Type your address into any number of free ‘what’s your home worth’ websites and an approximation of your home’s market value pops onto the screen in the blink of an eye. Easy.
But no matter whether the figure you see sends your heart soaring – or sinking – take a minute to consider how accurate that value could be. What about the bathroom upgrade? The new kitchen? The barbecue area? All that money has to account for something.
Unlike other assets like your super, your home doesn’t come with an annual statement that shows what the place is worth at any point in time. But there are times – like when you need to refinance your home loan, that it can be extremely helpful to have a reasonable idea of your property’s market value.
There is a range of valuation options to choose from beyond the freebie websites. Each offers varying degrees of accuracy, and as is often the case, you get what you pay for.
A market appraisal
One cost-free option is to have your home assessed by a local real estate agent. This gives you the benefit of a local expert walking through the property in person. The downside is that a market appraisal is not the same as a formal valuation, and the final figure could be bumped up if the agent thinks a listing could be gained.
Automated valuation models
Further along the scale are ‘automated valuation models’. These are a user-pays service usually provided by property research companies.
For a small fee, you provide your address, and a value for your home is computer generated based on recent sales figures in your neighbourhood.
It’s a budget-friendly option though the figure you end up with is based on a wide number of previous sales – and the homes sold may be nothing like your own.
If you’re willing to pay a bit more, a desktop assessment or ‘electronic valuer review’ can crank up the accuracy factor.
An estimate of your home’s value will be provided by a property research firm based on recent local sales data backed by either a current photograph of your home or a phone discussion between you and a valuer.
This type of valuation lets you provide more detail about your home but without a physical inspection of the place the valuation is far from watertight.
Go pro – call a registered valuer
If you’re looking for a rock-solid estimate of your home’s value, the most accurate (and costly) option is to have your home checked inside and out by a registered property valuer.
These guys are experts, and the valuation you receive is based on local sales results combined with an analysis of current market conditions, reviews of any proposed council developments in your area and of course the quality of your home (so it’s worth giving the place a spruce up before the valuer arrives).
The figure you will end up with is an estimate of what a willing buyer would pay for the property on the day of the valuation. Sounds fair.
Do you really need to pay for a valuation at all?
You can expect to pay upwards of several hundred dollars for a formal valuation of your place. But here’s the thing. While it is always interesting to know, or at least have a reasonable idea, of your home’s value, chances are you may not need to pay for a valuation at all.
If you are refinancing or topping up your loan, it’s likely the lender will conduct an independent valuation of their own.