Selling Your House? How You Can Influence The Surveyor Valuation!

Today was a very important day for our family, a surveyor has been to survey our house!

4 weeks ago we put our house on the market after years of debating. After putting an immense amount of effort into preparing our home for a viewing, last week we accepted an offer and sold our house! Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not counting my chickens just yet. Accepting an offer is the easy bit and is just the beginning of a process of technicalities and legal issues, all of which have potential obstacles to the sale of your house hidden within them!

One of these is the need for your buyer to have a home survey conducted on your property. There are 2 reasons why a home survey can cause problems for you when selling your house.

One problem which you have no control over are structural issues with your property. If structural issues exist in your home, a surveyor will have to correctly report these. If he doesn’t, his license to trade could be withdrawn and his reputation damaged permanently.

The other is the overall valuation a surveyor places on your home. If you play your cards right you might just have a chance of influencing this valuation and preventing the problems an undervaluation could cause. You may only affect it by a small margin but this margin could be enough to secure your house sale!

Is your house worth what you say it is?

So you’ve had an offer on your house and your potential buyer has found the right mortgage and had it approved in principle, great news! But is your house worth what you say it is? This may sound like a silly question, after all you had your house valued by an estate agent when you placed it on the market. Sadly though, this is not a guarantee that the valuation you were given is accurate.

Valuations Are A Matter Of Opinion

Property values can be highly debatable. Have you ever watched television programs like property ladder? Programs like these tend to have around 3 different estate agents value a property and you will often be shocked by the difference in opinion between the experts as to the true value of a property. Valuations can differ by tens of thousands of pounds depending on who is valuing it! You can see why a surveyor might have a different view to that of your estate agent regarding the true value of your property!

Property Markets Can Change Quickly 

It’s not uncommon in these recessionary times for houses to stay on the market for several months, even years! The property market is constantly changing. If your home has been on the market for some time it may not hold the same value as it did when you first placed it on the market.

Does The Valuation Matter? It matters a lot!

When your buyer applied for a mortgage on your property, they will have done so on the basis that your house is worth what they are paying for it. When a bank gives out a mortgage loan they base the amount they are willing to lend on the stated value of the property. If you agree to accept an offer of £100,000 and the bank is prepared to lend up to 90% of the value of the property, it will lend £90,000 with the buyer funding the other £10,000 with a deposit. A problem might arise if the surveyor the bank has hired to value your property, only values it at £90,000. In this case the bank will now only lend £81,000 (90% of £90,000). Can you see how this might cause a problem for your buyer? If your buyer still wants to buy your home for the £100,000 they’ve offered they will now have to find a £19,000 deposit!

Could you easily place your hands on an extra £9,000? This is why the valuation placed on your property is so important!

A Happy Surveyor Is A Generous Surveyor!    

As we said earlier unless you’re willing to do some home improvements, you can’t change the structural condition of your property and a surveyor will have to accurately reflect that. The true value of your home is much more debatable though and because of this a surveyor has much more flexibility in this area. There are some things you can do to make sure this flexibility is to your benefit meaning you receive a higher valuation, rather than to your detriment by getting a lower valuation!

Be Home

This is the most important thing you can do and is the start of you being able to have a certain level of influence over a surveyors valuation!

Sweeten Him Up

Remember a happy surveyor is a generous surveyor! We can all get into a bad mood at work, especially when we’ve had a long day dealing with ignorant people. When you’re in a bad mood do you tend to feel happy & generous or angry & stingy? Surveyors are no different.

So what can you do to put him in a better mood? Greet him with a smile, offer him a drink and ask him about his day. Your personal interest in him will encourage him to take a personal interest in you and your situation! Don’t go over the top though, you don’t want him to think your only being nice to affect his valuation!

Stay Positive

It can be tempting to try and explain away any negative aspects of your house. Don’t! Every house has its problems and most of them are things that only we notice because we see them day in day out. Again don’t go over the top but try to mention the positive aspects of your house to give the surveyor a positive mindset rather than a negative one. I assure you it will reflect in his valuation.

Mention Your Need To Move 

By this point we’re hoping that the surveyor has taken a liking to you. You’ve shown a personal interest in him and you’re now hoping that he will do the same. If you have specific reasons for moving that seriously affects your life, if you’ve managed to develop some common ground he might just be inclined to help your situation by giving the most positive valuation of your home possible!

Mention Your Agreed Selling Price  

This is a very delicate area you need to approach with care as no one likes to be told how to do their job, but surveyors might not always know the price you’ve agreed to sell your property for. As far as you’re concerned though, this is the most important piece of information they can have!

Imagine you’ve put into practice all the points we’ve mentioned so far and your surveyor is feeling happy and positive but doesn’t know your agreed selling price. Feeling positive, he values your house at a very reasonable £98,500. The agreed selling price though is £99,500, big problem! Had he known what the agreed purchase price was, and had taken a liking to you, do you think he would have hesitated to add a further £1000 to the valuation given the degree of flexibility he has? It’s a lot more difficult for a surveyor to justify a change in his valuation after he’s put it in writing than before, so discreetly make sure he knows your agreed purchase price before he leaves!

I hope this article helps you see how important a surveyors valuation is and how you can swing it in your favour!

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13 Responses to Selling Your House? How You Can Influence The Surveyor Valuation!

  1. Michelle says:

    These are spot-on tips, MB! Sharing with my tweeps!
    Michelle recently posted..How to Lower Your Cell Phone BillMy Profile

  2. Tackling Our Debt says:

    Excellent suggestions!!

    Congrats on selling your home! Let us know when it is finalized.

    In Canada we have to have two different people through the home before the deal is finalized. One is the home inspector that reports major and minor repairs, including the roof and such. The second it the Appraiser which does exactly what your Surveyor does, he determines how much the house is worth for the mortgage broker.
    Tackling Our Debt recently posted..Canadians – Know Your Options When it Comes to CreditMy Profile

    • Money Bulldog says:

      Thanks for the info Sicorra, glad the post is still relevant for my Canadian readers!

      I’ll certainly be doing a moving day post so keep your eyes peeled on twitter!

  3. Great tips. Being able to add any extra value is a huge plus when selling your home.
    Sean @ One Smart Dollar recently posted..Aiming for Gold in the Personal Finance OlympicsMy Profile

    • Money Bulldog says:

      Thanks Sean.

      It’s a tough market in the UK at the moment and that tends to make surveyor’s a bit cheap with their valuations. As you’ll probably know that couple of extra thousand on the valuation could be the difference between the bank approving a mortgage for your buyer, or not!

  4. Gill says:

    I read your article dated 4th August 2012 with interest but also with a sense of disbelief at how ill regulated this profession seems to be. How can it be right that individual surveyor’s valuations can vary so greatly? Surely they have guidelines to work to? The idea that you have to sweeten him or her up to get a higher valuation seems to me to go against all codes of professional conduct and leaves the way open for unethical or even dishonest practice.

    We have recently sold our house for a figure that we, the estate agent and the buyer felt was a very reasonable price. The surveyor appointed by the building society valued it at £107,000 below the agreed sale price which was a drop of about 15%. We had met the surveyor before when we had sold a previous house and a similar thing had happened but the house was much smaller, the amounts were much less and the sale went ahead as planned although caused us a lot of stress at the time. My husband did have a heated conversation with him on the telephone. Both houses were self builds and individually designed so there was nothing similar to compare them to in the local area. We were incidentally very nice to him on both occasions because we are good honest people! It didn’t occur to us that we needed to influence him because we trusted that surveyors were professional and impartial and most of all honest people working to ethical codes of practice. How wrong and naive we were! We, our buyer and the estate agent were shocked by the valuation and all complained to the company of surveyors. They were totally uninterested and made no attempt to review the valuation. My husband had a conversation with the surveyor who admitted that some of the things that he had written in the report he had not checked. These were factually incorrect. This has caused us an immense amount of stress and to continue with our sale we have had to drop the price of our house by £32,000. We have contacted RICS and they are looking into it but it seems that their powers are limited.

    I would be grateful if anyone has any suggestions as how we can take the matter further. Our solicitor doesn’t seem to be able to do anything as apparently what they gave done is not illegal. How can it be right that in effect a surveyor can write anything he or she likes on a report and the seller has no right or redress?

    • Adam Buller says:

      Hi Gill, thanks for taking the time to comment and I’m sorry to hear about your problem.

      It seems to me that you’ve just been very unfortunate to have ended up with the same valuer twice, especially if you have a history with him. As much as I don’t want to say it, I would probably agree with your solicitor and with RICS in that it’s going to be very difficult to prove that his valuation is wrong to a degree where action should be taken, especially if the property is so unique that one persons opinion on what it is worth can vary so drastically from another persons.

      I suppose what it does show is that surveyors do hold a lot more power than people might realise and although the suggestions made in this post might not work in every instance, I think it’s worth doing anything possible to put a valuer in a good mood or get him to like you so that they will hopefully be more inclined to give you the valuation you need. I don’t think that all valuers would act in a dishonest or questionable manner but sadly people like this do exist in most walks of life.

      I really hope that someone can chip in with some legal advice that might help you as I really can’t advise in that area.

      • Gill Duffield says:

        Thanks for that Adam. We seem to be in a no win situation. I have recently read that some building societies actually instruct their surveyors to undervalue property to protect their interests. Although this isn’t illegal it is certainly unethical and dishonest. I still find it hard to believe that they can get away with it.

        • Adam Buller says:

          I haven’t read that myself Gill but that’s not to say that I don’t think it’s possible. In much the same way that a loss adjuster must in some way be concerned with keeping the insurance companies who pay them happy, there must also be an element of that with surveyors too. (Though it does sound like a little more was involved in your case)

          Have you tried the the Financial Ombudsman Service? They may not be able to overturn the original valuation but if the lender who instructed the valuation is refusing to get a second opinion or consider a valuation which you have had done privately, then perhaps the FOS could become involved as you would then be making a complaint against a financial institution. Don’t hold me to that but it may be a possibility. Perhaps you could bring up your history with that particular surveyor within your complaint and suggest that you feel this history has negatively influenced his valuation. If the FOS does turn out to be an option then you would need to start with a written complaint to the buyers lender, or your buyer would need to complain (which I guess is unlikely if they are now paying less). Do have a chat with the FOS first though to ensure that any potential complaint wouldn’t in some way hinder the sale or cause problems for your buyers. Just a suggestion.

  5. Alex Strong says:

    We have also just had a valuation 15k less than the accepted offer. Totally ruined everything for us. We had two asking price offers. Surely the house is worth what people are willing to pay. If a surveyor just looks at it in a pessimistic way based on recent sales in the area etc then how would house prices ever go up?

    It just seems insane that this can happen. Back to square one.

    • Adam Buller says:

      Sorry to hear that Alex. You would think that – with prices on the rise – surveyors would be a little more generous at the minute. As you say it could be recent comparable sales that are dragging the value down but I think many valuers will also be wary of the effect that rising interest rates might have on values over the next few years, so perhaps they’re just covering themselves or being advised to be cautious with their figures.

      It is a real dilemma for sellers though. We’re hearing lots of reports in the news recently about sellers raising asking prices due to demand, but if the surveyor then comes along and down-values the house then the sale often can’t proceed anyway. Hope you get things worked out.

  6. Sue says:

    We’ve had a problem with a down valuation too, put our house on the market for 499, got two full asking price offers which then got increased to 525 which we thought was great but then the mortgage valuation came in at 475… No similar houses have sold near us in the last 6 months and those that did sold for around 475. We got another 2 full asking price offers the same day of it going back on the market so we accepted 499 this time without pushing it higher and the same surveyor came to value the house this week. So we are expecting to get downvalued again and not sure what to do about it. The house is clearly in demand at that price and there is still lots of interest and the last comparable houses sold for 475 6 months ago and prices in our area have shot up recently.

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