All posts by GeorgeHartshorn

George is Managing Director at Elizabeth Davenport Estate Agents. He enjoys writing this weekly blog and hopes that you enjoy reading it!!

Big Valuers & Big House Prices

House For Sale
Selling Your House - But Is The Price Right?

Among us Estate Agents, there’s one topic of conversation that really gets our feathers ruffled and makes our blood boil. No it’s nothing to do with our fees or our For Sale boards or even our poularity ratings (or lack of) in the latest poll of polls.


Money Talks

It’s to do with Valuations and Appraisal of properties in the local area. Over-valuing is the oldest trick in the book and yet time after time unscrupulous agents try it and get away with it much to the expense of their would-be clients. The single biggest mistake a vendor can make when choosing their Estate Agent is to plump for the “Big Gun” who pulls an enormous figure out of their hat during the appraisal. Its not difficult to reel off lots of zeros, in fact it takes no skill at all; the only art involved is making the over-hyped valuation sound convincing.

The saddest part of the story is that vendors who start out with the best of intentions can quickly be duped by large numbers and the promise of a fortune. After all, when you’re talking property prices these are life changing figures for most people. A higher sale price could mean buying a much bigger property, extra cash in the bank or even a whole new lifestyle. But getting caught up in the excitement of a big figure value is the first big no-no when inviting Estate Agents to your property with a view to selling. Don’t be the next victim of your local pie-in-the-sky Estate Agent.

Big Shot Estate Agents
Big Shot Estates

Of course, most vendors are sensible, level headed people and some will see straight through these tactics. But for many people the biggest worry (understandably) is that their home could be sold for less than market value. They worry that the asking price could be too low, not too high.  Experienced property professionals will tell you that this is very unlikely to happen. A modestly priced property in Coventry or any other part of the country will attract lots of interest from educated buyers that are on the hunt for a bargain. Lots of interested buyers means lots of offers, bidding wars and ultimately a higher selling price.  By contrast, an inflated asking price means few or no viewings, no offers and no sale.

In years gone by the one saving grace was that house prices were always rising. Those properties that went on sale at over the odds would sit around for a few months but eventually  the market would catch back up and they would become saleable. Vendors would purposely “wait to get the best price”. But in a falling or stagnant market this is no longer the case. The “best price” now goes to those homes that sell instantly. Those that stay on sale for any period of time simply become stale and unwanted.


Big Shot Estate Agents

But We Can Reduce The Price Later If Need Be?

Any Estate Agent worth their salt will tell you that the greatest interest for properties comes during those first few magic weeks on sale. This is the honeymoon period when buyers clamour to book viewings and make offers. They know that the best bargains and the best properties always sell quickly and they do not want to miss out.  Once this magic period has passed by there is no going back, you cannot recreate that initial surge of interest no matter what. When told that a particular property has had its price reduced, most buyers will respond with “Really, what’s wrong with it then?” They are instantly suspicious. They also smell blood; if the price has come down already how much more might they be able to get it reduced by. In a falling market reducing the price now to what it should have been six months ago is simply closing the stable door after the horse has already bolted. The boat has been missed.

But Surely Estate Agents Don’t Want Overpriced Homes On Their Books

In today’s internet based market it costs very little for an Agent to market a property once the initial costs of take-on are covered. Once they’ve hammered that £10 For Sale board into the front flower bed of your house they will be happy to leave it there indefinately. Why wouldn’t they be, every day dozens of cars and pedestrians will go by and see their “billboard” mounted outside your front door. It’s free advertising and it also gives the impression that they are big players in the local market. Potential vendors often look around to see which agents are marketing similar properties so the more they have on their books, the more valuations they will pick up.

In Conclusion

Before you invite any Estate Agents around to value your home, make sure you have done your own research on prices first. Don’t pay too much attention to asking prices, its SOLD prices that count. There are many websites that offer this information for free is a good one to try.  If one (or more) of the agents pulls out a huge figure that sounds high, be cautious and ask them to back it up with evidence of RECENT SOLD prices in your local area. Before choosing which agent to use, ask them what their REAL Unique Selling Points are. You may just find that for once they are lost for words.



There will be a mixed reaction to last week’s announcement that the practice of “Garden Grabbing” is to be stopped under new government proposals. For many, selling off a large area of garden to developers has proved to be a “nice little earner” with the phenomenon increasing dramatically in recent years. According to the Communities and Local Government Department, the number of houses being built on gardens rose from one in 10 to a quarter of new properties between 1997 and 2008. Town halls have struggled to stop the trend as gardens have been classified as “previously residential land”, making them brownfield sites in the same category as derelict factories and old railway sidings.

For those that were lucky enough to have a large garden or plot of land, the enticement of hard cash in exchange for a cabbage patch proved too tempting to resist in many cases. Simply having the planning permission granted would push the value of their property up so many house owners drew up plans, gained the required approvals and then sold up. They didn’t even have the inconvenience of getting the builders in.

Of course for every winner there were several losers, and these would often come in the form of neighbours whose properties were blighted by the developments. When your next door neighbours garden sprouts a row of terraced houses you’re not likely to be best pleased.

Other notable losers included the local wildlife. Falling numbers of inner city birds such as the song thrush and the house sparrow have been made worse by the development of their habitats. And who could argue that the quality of life of living in the city won’t be affected by smaller and smaller green spaces to the point where all that is left is made of concrete.

On the other side of the coin, there is the shortage of housing in the UK and especially the availability of “affordable housing”. The new rules, if they are brought in will stop the go-ahead of many legitimate projects that would have provided new homes for a housing market already in short supply. Given the choice, developers will often choose garden sites over other brownfield land (such as derelict industrial sites) due to the lower costs involved as there is normally little or no clean-up operation required first. So costs of development will probably now increase applying further upward pressure to long term house prices.

Time will tell what the true impact will be. The only thing we know for sure is that this brings a new, more literal meaning to the phrase, “Not in my back yard!”

George Hartshorn MNAEA is Head of Sales for Elizabeth Davenport Estate Agents.