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Estate agency considers charging warring couples for valuations

Boss of Parker's in Bristol says he's seen a surge in divorcing couples asking for valuations, many of whom have no intention of selling.

The Negotiator

andrew simmonds estate agency

A leading estate agency director in the SW of England has caused a stir by suggesting his firm could charge divorcing couples a fee to value their home, it has been reported.

Andrew Simmonds of independent Bristol estate agency Parker’s told local media over the weekend that a post-pandemic surge in the number of divorces means many agents are finding themselves caught in the crossfire between feuding former couples.

Too many times his agency has valued a home but the warfare between tussling twosomes means they often don’t make it to instruction or a sale.

He says as an agent he’s delighted when any prospective customers requests a valuation, but that “divorcing couples can present a challenge that can leave us between a rock and a hard place”, he told the North Somerset Times.

Fraught process

“Valuing a home for a divorce is never easy and can often be a fraught process. Each party always has a different view on valuation.

“Often you get a call from one or the other before the visit to ask if you would ‘do them a favour’ and value the property ‘up’ or ‘down’. It obviously doesn’t work like that. And more times than not, you actually only meet one of the parties.

“We don’t even know whether they are even going to sell or are just gathering independent valuations from local agents so they can use the information to settle their financial affairs.”

Simmonds, who has worked in the property industry for over 16 years, said divorcing couples should sign up for a more formal valuation such as a paid-for RICS Red Book valuation if they only need a valuation to help finalise their financial affairs.

December 6, 2021

2 comments

  1. I have a lot of sympathy for Parker’s and can easily see why they are thinking of doing it.

    I think the root cause of this problem is solicitors telling their clients that they will accept 3 “free” Market Appraisals instead of 1 formal written “Red Book” valuation – which of course they have to pay for. With a matrimonial, that is 6 agents (3 Market Appraisal each partner) totally wasted time. And we all know there is no such thing as a free lunch. With most matrimonial valuations, I would guess that the majority have no intention of selling because one partner just wants to buy the other partner out and stay at the property – or to put it bluntly, there is nothing in it for the agent, no doorstep clap, no bottle of red, just a “Thank you” … if they are lucky.

    Valuations take a lot of time; by the time we drive to the property, have a look around, drive back, find good comparables and work out the valuation it takes at least 2-3 hours. Sure, you could always give a verbal valuation there and then, but you need to be very confident in your pre-prepared comparables and I suggest it would be most accurate in towns or cities where there are rows and rows of near identical properties and I wish I was good enough to value rural properties “on the spot” with a high degree of accuracy. In our more rural areas, it could take us up to an hour to drive to a property and another hour to drive back to work out the figures, so in a nutshell the whole afternoon has gone doing a “free” job for a “client” who has absolutely no intention of selling anyway.

    I reckon a large percentage of agents don’t actually check what percentage of their “free” Market Appraisals come to anything. Sadly, I have a thing about spreadsheets and our system (Vebra Alto) lets me have a spreadsheet of valuations in real time. I suggest that every business owner gets a list of all the free “Market Appraisals” they have done say in the last year and note what percentage of those actually ended in instructions and what percentage came to nothing. I reckon most will be shocked. If this is a real issue (and for Parker’s it sounds like it is) I think the way forward with matrimonial valuations is to charge even for a verbal Market Appraisal BUT to deduct that fee from the commission IF we ever get instructed to sell the property. In the majority of cases, I reckon you won’t get instructed anyway. I am sure most would then cancel the appointment and move on to somebody else who will do the job for “free”.

    What other business works for “nothing”? Can you imagine asking your Accountant, or Surveyor to effectively waste hours of their time for free? No, they wouldn’t do it. A friend of mine once said something which will stick with me till the day I die; it was “If you work for nothing, you will NEVER be out of work”. Wise words; I am thinking of printing them off and pinning it on the office noticeboard.

  2. We charge a small amount already and have done for years.

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