If you’re wondering whether you can value your house yourself to save some money, the answer is yes, you most definitely can.
There are a number of ways to work out how much your house is worth, and they can put you in a good position to negotiate mortgage deals and start your next house hunt.
Why might I need a house price estimate?
Lots of us don’t really know how much our properties are worth.
If you’re on a fixed mortgage deal for the next five years and have no intention of moving, your house valuation probably isn’t a priority right now.
But if your mortgage deal is coming to an end, your living situation has changed, working out your property’s value will be the first step to moving forward.
It all starts with a house price estimate, which will be essential for working out your loan to value ratio (LTV) – the linchpin of all property loans.
So where do you start?
What factors affect my house price?
House price estimates are more than just a guessing game.
There are a number of aspects to consider:
- Property market activity – supply and demand of houses on the market affects prices.
- Size and finish – the valuation isn’t just about square footage, but that does play a part. You’ll also need to think about what that space is made up of. The number of bedrooms is the biggest factor, followed closely by bathrooms and reception rooms, with kitchen size being important too (a small kitchen in a house with lots of bedrooms will drag the price down). Outside space is important too, most of all if there is potential to extend (building a garden office, for example). Things that can lower price include old central heating or wiring, tired décor and poor insulation, to name but a few. Common sense applies – if it might put someone off, it’s a minus point.
- Location – some parts of the country are notoriously more expensive than others, which lifts house prices across the board. But even some streets or areas of a town or village are more expensive than others. Consider crime rates, proximity to local amenities, shops and eateries nearby, the rating of surrounding schools and transport links. Bear in mind that not all these factors will appeal to everyone – e.g. someone with no plans to raise a family won’t pay a premium to be near good schools.
- Potential – in some cases, the location or property have great potential, even if they’re not the most desirable houses yet. It could have room or planning permission to extend, or the area may be up and coming with new development plans agreed.
How do I find out how much my house is worth?
With so many factors affecting a property’s value, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to take.
You’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons of each, based on your situation and what you intend to do.
Here are the different valuation routes you can take:
Use online property websites
You can get an idea of how much other properties in your area are sold for using sites like Rightmove and Zoopla, which gather information from Land Registry.
Although there is plenty of data at your fingertips, do proceed with caution.
The prices shown refer to what the house sold for, not the amount they were valued at to begin with. In some areas, properties sell for more than the asking price and in other areas the sold-for price is usually lower.
Additionally, you won’t always know what state the property was in, only whether it’s a house or a flat.
Alternatively, compare your home to others currently on the market nearby to weigh up how much yours could be worth.
Get a free valuation
Some providers will now give you a free valuation. Zoopla is the biggest name offering an online calculator.
Again, you should be wary of the figure. They’re often not very realistic, so basing your estimate on this price alone could mean you’re being over optimistic when you enter into deal negotiations.
If you go down this route, do more research alongside it to make a more educated estimate.
Looks at the house price indexes
Each month, Halifax and Nationwide update their house price indexes, which are more regular than those published by Land Registry and are relatively easy to find online.
These will give you insights into the general property market and trends.
Although these indexes provide fairly accurate data, with interesting commentary explaining the reason behind the growth or decline, it is quite difficult for the layperson to use.
But it could help you to choose an opportune time to put your house on the market or start the re-mortgaging process.
Remember, the higher the valuation, the lower your LTV rate, which can help you get a good mortgage deal.
Get an estate agent over
Estate agents are the experts in house price valuations.
As well as having access to data and a strong understanding of the local and national property market, they can visit your house to assess its features in person.
They’ll discuss their valuation with you and may follow up with more insights, and it’s usually for free because they use the meeting as a chance to sell their services to you.
Bear in mind that estate agents will be looking to enlist you as a client, meaning they’ll want you to sell your house through them.
For this reason, the valuation could be higher than is realistic – overvaluing can be an estate agent technique to get you on board, but good estate agents will avoid this practice as it is ultimately counterproductive.
Aim to get three agents round to look at your property to give you a more rounded view of the value.
You may also find that inviting estate agents over (and making sure your house is looking immaculate) is too much hassle if you’re looking to re-mortgage rather than sell.
Desktop valuation from a bank
This route is only suitable if you’re re-mortgaging to get a new deal or release equity.
The bank may get a surveyor to do a valuation without visiting your home. Their job is to confirm whether or not the valuation is correct, based on data and other factors.
It can be helpful if you bought your home only a few years ago, as the previous valuation is relatively fresh.
And if you’re re-mortgaging rather than buying a new home, there is less risk. But if you’re looking to move, it’s best to get a more thorough assessment.
If I’m selling, how do I set a reasonable asking price?
Once you’re armed with information, your next step is deciding what to do with it.
Ideally, you’ll have a few valuations to consider – from estate agents, online tools and using your judgement based on other properties in your area.
You can also check whether properties in your area tend to go for more or less than the asking price, and what the trend is currently.
In a rapidly rising market, properties may go for even more than the asking price following a bidding ‘war’, but it is more usual for sales to complete at either at or just under the original price.
Buyers like to feel they have haggled down a bit, so pitching a bit above what you would comfortably accept is probably a good tactic.
What are the risks of over/undervaluing your house?
It’s tempting to slightly push up the figure of your property valuation in a bid to get more money.
As we’ve mentioned, estate agents often do this to win new clients. But it could have the opposite effect.
If the price is overpitched, you may put off buyers and lenders. In lots of cases, inflated valuations mean the property is on the market for longer, meaning it becomes undesirable and the figure ends up getting sharply dropped to attract buyers.
On the flipside, undervalue your property and you could be missing out on bargaining power when you’re selling or getting that all-important re-mortgage deal.
Can you use future forecasts for house price valuations?
A number of leading estate agents and property experts are constantly trying to predict what will happen to the property market.
They’ll look at national and regional trends, the economy as a whole and political movements, which can all indicate the way in which the property market will turn.
The insights can be interesting, but they might not be very useful when considering your own house valuation.
Housing markets can slump for a number of reasons, often unexpectedly.
So it’s always better to do thorough research at the time to make sure your valuation is as accurate as possible.