Analysis of the Mass Appraisal Model
Using Artificial Neural Network in Kaohsiung City
by Piying Lai, Associate Professor, National Pingtung Institute of Commerce (Taiwan)
Introduction
Multiple regression models are predominantly used in housing price model and forecasting. One problem with the regression method is that it relies on functional assumptions to ascribe a form to fit the relationships of the variables. The artificial neural network (ANN) technique is a method designed to capture functional forms automatically, allowing hidden nonlinear relationships between the modeling variables to be uncovered. Use of the ANN technique has increased rapidly in the past few years, especially in the information area, and its performance has been outstanding. The study of artificial neural networks is a subfield of computer science concerned with the use of computers in tasks that are normally considered to require knowledge, perception, reasoning, learning, understanding and similar cognitive abilities (Gevarter,1985) ANNs, which require highspeed computation, an understanding of tolerance, and nonlinear processing ability, have been applied to property price forecasting in recent years.
This paper applies ANN technology to real estate appraisal in Kaohsiung City market. The authors have attempted to develop a predictive model of the housing price using backpropagation in an artificial neural network. The socalled backpropagation (BP) model has been the most popular and most widely implemented of all the neural network paradigms. The BP is the multilayer feedforward neural networks which consist of a series of simple interconnected neurons, or nodes, between input and output vectors. The nodes are connected by weights and outputs signals, which are functions of the sum of the inputs to the node modified by an activation function. The output of a node is scaled by the connecting weight and fed forward to be an input to the nodes in the next layer of network (Ge, et al., 2001). It is assumed to be a fully connected feedforward network, which means activation travels in a direction from the input layer to the output layer, and the units in one layer are connected to every other unit in the next layer up (Callan, 1999). Recurrent connection of back propagation is an extension of the BP model in which the network combines feedback and feedforward mechanisms. This means that there is a single timestep delay through the network, with the output feeding back to the neurons at the same time as external inputs (Chester, 1993).
We will investigate several aspects of the use of neural networks as a tool for predicting residential property values. The paper begins with a review of some papers using neural network models in property valuation. Then, housing prices in Kaohsiung’s real estate market are analyzed using a neural network model and a multiple regression model. Finally, the results of the analysis are presented along with some concluding remarks.
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Literature Review
Most housing price forecasting models have used multiple regression analysis (MRA) methodologies (Reichert, 1990; Ho & Ganesan, 1998). The problem with this method is that it has involves human judgment because it relies on functional assumptions to ascribe a form to fit the relationships of the variables. The application of multiple regression to real estate appraisal has often produced serious problems primarily because of multicolinearity issues in the independent variables and the inclusion of “outlier” properties in the sample. It is difficult to map multiattribute nonlinear relationships using regression analysis, which makes multiple regression an inadequate model for a market that requires precise and fast responses (Brunson et al., 1994; Do and Grudnitski, 1992). ANNs could overcome these problems because they have the ability to learn by themselves, to generalize solutions, and to respond adequately to highly correlated, incomplete, or previously unknown data (Shaw, 1992).
Property appraisals are often required for asset valuation, property tax and/or insurance estimations, sales transactions, and land planning. The sales comparison approach is widely considered the most appropriate approach for valuing residential real estate. Traditionally, the sales comparison method has been used in the sales comparison approach to justify the property value. More recently, hedonic pricing models have also been used to identify the real estate price.
Tay and Ho (1991) have used the BP model in estimating sale prices of apartments and compared this method with a traditional multiple regression analysis (MRA) model. It is important to note that the Do and Grudnitski (1992) neural network model resulted in almost twice as many predicted values within 5% of the actual sale price than the regression model had predicted—i.e., 40% vs. 20% on a test sample of 105 houses. They concluded that the neural network model performs better than a multiple regression model for estimating the value of U.S. residential property. Eight attributes were used as independent variables (age, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, total square footage, number of garages, number of fireplaces, number of stories, and lot size) and the selling price was used as the dependent variable. Their neural network model was formed with three nodes in the hidden layer. W.J.McCluskey, K. Dyson, S. Anand, and D. McFall (1997) also found that neural networks provide superior predicative ability in comparison to the multiple regression in Northern Ireland. Results of their research are summarized in Table 1 (p. 3).
Evans et al. (1991) tested neural networks for accuracy in valuation when estimating residential property prices in England and Wales. They investigated the effects on the average prediction error when outliers in both the training data and the test data were removed. They concluded that when outliers are removed from the data sets, neural network models work well to value property. The average absolute error for their neural network models ranged between 5% and 7%.
Not all studies have reported successful or favorable results from the use of neural networks. Allen and Zumwalt (1994) review a number of these studies and present an example of what can occur when different neural network models are used for predicting stock price movements. They conclude that optimal neural network models depend upon the specific data sets and time periods involved. In addition, they found that the same data combined with different model settings (e.g., model tolerance, number of hidden nodes, number of hidden layers,) can produce opposite results. Thus, they strongly recommend caution during the development and use of neural network models in financerelated fields.
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Table 1. Summary of Literature Results
Authors 
Sample Time/Country 
Sample 
Results (MAPE) 
Do & Grudnitsk 
1992/U.S. 
105 residential 
1. ANN (6.9%) 
properties 
2. MRA (11.3%) 

Tay & Ho 1997 
1991/Singapore 
Training Sample 833 Test Sample 222 Total 1055 
1. ANN (3.9%) 
2. MRA (7.5%) 

Evans 
1992/England & Wales 
34 
ANN1 3.48% 
ANN2 5.03% 

McCluskey 
1997/Norehern Irland 
Training Sample 378 Test Sample 138 Total 416 
ANN1 15. 7% ANN2 7.75% 
19921994 

McGreal, Adair, 
19921993/England 
1026 
ANN 10% 
McBurney & 
ANN 15% 

Patterson 1998 

Lenk at al. 
1997/ 
ANN 15% 

Worzala (1995) 
19931994/US 
Training ample 217 Test Sample 71 Total 288 
ANN 13.2% 
Borst 1992 
1992/US 
Training Sample 137 Test Sample 43 Total 180 
ANN1 8.7% 
ANN2 12.4% 

Din, Hoesli & Bender 
19781992/Switzerland 
285 
ANN1 11% 
(2001) 
ANN2 15% 

Runeson, Lam, Ge 
19812001 
Training Sample 54 
Forecasting 
Runeson, Lam 
Hong Kong 
Test Sample 17 Forecast 17 Total 88 
Error (26%, 59%,61%) 
Note: ANN means artificial neural network, MRA means multiple regression analysis
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Methodology
Data
This research is based on statistics on housing price obtained from the land administration bureau in Kaohsiung City. Table 2 defines the variables used in the model.
Table 2. Variables Description
Priori 

Variables 
hypothesis 
Definition 
Units 
LOCATION 
_ 
The administration district, 1 if the house is located in Yancheng District ,Gushan District , Sanmin District ,Sinsing District ,Cianjin District,Lingya District , Cianjhen District, 0 if is located in Zuoying District, Nanzih District, Cijin District ,Siaogang District 
Dummy 
variables 

ROADW 
_ 
Road width 
Meters 
ROADS 
_ 
The location of Land, 1 if the land is located in Corner lot, near street, not near street lo, 0 if the land is located in the lot of over lot line. 
Dummy 
variables 

TYPE 
_ 
Type of house, 1 if the house is single house & apartment 0 otherwise 
Dummy 
variables 

STRUCT 
_ 
Structure material of house, 1 if the material is RC, SRC, 0 if material is bricks 
Dummy 
variables 

AGE 
_ 
Age of the house 
years 
TOTFLOR 
_ 
Total floor of the house 
floors 
ZONING 
_ 
Land zoning, 1 if the land zoning is commercial, 0 residential 
Dummy 
variables 

BUILAREA 
_ 
Building floor area 
Square meters 
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Hedonic Price Model The hedonic model involves regressing the property attributes transferred against those attributes of a house hypothesized to be determinants of the transaction price in Kaohsiung City. Attributes hypothesized to contribute to the price of the house include the location (the administration district), road width (in meters), the location of land (near street situation), type of house, structural material of house, house age (in years), total floors of the house (in floors), land zoning, and building floor area (in square meters). Implicitly, the model for hedonic price function is specified as:
Figure 1. Geographical Distributition of 2,471 real estate transactition cases in Kaohsiung City
Artificial Neural Network Model
A neural network system is an artificial intelligence model that replicates the human brain’s learning process. The brain’s neurons are the basic processing units that receive signs from and send signals to many nervous system channels throughout the human body. When the body senses an input experience, the nervous system carries many messages describing the input to the brain. The brain’s neurons interpret the information form these input signals by passing the information through synapses that combine and transform the data. A response is ultimately created when the information processing is complete. Through repetition of stimuli and feedback of responses, the brain learns the optimal processing and response to the stimuli. The brain’s actual leaning path is still somewhat of a chemical mystery; what is known is that learning does occur and reoccur through the repetition of the input stimuli and the output response.
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Artificial neural networks were developed utilizing this “black box” concept. Just as a human brain learns with repetition of similar stimuli, a neural network trains itself with historical pairs of input and output data. Neural networks usually operate without an a priori theory that guides or restricts the relationship between the inputs and the outputs. The ultimate accuracy of the predicted output response, rather than the description of the specific path or relationship between the inputs and the output response, is the goal of the model. The typical topology of threelayer, recurrent backpropagation is illustrated in Figure 2.
Figure 2 shows the three layers of nodes: the input layer, the hidden layer, and the output layer. The input layer contains data from the measures of explanatory or independent variables. The data is passed through the nodes of the hidden layers to the output layer, which represents the dependent variables. A nonlinear transfer function assigns weights to the information as it passes through the hidden layer nodes, mimicking the transformation of information as it passes through the brain’s synapses. The goal of the artificial neural network model is to show the relationship that really exists between the input, independent variables and the output, or dependent, variables.
Figure 2. Processing Element of Artificial Neuron
Performance of Model
The method of error correction used in the model is usually referred to as backpropagation. The objective of the neural network is to find a set of weights for the explanatory variables and minimize the error between the neural network output and the actual data (Allen and Zumwalt, 1994).
Two criteria were used to compare the performance of the different models: (1) the mean absolute error between the predicted and actual selling price of the samples, including: RMSE and MAPE and (2) the Hit Ratio in the sample between the predated and selling price of the sample. The best model for predicting actual sales prices was determined to be the one that resulted in the lowest mean absolute percentage error and/or the highest percentage of predicted sale price with an absolute error below 5% of the actual sale price.
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The data model with a smaller MAPE is deemed superior. This error measurement attempts to produce a single number that represents the total error for all properties. This error measurement fails, however, to provide information as to how the error differs between the properties. For example, if a model provides extremely accurate results for 90% of the properties tested while providing horribly inaccurate results for 10% of the properties tested, the MAPE value for this model may be comparable to another model with unacceptable results (i.e., a large standard deviation in error, but with a comparable MAPE).The MAPE is defined in the second formula shown below.
1. Root Mean Squared Errors (RMSE) is defined as:
2. Mean Absolute Percentage Errors (MAPE) is defined as:
3. Hit Ratio is defined as:
Y_Selling Price of sample
confidence level at 5
10
20_
n_No. of Hit Ratio N_Total sample
Empirical Results
Forecasting Result of MRA Model
The statistical analysis was carried out using the regression procedure. The results of the MRA revealed that all the variables entered were statistically significant at the 5% significance level, and the Rsquare value obtained was 69.4%. The results of the analysis are shown in the Table.3. Among all the variables, the ones with positive signs of coefficient were Location for properties; ROADW; ROADR; AGE for building ; Total floor; Zoning for land; BUILAREA for building floor area. Those with negative signs were: Type for building use; STRUC for building. According to economic theory, age is expected to have an inverse relationship with housing price, but the reverse was indicated by the analysis. This departure from theory may be justifiable in the case of Kaohsiung City as it was observed that the age for buildings increased even with soaring housing prices. In Kaohsiung City, the housing prices were affected by land prices and the real estate market , not by age. Besides, the old buildings were located in the traditional downtown and the prices of those properties were even higher than the new buildings in the suburban district. This may also help to account for the inverse relationship obtained for age of building.
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Table 3. Estimated MRA model for Housing Prices in Kaohsiung City
Forecasting Results of ANN Model
The ANN model was developed from a set of data. For a particular input, an output (housing price) is produced from the model. Then, the model compares the model output to the actual housing price. The accuracy of the value is determined by the total mean square error. Then backpropagation is used to attempt to reduce prediction errors, which is done by adjusting the connection weights. The performance of the network can be influenced by the number of hidden layers and the number of nodes that are included in each hidden layer. The trialand error process is applied to find the optimal artificial neural network model.(See Figure 3.) We used the Alyuda software to construct the artificial neural network model. In accordance to standard analytical practice, the sample size was divided on a random basis into two sets, namely the training set and the test set. The training set and test set contain 70% and 30% of the total sample, respectively. (See Figure 4.) The input importance of all variables in the best artificial neural networks is shown in Figure 5. Figure 5 shows that building floor area and where the land is located in the street are important factors that determine the housing price.
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Figure 3. ANN Training Error graph
Note: Iterations trained: 5136
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Figure 4. Actual and Forecast Price in ANN model
Figure 5. Input Importance of Variables in ANN model
Results of Comparative Study with MRA and ANN Models
The results of the comparative study are given in Table 5. As shown in Table 5, the Rsquare from the neural network model is higher than the Rsquare from MRA model. The results imply that the neural network model can estimate the housing price more accurately than the MRA model.
As shown in Table 5, the MAPE of the forecast generated by the ANN model was 19.02; for the MRA model, the MAPE was 23.71%. Thirtyfive percent of hit ratios of the predicated price are within 10% of the actual price and 62 % are within 20% of the actual price in the ANN model. Compared to the MRA model, the ANN model performs better.
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Conclusion
This study employs a recurrent backpropagation neural network to produce housing price models for Kaohsiung city. From our empirical study, we found that an ANN model will generate more forecasting error than the MRA model. This is due to the nature of neural network model. The model are designed to capture the nonlinear relationship between the input and output variables automatically, without having to specify the nonlinear terms to fit the data. This research investigated the merits of applying neural network technology to the problem of real estate appraisal.
Furthermore, the results found in this research could be a function of the specific data characteristics of the sample used. It may be possible that neural networks will do a much better job than multiple regression if the nonlinear relationships between the variables are greater. despite the RMSE, MAPE, & Hit Ratio, the performance of the ANN model is better than the MRA model in Kaohsiung City.
As we mentioned in the literature review, our results are similar to the empirical results of McGreal, Adair, McBurney and Patterson (1998); Din, Hoesli, and Bender (2001) ; and Wong, So, and Hung (2001).
Finally, the software randomly generates the input importance for each of the nodes in the hidden layer. Hence, the ANN is recommended when there is a sufficient sample data set or when there is no theoretical basis for the data specification. Continued research in this area is important and necessary before the final verdict on the use of neural networks in real estate appraisal can be decided.
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