There are reasons a valuer’s assessment and an agent’s estimate are different and they’re liability and independence.
Valuers need to come up with a reasoned argument that supports their findings, and they have no vested interest in getting your listing or currying favour.
In terms of liabilities, these experts can be sued and our increasingly litigious society isn’t making things easy.
Public indemnity (PI) insurance is there to ensure a successful claim doesn’t bankrupt a valuer.
That said, they need to make sure they’re doing a great job every time, as even an out-of-court settlement can be crippling.
“The minute you have a claim, it shuts the doors of 90 per cent of the national insurance companies and also every bank (client) knows about it.”
Let’s cut to the chase – what’s the pay like?
The profession is now highly competitive. The result is falling fees, shorter turnaround times and rising client demands – and lenders hold the cards.
“Valuers have never worked harder,” Galante says. “To make the same amount of money and to make a comfortable living, you have to work longer hours and work smarter.
You just can’t afford to take shortcuts because insurance premiums and so forth are so high you just can’t afford to have a client claim – it ruins your practice and your credibility.”
Even so, you can make decent coin as a valuer.
Most firms, particularly large ones with major banking clients and steady work, pay a percentage of fees written to the valuer.
Many valuers gross around $120,000 per year with some reaching well above $150,000.
The kicker is that most must also cover the cost of running a car, professional affiliation fees, conference attendance, work equipment and other sundries.
Most at the upper end of the pay scale work hard for their dollar, too, with long workdays and occasional weekends behind the wheel.
DEALING WITH VALUERS
Valuers take their role very seriously and, despite popular opinion, aren’t out to short-change you.
Those who come in consistently under value are earmarked for scrutiny – lenders like doing deals and if the assessments are unjustifiably low all the time, valuation work dries up.
When valuers front up to your property, they’ll want to get into the job quickly and follow their own process to ensure they don’t miss anything.
The best thing you can do is to let them get on with the job, and address any questions or concerns at the end of their inspection.
Tell them about recent comparable sales in the area – particularly sales in the area – particularly if they’re yet to appear on the various databases.
It’s also a good idea to check they’ve spotted all your home’s features.
After that they’ll want to hit the ground running so they can complete the report and get back to your financier quickly.
Valuers aren’t just for banks, of course.
The best use of their expertise for everyday people is to provide advice that will help you make property decisions.
They are skilled at letting you know how much to pay, or what offers to accept.
For a few hundred dollars, you can have a property expert with no vested interest beyond providing their best advice.
WHAT IF I’M UNHAPPY
Then cheer up!
If you’re dissatisfied with the property’s valuation for a finance application, the first port of call is your financier.
Valuers can’t directly address your concerns, because their client is actually the lender.
Just make sure you can back up your opinions with evidence, because the “C’mon mate! You can go higher!” argument will hold little weight without some.
If you feel the valuer has really fallen down on their professional standards, the API provides a course of action, according to Galante.
While he operates out of Victoria, the same processes apply nationwide.
“There’s a complaints division that works independently. We’ve got three very experienced valuers in the industry that hear complaints.”
If they feel that there are grounds, they escalate it to our division or council and recommend some sort of reprimand or a suspension.
There are grounds to have the valuer suspended or dismissed as a CPV if they’ve been fraudulent.
Even if they don’t get sued, if they act in an unprofessional manner, the API would step in because the last thing we want is an individual downgrading the profession.”
Property valuers are an excellent arrow to have in your quiver.
Once retained, they’re on hand to provide you smart, insider’s advice on a property and its market.
They’re the Dr Phil of property who have no problem telling you exactly ‘how it is’ – not a bad real estate expert to have on hand.
This article first appeared in Australian Property Investor Magazine – Australia’s #1 Magazine for property investors and is republished with their permission.