How do I value my house?

Valuing your house correctly is vital

Key points:

  • Free online tools and sold prices from the Land Registry can give you an idea of what your house is worth, but they are no substitute for the local knowledge of a good estate agent.
  • Get multiple estate agents to provide an estimated value – but don't just go with the highest price.
  • Before getting a house valuation done, tidy up, redecorate and maximise the appeal of your home.
  • Tell the estate agents of any hidden features or benefits that add to the value of your house

When selling a property, one of the most important questions is "How much is my house worth?". Set the figure too high and you will put off potential buyers, delaying your sale and risking having to reduce the price. But, of course, you also want to achieve as much as you can for your most valuable asset.

House valuation is a balancing act, and while it is possible to get a ballpark asking price using online services or even doing your own research on what’s on the market, for an accurate guide price you need the expertise of a local estate agent, rather than relying on a free online valuation tool.

1. Online valuation services can be useful to start with, but don’t rely on them

For a rough idea of how much your house is worth, start by looking online. Search for your address on property portals such as Zoopla for a free estimate, as well as sold prices for neighbouring homes. You could do your own calculations, looking at nearby sales to work out a price per square foot and applying it to your own house. The Land Registry has a detailed form allowing you to search for sold house prices.

For a more detailed estimate, consider an online valuation tool such as Hometrack’s Property Valuation Report. By providing your postcode and basic information such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage and age of your home, you can get a valuation report emailed to you within minutes. It costs £19.95, and you shouldn’t expect pinpoint accuracy: your home’s true value could be as much as 15% higher or lower.

Because these online valuation methods simply use data from neighbouring properties, without any visual inspection or human expertise, they are more likely to give accurate results when there are lots of similar homes nearby. A three-bedroom Victorian terrace on a London street is much easier to value in this way than a unique rural house.

2. For an accurate valuation, use a local estate agent

It’s best to ask about three agents to value your property. A local agent will have a better understanding of house prices in your neighbourhood, where even within the same postcode different streets (or even different ends of the same street) can command very different prices. They will also be able to take into account factors such as the size of the garden, proximity to local schools and whether the property is in a good state of repair, which an online valuation tool won’t account for.

When choosing which agent to instruct, don't just go for the one who gave you the highest estimated value. To narrow it down, see our guide on how to choose the best estate agent.

A local agent will have a better understanding of house prices in your neighbourhood, where even within the same postcode different streets can command very different prices

3. The value of your home depends on the buyer

Whatever asking price the estate agent comes up with, remember that your house is only worth as much as a buyer is prepared to pay. That might sound obvious, but the price you get is strongly influenced by the type of buyer who is likely to be interested in it.

The best house prices will generally be paid by buyers who want to live in a property themselves: when looking for a home of their own, emotions come into play and people may be prepared to pay over the odds for the house they want.

A buy-to-let investor might typically pay 10% less than an owner-occupier. Professional landlords will have a more detached view, and will only buy a house if they are confident they can get a good yield.

The lowest prices will be paid by quick sale companies. These offer a fast turnaround, with slogans such as "cash in seven days", but the trade-off is a heavily discounted price (perhaps 25% below market value).

4. Make the effort to improve your home's value

Before inviting any estate agents to tell you what they think your house is worth, spend a bit of time and money on smartening it up. A future blog will focus on the best ways to add value to your home, but at a minimum you should ensure that it is clean, tidy, and in good decorative order. Grime, clutter and garish colour schemes all deter potential buyers, so get rid of them if you want a higher estimated value.

Other tips to boost your house price without a huge amount of expense include:

  • Maximise the number of bedrooms. Bedroom count is one of the key factors in a house valuation, so if you have a former bedroom that is now being used as a study or children's playroom, turn it back into a bedroom.
  • Avoid empty rooms. A room with no furniture tends to look smaller than it is, so furnish it to show off its potential.
  • Replace the front door and tidy up the garden. Kerb appeal is a cliché for a reason. First impressions count.

5. Tell the estate agents about any hidden extras

Have you just replaced the boiler, improved your insulation or added some hi-tech home automation? Make sure you let the estate agents know about features that could make your house worth more to buyers. Similarly, listen to the agents' advice: they are the experts, so if they suggest you should repaint your living room in a more neutral colour, it's worth paying attention.

6. Think carefully about the asking price

An estate agent should be able to give you a good idea of how much you might realistically be able to get for your house, but the price you choose to list at will have a big impact on the amount of interest it generates. Set the price unrealistically high and you will struggle to get any viewings – but set it too low and buyers will wonder what is wrong with your property. Either way you are unlikely to get the best price. Setting the asking price at an attractive but realistic level, taking into account what else is on the market in your area, is the best way to get more buyers through the door – and possibly generate a bidding war.

Or let us do the hard work for you

Movewise will arrange and co-ordinate valuations from your best local agents: the ones most likely to have a buyer for your home. The result? You sell faster and at a higher price.

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