Valuers – We are the Detectives
PUBLISHED: 09:23 08 January 2015 | UPDATED: 11:28 14 July 2015
What is a valuation for - bricks, mortar and monetary value?
We’ve just had a work experience student with us for a week, who’s doing a post-grad course down the road. Whilst chatting, we came to the conclusion that working in our Land Management Office is very much as you imagine a detective’s life if you want to be on the Force…i.e. the reality is somehow different. Detectives sadly do not race round the streets in beat-up cars, fuelled by horrible coffee and “real” cigarettes, arresting the bad guys and being called “guv’nor”. They spend hours trawling through paperwork and computer files, sitting on uncomfortable office chairs – and making their own horrible coffee - much like the rest of us. Land Agents rarely wear full tweed suits and have a couple of Labradors secreted under their desks, and do not spend their time striding around fields in “Barbour and wellies”! Much of what we do is pour through paperwork, discuss taxes and tenancies, talk to tenants and landlords, organise repairs, plan buildings, speak to planners, plan for the future and investigate the past – but it’s mostly deskbound and dog-free.
Valuation work is a case in point. It is “the detective agency” part of our business. It is painstaking, at times mind-numbing, and always full of important detail. It’s about getting to the truth – even one no-one wants to give it to you.
We value property for many reasons: sale, probate, divorce, tax, for banks and for developers. For each type of valuation, the report recipients will probably put differing interpretations on the end result – and more often than not, the hope for the end value can be poles apart! For example, when a market appraisal is done (a sale valuation), an incumbent might feel they should only show their property in the best possible light – and gloss over everything from cracks, noisy neighbours, planning apps, noise, building regs (or lack thereof) to keep the value high. However, if valuing a property for a tenant who wants to buy it, he or she will give you ALL the faults that they can think of: anything in the hope of keeping the price as low as possible! When we deal with property that is involved in a divorce case, inevitably one side will hope that the value is low, the other high. Staying with the detective analogy, the valuer has to stick to their guns and show the truth as they can prove it.
Doing a valuation is often described (well, by those who do it) as an art rather than a science – though there is a standard to be adhered to, known as Red Book valuations, governed by standards set out by the RICS. Experience and local knowledge count hugely. We’re lucky in our office: one of our team has been with us for over 30 years. He is a one-man property encyclopaedia. He has the added advantage of setting up the Sales Team 31 years ago, so quite often he is asked to value properties that he has sold at least once, sometimes more! His mantra is “assume nothing”. Look at the property, work through the comparable evidence, check planning, do the Environment Agency searches, cross check with land registry, speak to other agents – be meticulous in your research. And, every day, thank the powers-that-be for the invention of the internet!
Just occasionally, it can be almost impossible to come up with comparables and evidence for things we’ve been asked to value: land with a canal mooring; castles; lighthouse; a fort with drawbridge and cannon included.
Life as a detective may have a lot of tedium attached – but for all that, it’s never dull!
Strutt & Parker, 37 Lower Bridge Street, Chester CH1 1RS 01244 354888