New National Appraisal Firm Challenges Big Broker Incumbents

By Sharon Simonson

San Jose-based Hulberg & Associates Inc., the largest independent commercial appraisal firm in California, has joined 41 other like firms to form Valbridge Property Advisors, a national appraisal company with international aspirations.

Norm Hulberg 2011 compressedThe move puts more than 440 appraisers in 59 U.S. markets with 600 staff members under a single roof, according to Valbridge. Of the total, 145 of the appraisers are designated members of the Appraisal Institute, or MAIs, the most advanced certification in the profession encompassing expertise across all property types.

Based on its office count and MAI-certified appraiser count, Valbridge said it ranks ahead of Cushman & Wakefield’s and Colliers International’s valuation and advisory practices. From day one, it also becomes the country’s third-largest commercial appraisal firm after CBRE Valuation & Advisory Services and New York City-based Integra Realty Resources Inc., a standalone real estate valuation and consulting company like Valbridge.

The step is the next natural one in the progression of his firm, Hulberg said, which grew from a single office to four in Northern California in the last three decades. Clients who owned properties spanning the region wanted one appraisal firm that could manage all of their valuation and other work. Now, property owners and other clients who seek to acquire, value or underwrite properties not only across the state but nationally and internationally still want a single valuation and advisory source, a need Valbridge hopes to fulfill.

“I feel like this is the renaissance of Hulberg & Associates,” Hulberg said. “I am very excited about it. Any time you can provide a better client service, it is a recipe for success. I look at Valbridge as Hulberg on steroids.”

Hulberg has 31 appraisers and appraisal analysts in Silicon Valley, the East Bay, the Central Valley and Monterey. Its flagship operation is in downtown San Jose.

Hulberg is among the region’s most high-profile commercial property appraisers, doing work including assessment appeals for high-tech businesses, landlords, lawyers, litigants and others. Among his clients are Equity Office, Lockheed Martin Corp., Verizon Communications Inc., Federated Department Stores Inc. (now Macy’s Inc.), AT&T Inc., Stanford University and Harvard University.

The new firm, which has offices in at least half of the U.S. states and Washington, D.C., benefits from a number of qualities related to its national stature, said Richard L. Armalavage of Naples, Fla., Valbridge’s new president and chief executive. While real estate fundamentals remain a local affair, trends in leasing, investor yields and tenant activities tend to be national in scope. So appraisers with national insight can extrapolate to a regional level to anticipate property value change. “We have the collective brainpower of having all of these professional experts all over the country, so the collaborative effort and the brain trust is really extraordinary,” he said.

He also believes there is an inherent advantage for the company from being independent of any other real estate services such as property brokerage or financing, Armalavage said.

In addition, as a single unit, the firm can create national standards for its appraisers to ensure common methodology creates consistency in quality and work product. Clients know that properties evaluated in different markets are appraised using like standards, he said. In an increasingly global world where banking regulators and others seek to create international reporting norms, that consistency is only gaining importance. Valbridge plans to expand nationally and internationally to Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and overseas, Armalavage said.

Armalavage’s firm specializes in commercial property appraisal including large-scale residential projects, golf courses and subdivisions on Florida’s west coast, from Sarasota in the north to Naples, which is near Florida’s southern tip. It also does work in neighborhing Miami-Dade and Broward counties, on Florida’s east coast.

The new entity is headquartered in Naples and is shareholder-owned. Detailed financial terms of the transaction were not released. Hulberg said ownership was based not on the size of your existing operation but on your capital contribution to launching the new operating entity. Hulberg is a director on Valbridge’s board.

Having access to appraisal talent nationwide also makes the occasional out-of-the-ordinary property far easier to evaluate, Hulberg said. Recent examples include a steel manufacturing plant in the East Bay and a proposed 20,000-seat amphitheater. Hulberg & Associates was able to tap the research and expertise of appraisers in Kansas City and New Orleans, respectively, who had recently appraised similar properties in their home regions. Between his appraisers’ local expertise and their specialized oulook, he was able to meet tight deadlines and satisfy unusual requests.

Initial Valbridge Markets:
Akron, Ohio
Baton Rouge, La.
Boise, Idaho
Boulder, Colo.
Central Valley
Charleston, S.C.
Charlotte, N.C.
Chesapeake, Va.
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Dallas-Fort Worth
Davenport, Calif.
East Lansing, Mich.
Greenville, N.C.
Hartford, Conn.
Hilton Head, S.C.
Jacksonville, Fla.
Kansas City
Knoxville, Tenn.
Las Vegas
Lexington, Ky.
Los Angeles
Louisville, Ky.
Lubbock, Texas
Memphis, Tenn.
Monterey Bay
Montgomery, Ala.
Naples, Fla
Nashville, Tenn.
New Orleans
Norwalk-Stamford, Conn.
Olympia, Wash.
Orlando, Fla.
Raleigh, N.C.
Richmond, Va.
Roanoke, Va.
Salt Lake City
San Antonio
San Diego
San Francisco Bay Area
Shreveport, La.
Silicon Valley
Southern Utah
Spokane, Wash.
Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla.
Tucson, Ariz.
Tulsa, Okla.
Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Area

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