the NIHE (DPG) expects Associations to negotiate for the lowest possible price, and would only accept a ‘higher valuation’ where, for example, the site has to be acquired by the Association as a ‘going concern’.

Sitting Tenant Valuation - This is the value of a property taking account of the existing tenancy and tenant and reflects the value that a willing buyer would pay to acquire this property with the current tenancy and its income.  There may be an element of hope value to reflect the ability to gain vacant possession.  This normally applies to situations where a dwelling or dwellings being acquired or transferred will come with a sitting-tenant, and where the Association will become responsibility for their housing/re-housing needs.  This can apply to dwellings transferred from Public Sector bodies, dwellings acquired from the private rented market or – exceptionally - to private owners. 

Valuation Validity Period - The Association should refer to the applicable Band-related Scheme Documentation requirements for specific scheme requirements on the need for a valuation. There are two issues for Associations to consider – the validity of the valuation at the date of acquisition/execution of the contract and the validity of the valuation at the date of Scheme Approval.

  1. The valuation must be no more than a maximum of 6 months old at the date of acquisition/execution of the contract; and
  2. The valuation must be no more than a maximum of 6 months old at the date of Scheme Approval.

Where a valuer specifies an expiry period less than six months on the valuation provided, this supersedes the Department’s 6 months maximum rule.

Some flexibility may be allowed in situations where a valuation has been specified by Land & Property Services for a limited time period, but progression has been delayed due to circumstances beyond the control of the Association which are accepted by NIHE (DPG) as reasonable and unavoidable.

For scheme submissions received in any current programme year the valuation requirements relating to a scheme’s acquisition circumstances are detailed below:

Property purchased prior to the current programme year - A valuation valid at the date of project approval is required. This is the figure normally used as the purchase price on the NT1, TA1 form. See guidance on historic land purchases in the Acquisition Issues section above.

Property purchased in the current programme year - A valuation valid at the date of execution of the contract is required. If this is out of date at Scheme Approval an up to date valuation is required. The purchase price, if the lesser amount, should be used on the NT1, TA1 form.

Property due to be purchased in the current programme year - A valuation valid at Project Approval and valid at the execution of the contract is required.  The valuation amount is used on the NT1, TA1 form only where the purchase price is not finalised. Otherwise the purchase price is used as the basis for the scheme approval.

NB Subsequently, where the actual purchase price is lower than the valued amount upon which the scheme approval was based the Association should seek guidance from NIHE (DPG) in the first instance.

More information is available:

Associations are reminded that the purchase price should never exceed the value of the property as determined by the independant valuer.

Guidance may be sought from NIHE Development Programme Group on these issues if required to take account of specific scheme circumstances outside of the above standard occurrences.

HA Brief to Valuer - Whichever Valuer is used it is important to ensure that the Valuer is fully and accurately briefed on the task required and that any relevant information concerning the land/property is made known to the valuer prior to valuation. A copy of the brief may be requested by NIHE (DPG) to support the Association’s submission for scheme approval where the valuation report provided does not adequately demonstrate that all relevant matters have been taken into account by the valuer. Therefore, in order to avoid delay, Associations should review the information provided by the valuer and resolve such matters before submitting the scheme to NIHE (DPG) for consideration.

Information to be provided to Valuer by Associations

  • a location plan indicating the boundaries of the land/property in question
  • information on the site/property, including existing conditions,constraints and general development proposals

HA Brief to Valuer Proforma provides a template which lists the typical information, where relevant, that must accompany any request for a valuation. A copy of the brief must be provided at application for scheme approval, where requested by the NIHE (DPG)

TheValuer’s Report to the Association – The report’s content must comply with the requirements outlined in the latest version of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) ‘Red Book'

Associations are reminded that the valuation report must be on official headed paper and must be retained in the Association’s scheme file – an e-mailed valuation is not acceptable. The Association is responsible for ensuring that the final valuation report adequately deals with all issues relating to the land value. For example, any existing conditions, constraints and details of the development proposals must have demonstrably been taken into account by the valuer in reaching the assessed land value. 

Audit requirements for Valuations – for Audit purposes, the valuation report from the Valuer on the site/property valued must:

  • clearly identify the site/property valued on an accompanying plan and be endorsed by the Valuer
  • state the method of valuation, the valuation date, and the account taken of any relevant factors affecting the site/property and its development
  • be no more than 6 months old at the date of exchange of the purchase contract and
  • identify the Valuer and carry the Valuer’s original signature
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