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Valuing a greenfield real estate property development project: a real options approach

Francesco Baldi (Department of Business and Management, LUISS Guido Carli University, Rome, Italy)

Journal of European Real Estate Research

ISSN: 1753-9269

Article publication date: 2 August 2013




Real options available to developers and leading to an active and dynamic development of real estate assets are numerous. The purpose of the article is twofold. First, a conceptual framework is proposed as a practical aid for recognizing and understanding some frequently recurring combinations of options (such as deferral and expansion options). Based on the definition and classification of real options available in real estate markets, a comprehensive valuation tool for quantifying the value of those options embedded in a real estate development project is thus developed using a portfolio view.


Based on standard option pricing techniques, the proposed conceptual methodology is validated by applying it to an actual case of an investment for the construction of a new, multi‐purpose building in the semi‐central zone of the urban area of Rome (Italy).


Based on a static land value of €34.7 million, a waiting mode (deferral option) at an early stage of developing a property accounts for 16 percent of the expanded land value of the project, with 8 percent of such value being contributed by the expansion option. A real options valuation of the options portfolio available to a real estate developer enables increasing the project value by 31.1 percent as opposed to a traditional DCF analysis. In line with financial options theory, values of real options increase as volatility rises.

Practical implications

The case‐based analysis highlights that: flexibility in real estate development may create additional value enabling real estate developers or funds to react to market trends as new information arrives and uncertainty on fundamental factors (e.g. property prices) unfolds; the extra value added by managerial flexibility is neglected by DCF/NPV techniques; contrary to the common criticism on its lack of rigor, option valuation theory is suitable for appraising real estate assets; a portfolio approach is crucial when multiple real options exist.


Active management of real estate investments in response to changing property market and technology conditions confers operating flexibility and strategic value to appraisal of development projects beyond what is traditionally captured by a DCF model. An options approach to valuing and managing real estate development may change the developer's perspective altogether. Based on the combination of an original classification and a portfolio view of options existing in real estate markets, a real options framework for assessing the value of strategic flexibility incorporated in a greenfield development project (also accounting for potential option interactions) is designed.



Baldi, F. (2013), "Valuing a greenfield real estate property development project: a real options approach", Journal of European Real Estate Research, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 186-217.



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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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