Setting the valuation on your property can be a stressful affair, but there are ways to make the process smoother.

It’s the age-old dilemma for property sellers. Price your castle too high and risk missing out on potential buyers. Price it too low and … well, who wants to pocket less than you should?

Analysts have been saying that prices are on the rise, but it’s particularly hard at the start of the year to know where the market’s headed. And, of course, it depends on the specifics – your region, suburb, street and your property. Still, there’s much you can do to ensure an accurate valuation ahead of listing.

A logical starting point is to approach at least three agents for a free appraisal. Agents have access to latest sales data – through companies such as Fairfax-owned Australian Property Monitors, RP Data and Residex – as well as their fingers on the pulse of the market.

“You need to compare apples with apples, not apples with oranges,” says Richard Earle, of agency Jellis Craig. “Something with similar architecture, number of rooms, land size.” But, he adds: “No two houses are identical.”

But before you bring in the agents for what amounts to a job interview on how they plan to market your property, do your own research so you are up to speed with recent sales in your neighbourhood. That can start with visiting open homes in your area, for a comparison of price guides. But for details on what comparable homes

were actually selling for late last year, the data providers can help. APM’s street reports, for instance, cost $29.95, or there are property reports for $49.95.

Even more detailed analysis can come from an independent property valuer, who takes a more thorough approach. These services – costing from $400-$1200 – consider myriad factors, including basics such as number of bedrooms and bathrooms, zoning of the land, size, renovations and ability to add value, even the aspect and slope of the block. They also consider proximity to amenities, any detrimental factors and market conditions.

“We have [valuers] who concentrate on certain precincts, going in and out of four or five properties a day,” says Tony Kelly, managing director of national valuation firm Herron Todd White. “They quickly build up a knowledge base based on fact.”

Kelly says independent valuation removes emotion and doubt that agents might overvalue a listing to win business. He says they are often sought when multiple vendors are involved, or homeowners, particularly at the top end of the market, are considering selling as part of their financial planning.

Buyers’ agents are even getting into the game of trying to help vendors determine a price, through their vendor advocate services. chief Rich Harvey says it uses its on-staff registered valuer, combined with property visits and comparable sale analysis.

“The more unique a property, the more difficult to price,” says Harvey.

Frank Valentic, of Advantage Property Consulting, urges sellers to go to open homes and auctions to see what properties are selling for. “The basic rule is to look at one superior property, one similar, one inferior – that’s how we judge,” he says. “But it’s not an exact science; there’s always a bit of guesswork.”

Agents such as Barry Plant’s Mike McCarthy are keen to provide a range to allow time for market feedback, which influences price.

“After the first week or so we can see whether

we are on the mark or need to adjust [the price] depending on what the market is telling us,” McCarthy says.

This works best for auctions, particularly for more established suburbs. He says housing is more homogenous in the urban fringe, and therefore easier to price. Sell, sell, sell – Three things you can do to maximise price

1. Don’t scrimp on marketing. “You can’t sell a secret,” says selling advocate Rich Harvey.

2. Declutter and depersonalise. Take down wedding and family photos, for example.

3. Approach three or four selling agents.

4. Look at property data from companies such as Australian Property Monitors.

5. Enlist the services of a selling advocate for comprehensive valuation and help selecting the right agent.

6. Obtain a sworn valuation.

7. “Don’t accept the first offer,” advises advocate Frank Valentic. You need at least a couple of weeks to assess the market before inviting offers.

8. Hire a stylist to make the interior flow throughout, advises Sydney agent Brigitte Blackman.

9. Keep pets out.

10. Landscape the garden with fresh turf, and spread woodchips on the garden beds.

Home and business opportunity

In the family since the 1960s, the Kingsville property was home – and place of employment – for builder Frank Schipano’s dad and mum.

“My father ran a mixed business until the 1980s,” says Schipano.

Leased out to other businesses, including a shoe retailer, the property at 63 Kingsville Street has been let go in recent times, making it ripe for renovation.

“We were going to fix it up and rent it again but were approached by (Barry Plant Yarraville) suggesting we put it on the market,” says Schipano.

“I hadn’t contemplated it.”

Barry Plant sales consultant Hayden Kay sees great potential for the uncommon retail-residential opportunity in the current market because it can be used as a business and residence or, to a particular buyer, converted into a single larger home. But he confesses it isn’t easy to value.

“It’s a bit of an odd one for us to figure out a price point,” he says.

“There hasn’t been a lot to compare it to over the past five to 10 years (in the area).”

The agency walked developers, renovators and small business owners through “to get a feel for where they thought the property was at”.

“We’re looking at the mid-$500,000s,” says Kay. But is it worth $600,000? $650,000? Maybe, he thinks. A March 1 auction will decide.

Posted by Paul Best – The Age on 8th February, 2014