At a high level there are two components to the value of a house. There’s the value of the land and there’s the value of all the improvements. That is, the bricks, wood, and other stuff that form the actual house. When a media outlet runs a sensational headline about some shack in Toronto selling for, oh I don’t know, a million dollars, what it actually means is that the land in this particular area was just valued by somebody at this number. In fact, if the property is very clearly a “knock down” the improvements sitting on the land become a liability/cost rather than anything of value. Because whoever buys the land will almost certainly need to remove the improvements before they can build whatever it is they want to build.
This distinction between land and improvements is a valuable one for many reasons. Here’s one example. In cases where the improvements aren’t some shack, you may be faced with a scenario where a property can be valued in two different ways. You can value it based on the development potential of the underlying land or you can value it based on the income (either in-place or potential) that the improvements are generating, or could be generating with some hard work on your part. If the development value is greater than the value of the improvements, then there will be pressure to redevelop. Conversely, if the opposite is true, it is likely that not much will happen other than maybe capital expenditures applied to the existing building(s).
Of course, you could also run into a scenario where there’s little development potential and there’s zero ability to invest in the existing improvements, either because the market rents are too low in the area or because they’re capped and/or controlled in some way. In this scenario, it’s likely that not much will happen other than the normal and expected depreciation of the improvements. Maybe one day the development/investment math will work. But in the interim, you probably won’t be seeing any of those sensational media headlines.