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How to get a detailed appraisal during covid restrictions

October 19, 2021

Time, and COVID-19, wait for no one. If you’ve been thinking of selling your home, current restrictions might have you worried. Rest assured, real estate agents are not that easily daunted. Thanks to market-leading technology, contact-free home appraisals are just as accurate as their analog cousins.

Current restrictions

At the beginning of the current Canberra lockdown, real estate agents couldn’t attend private homes to do property appraisals. As restrictions have eased, one-on-one appraisals are now permitted in some circumstances. These are:

  1. The appraisal is undertaken for the purpose of entering an agency agreement. Routine appraisals, or valuations of properties, must still be virtual. It’s important to note that if you get an appraisal, you can still decide not to go ahead with that agent or with the sale. It’s only required that you have serious intent.
  2. The appraisal must be done with the minimum amount of people possible, and mask-wearing, Check-In CBR App, and social distancing guidelines adhered to.

However, there are several reasons why you may still prefer an online appraisal. Perhaps you’ve been advised to quarantine after attending an exposure site. Or you’re medically vulnerable. And of course, there’s no guarantee that we won’t go back into a stricter lockdown if cases rise.

How do online appraisals work?

Preliminary appraisal

If you just want to dip your toes in the water, you can use Independent’s online appraisal tool. Simply head here [link to: https://independent.com.au/appraisal#top], enter your address and you’ll get an instant appraisal that tells you:

  • The low, midpoint, and high end of your likely price range
  • Any recent sales history
  • The median rental price and yield for the suburb.

To find out more, you can request a more detailed appraisal.

Detailed appraisal

At this point, an agent will make contact.

In the Before Times, they would make a time to come and view your house in person. During the lockdown, technology does more of the heavy lifting.

Matt Peden, Principal of Independent Property Group Belconnen, explains.

“If we can’t appraise in person, our preference is to arrange for the vendor to do a virtual walkthrough of their property by Zoom or FaceTime. Most vendors are happy to do so. Sometimes we can’t do a walk-through for various reasons. It won’t work for vendors who don’t live in the property, especially if they’re interstate or overseas. And some maybe aren’t as good with technology, perhaps because they’re a bit older. In those cases, we still have a lot of data we can use to create the appraisal.”

Doing a virtual walkthrough

How does the virtual appraisal work?

“I’ll typically ask a vendor to start at the front door, or out at the letterbox on the street, and walk me into the property. First impressions are really important when you’re marketing a property. This way I can see what condition the front garden is in, the street appeal, and get a sense of the flow of the property. Then we’ll go room by room and I’ll ask them to describe things as they go. This is so valuable because the way that people talk about their houses gives me a lot of insight into what they find special about it. You can hear what people are passionate about, and pick up on those little details that might not come across otherwise.”

Finding the invisible value that sets a property apart

One thing that Matt says he’s always looking for is ‘invisible value’.

“Valuations rely heavily on a formula. The location, the size of the block, the size of the living area, the number of bedrooms. But at the end of the day, real estate is a human business. What we want to do, as agents, is to make people fall in love with the property.”

To do that, he uses the appraisal process to tease out the unique characteristics of the home. Even if the owner can’t do a virtual walk-through, the conversation between owner and agent can be invaluable.

 “I’ll ask the owner why they bought that place and not another one, and there’s always a reason that it captured their attention. Perhaps the block was a little bigger, or it’s close to the local oval, or it had lovely polished floors."

Putting the data together

Once the walk-through is done, the agent adds the information gained to their arsenal of knowledge. They’ll also look at:

Comprehensive market data including recent sales and overall trends.

Utilising the standard valuation formula, the agent will look at recent sales of comparable properties. The more information they have the better, so any improvements or extra amenities will be taken into account.

“We’ll also look at overall trends, so if we’re seeing strong demand in a particular area, that’s a good indication that it’s a rising market. In that scenario, we can be more confident that the last few sales represent the lower end of what’s possible now and there’s a good chance of achieving more. In a softening market, we might be more conservative and say well, the last house like yours went for this much, but that’s your best-case scenario.”

Local market knowledge

This is where having a local agent really helps. As with any city, Canberra has more and less desirable suburbs. And within those suburbs? You guessed it: more and less desirable streets. “We’re born and bred in Canberra for the most part,” says Matt, “so we know the place inside out. There are pockets of the city where a particularly well-respected architect or builder might have done a lot of work, so we can market the property accordingly. We know which streets are quiet, or close to the cafe strip everyone prefers, just those little things that you only know if you live here.”

Independent are off-plan real estate specialists, so it’s not unusual for an agent to be selling an apartment or townhouse that they sold back when the development was new. “In that case, I’m coming in with a lot of extra information. I’ve often sold the same property a couple of times, as well as multiple other units in the same complex. I know which units were the most popular when the development was first on the market, whether people recommend the development to their friends and what they love about it.”

Putting together a comprehensive digital report

Once all of this information has been collected, your agent will compile it in an easy-to-understand format. They will provide a comprehensive digital report which is designed to be easy to read across mobile devices as well as desktops.

“If we can’t see the inside of the property, for example, if it’s an investment property and the owner lives overseas, we might not be able to determine the condition it’s in. In that case, I’ll give a price range that takes into account the sale price if there’s just normal wear and tear, versus what they can expect if there’s more extensive work to be done.”

No matter how you approach the appraisal process, Matt’s biggest piece of advice is: don’t delay. “The market is absolutely booming right now. We’re juggling strong demand and a willingness to pay top dollar for the right property. Buyers definitely aren’t put off by lockdown restrictions. If anything, they’re more willing to move quickly on a decision to buy. But we don’t know how much longer it’s going to last. Will interest rates rise, will open borders affect purchasing decisions? If the last year has shown us anything, it’s that the market is hard to predict.”

To get the ball rolling on an online (or in-person) appraisal, get in touch here.