Top Five Websites to Help you Value your Home

publication date: Aug 13, 2010
 | 
author/source: Kate Faulkner, Property Expert and Author of Which? Property Books
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Top Five Websites to Help you Value your Home


With more and more internet sites claiming to offer to help give you advice or automated estimates to work out how much you should sell or buy a home for, Kate Faulkner, one of the UK’s top property professionals checks out what’s on offer, saving you time by choosing her favourite sites to use.

Having worked on property valuations for nearly 20 years over thousands of homes of all shapes and sizes in all manner of locations, I class myself as pretty good at pricing a property. Half of my time I spend on-line using all the various tools to work out what I think a property is worth, but I confess I still don’t think that any website will replace taking a good walk down the road and chatting to local agents first (See article 'What to ask the agents).

To know whether a website is any good or not, you really have to look at all the detail and data used to help calculate a property’s price and compare how close this is to an ‘off line’ and ‘on the ground’ valuation.

Professional valuer’s would first look at what’s happened in the market over the last few months, establishing what similar (or comparable) properties have sold for in an area and ideally, in the road the property you have for sale or are looking to make an offer on and then they’d find out what’s likely to happen to property prices in the coming months. On top of this advice, it’s up to you as a buyer or seller to decide what you do next. Either you want a bargain, so you take the professional’s valuation and then try to negotiate 10-20% or more below like a professional investor would, or it’s your dream home, so as long as you don’t pay too much over what it’s worth you’ll be happy.

So what websites does Kate use to help her value a property?

Find out what comparable properties are for sale and have sold for in the area
You can do this by foot, but Rightmove have made this easier. All you need to do is click on their ‘price comparison report’ banner. You then put in your postcode and in built up areas, search within half a mile or up to one mile. You will then see ‘properties currently for sale’, ‘properties recently for sale, now not on the market’ and then the latest property sold prices’. This is a great tool, especially for working out which agent to sell with, looking for ‘price points’ for example, properties under £99,999 might be selling, then properties over £135,000 but not properties in between these price ranges.

Check out which ones actually sold – and which agent they sold through, then if you are selling, ask these agents in to value your property.

Where to find out what similar properties have sold for
There are so many sites that do this, including major sites such as Rightmove and Hometrack. The best sites however are ones that give you as much information as possible in the best way. We’ve found that the bigger sites don’t always seem to have every property sold price available, so it’s best to try two or three before you decide which site to settle on.

Kate likes Mouseprice as this site is one of the few that correctly places Kate’s property where it should be on the map! You can just put your own postcode address into the site and you instantly recieve a map and street view of the property. It also suggests a similar property and Kate’s found this reasonably accurate. It will never replace a proper agent and surveyor’s valuation, but it helps as a guide to spot agents that are trying to secure your business by over valuing your property. In addition, it also has ‘news and info’ on the right hand side that helps you get to know what’s been happening in the local area with property prices. It’s not always perfect, for example some of the descriptions can be of the wrong village (!) but when it is correct it’s worth reading.

Don’t bother with filling in the form for a ‘valuation’ as it’s only when you get to the end it tells you it costs nearly £20! You are better off with this kind of service using a desktop or local agent’s valuation.

Another website that is quite good for this is Net House Prices. This is a no-nonsense, does what it says on the tin website, and one of the best things you can do is sign up to the email alerts so you know what has sold recently in your area – handy if you are in the process of buying and selling locally!

Property Price Estimates
There isn’t much point paying for these if they are just going to be done remotely and by an automated service. You might as well pay a bit more than the £20-£30 valuations and get a £99 one (yes, we do these, because we can’t find anyone else we trust to do them!) but you can also get a local RICS surveyor to do a full internal inspection and valuation for around £150-£200, with full Homebuyer Reports for £300 plus.

There are various sites, ones such as Property Price Advice seemed to under value properties and are now over valuing, so Kate doesn’t use it as it’s so way out on price, just no where near accurate.

Zoopla however is often spookily accurate when the property is a popular one, such as a two bed terrace in a big town, even to the point of going through several pricing negotiations. However in rural areas (including Kate’s) it’s not always quite as accurate (although better than it used to be). This is likely to be due to a lack of sales and very diverse property prices in small areas. However, it’s an excellent guide and starting point. It also gives you an idea of what the rental value might be, which as a contingency plan for any buyers who may need to rent the property out in the future, or for investors iit s very helpful.

Do bear in mind though it’s only a guide. Even Zoopla recommend you don’t use it as an accurate valuation and seek professional advice from a local agent and/or a RICS surveyor.

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