A Unique Problem

We all know that valuing property is not an exact science. Even two houses that look very similar from the outside, have the same accommodation internally, and stand next door to each other in the same street, could be worth different amounts. One might have a better outlook or a bigger garden. One may need significant modernisation, the other might have been done up “to the nines”.

What’s more, the buyers of each property might have a specific reason for paying more for one house over another. One might have scope to convert the garage into a granny flat, for example, or more space for that work-from-home office.

It can make life very difficult for estate agents. We’ve all, at some stage, undervalued or overvalued a property. Maybe not by much, and certainly not deliberately (or, at least, I would hope not), but at some point in our professional career we will have seen a place that has really taxed our brain.

One such property was a house we once sold in Westbury on Trym. Or, in fact, twice sold would be more accurate.

Surveyor 1: “Can you explain, Martin, how you came to the price you set for this property?”

Me: “Good question. I thought long and hard about it. It is a very unique house, very different to anything else in the area and standing on a much larger plot than usual. I decided, in the end, that the price we proposed would achieve a sale and was delighted that, after a couple of weeks of marketing, we received no fewer than four offers at the asking price or very close to that figure.”

Surveyor 1: “Well, I can’t find any other properties to compare it to,”

Me: “Er, no. As I said it’s a very unique property; you won’t find any comparables. But the proof of the pudding, surely, is in the fact that we have several people who would like to buy the house at that price?”

Surveyor 1: “But No. 19 down the road sold for £75,000 less. I have to value this house for the same amount”

Me: “But No 19 down the road does not compare in any shape or form to this house. It’s totally different, not as large and on a much smaller plot. I know, because I’ve seen that house. Have you?”

Surveyor 1: “No. But I have to provide comparable evidence. So I will downvalue the property by £75,000. Sorry”

Me: “Don’t apologise to me, apologise to the poor people who have paid you hundreds of pounds for you to needlessly stop them getting their mortgage to buy their dream home”.

A fortnight later…

Surveyor 2: “My clients are very keen on this house, and are thrilled that it became available again a couple of weeks ago. Tell me, why did the original sale fall through?”

Me: “Because the house was downvalued by the surveyor because he couldn’t find any comparables”

Surveyor 2: “What? Of course he couldn’t find any comparables. There are none. It’s a totally UNIQUE property! And you say you have several people prepared to pay this sort of price? Well, as far as I’m concerned that is the only “comparable” evidence I need. If my clients buy this property but then have to sell it again, for any reason, they will most likely get their money back. I’m therefore very happy to agree with your valuation”