"Find a surveyor who you know, trust and like to work with and build a closer relationship with them. "
Marcus Dussard, sales director at Castle Trust, has had his fair share of frustration with property valuations holding up the progress of cases he has been working on, but when he commissioned his own Homebuyer Report on the property he was purchasing recently, he realised the benefits of a thorough survey.
He chats to Joe Arnold, managing director of Arnold & Baldwin about some of the misconceptions around surveys and valuations.
MD: I’ve been frustrated by valuations in the past, but a Homebuyer Report on a property I was purchasing identified some issues with the property and helped me to negotiate to ensure they were rectified. It probably saved me thousands of pounds – so do you get frustrated with the reputation that surveyors have in some corners of the industry as standing in the way of deals proceeding?
JA: I do get frustrated. I understand that brokers can find it very irritating when a property is not valued as they would expect, but there is no such thing as a down valuation. A surveyor provides the only formal valuation of the property. If this valuation is lower than the amount a buyer has agreed to pay, then it just shines a light on the property being over-inflated in the first place.
My message to brokers is find a surveyor who you know, trust and like to work with and build a closer relationship with them. If you work more closely with a surveyor you could find they actually help to increase your conversions rather than preventing cases from proceeding.
We are really open to this at Arnold & Baldwin. I might receive a call from a broker who is considering an application to a particular lender on a property in a high-rise block to ask whether it’s the sort of property they would be happy lending on. Or, brokers can contact us if they have received a valuation from another surveyor they think is incorrect. We will carry out a desktop valuation and if we think it is unjust, we can provide some comparables that a broker can use to contest the valuation. If a surveyor is presented with three robust comparables that they did not have sight of initially, they are allowed to change their opinion and valuation.
MD: Should all buyers be made to take a Homebuyer Report?
JA: It obviously depends on the age and type of the property and the risk appetite of the buyer, but I would say, as you have found, that a small investment during the buying process could save a lot of money in the longer term.
I also think there is some misunderstanding amongst buyers that conveyancers will pick up on any problems with a property. However, The Conveyancing Association provides guidance to its members that they should not raise any questions about any defects with a property unless they are specifically referenced in the survey.
MD: How is it possible for a property to be valued so differently by different surveyors?
JA: This is usually the result of different types of valuation instructions and the ability to accurately assess the condition of a property. For example, two properties may look exactly the same from the outside on a drive-by valuation, but an internal inspection could reveal that a property has a huge crack in the back wall and requires significant investment to put this right.
Or conversely, an AVM may not account for the extra value commanded by a particularly unique or desirable property. I have a recent example where a sale was agreed on a unique period property in Epsom for £750,000. The lender carried out an AVM which valued the property at £700,000. As a result of this AVM the buyer got cold feet and pulled out of the deal, then two days later the property was sold to a cash buyer for £765,000. A computer tried to work out the value and got it wrong as it couldn’t factor in the unique charm and character. It goes to show the value of a physical inspection.