The effects of over-valuing property

Valuing properties aggressively to gain instructions is a well-known tactic used by many estate agents and is a hotly debated topic within the industry. Many agents believe that if they aim high with a property price estimate they will both win the instruction and hopefully gain a higher price for the vendor without impacting how long it takes to sell. What divides many estate agents is whether this tactic really works.

One thing is agreed among agents; it can be a risky tactic; a quick trawl through Twitter will reveal frustrated vendors who have realised that the original valuation they accepted for was too high. Vendors dislike having to drop their price to gain a sale because they feel it is potential money ‘lost’ even if, in reality, the property is merely finding its real market value.

On the other hand, it is widely accepted that pitching a property at the upper limits of its market value to a prospective vendor works. Most homeowners, faced with three valuations, will pick the agent offering the highest one. Other factors come into play, of course, including an agent’s personality and the agency’s reputation, as well as their ability to demonstrate local sales success.

But does taking valuations to the upper limit to gain an instruction actually work for a vendor in the long run?

Zoopla’s listings data suggests that over-valuing a property can increase the average time to sell a house by between one and 38 days across all regions of the UK. Looking at the figures for each city, the greatest impact of over-valuing can be seen in London.

Last year fairly priced homes in the capital took 19 days on average sell compared to 71 days for homes that had been over-valued – approximately three times longer. This pattern is repeated in many other cities including Birmingham, Nottingham, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Leicester and Norwich.

Over-valuing can also affect final sales price. In four key regions, listing at a more realistic asking price achieved a higher sale price than a property that had been substantially over-valued. These regions were the North East, North West, Yorkshire/the Humber and Wales where, for example, fairly priced homes sold for £20,000 more than over-valued ones.

“There is a huge temptation for estate agents to over-value in order to get an instruction, but both the Zoopla data and my long experience working in the housing market shows that, although it may be a short-term win for the agent, it creates ill will among vendors by increasing time to sell. All too often, this forces vendors to drop their asking price in the long run,” says property professional Phil Spencer.

To ensure you are valuing homes based on accurate data you could use tools like Zoopla’s Property Valuation Reports. Containing unique, up-to-date insights into a property’s value over time, including the average sell time in an area, analysis of the local market and more, the reports are fully customisable and the perfect leave behind to show vendors that your valuations are based on fact.

Increase in time to sell by city

City Overvalued by Increase in time to sell
(compared to market average)
Sheffield 12.7% 35 weeks
Huddersfield 5.6% 21 weeks
Rotherham 4.9% 26 weeks
Barnsley 4.6% 17 weeks
Chesterfield 4.2% 26 weeks

Difference between listing and sold price by region

Region Listing price Sold price Average sold price
Wales £150,000 £140,000 £145,000
Yorkshire and the Humber £155,000 £145,000 £149,000
North West £150,000 £143,000 £145,000
North East £129,950 £120,000 £123,000

Author: Nigel Lewis, property journalist

Source: Zoopla Internal data and Land Registry price paid data for properties listed on Zoopla in 2018