Written by Tony Abel.
Although, sadly, it is not completely crime-free,Norfolkhas largely avoided the kind of gang-related violent crime which blights so many of our urban areas.
So, although we are spared the horrors of the drive-by shooting, I did witness another drive-by ‘crime’ last week. Whilst it didn’t inflict any personal harm on the victims, it has potentially robbed them of the chance of owning their own home.
Welcome to the world of the drive-by valuation. Driven more by laziness than criminal intent, it does, nevertheless, have a huge effect on its victims, and on the wider community.
Let me explain: When you apply for a mortgage to buy a home, the building society will instruct a surveyor to inspect the house to ensure that it will provide enough collateral to cover the loan. This is a sensible and longstanding procedure on the part of the lender, and I have no argument with it.
Unfortunately, what happens all too often is that the surveyor will value the house without actually setting foot in it. They will simply drive past it, and then hazard a guess as to its value, based vaguely on what other, similar-sized houses have fetched nearby.
Of course, this takes no account of particular factors which might affect the value of an individual property – size of plot, build quality, design, facilities, specific location, etc.
Our experience last week concerned a family wanting to buy one of our new homes in Watton. Now these are high-spec homes, based on an extremely attractive Conran design, built to a very high standard, and packed with eco features which not only make the home more desirable, but will mean that the occupiers will enjoy much-reduced energy bills for ever (and hence have more cash left over to pay the mortgage).
The building society’s surveyor, from a firm based outside the county, did not even enter the house, but simply based his valuation on other three-bedroom houses nearby – which, of course, do not enjoy the same specifications. It’s a bit like valuing a Mercedes-Benz the same as a Skoda, on the basis that they are both saloon cars with four wheels!
The result is that the surveyor’s valuation is £10,000 less than the buyer is prepared to pay. This matters because, like many first-time buyers, they have stretched themselves to find a deposit, and now they find the building society unwilling to lend enough to cover the difference.
Surely the definition of value is what the buyer and the seller agree between themselves is a fair price. If one buyer thinks that the extra facilities and higher specification of a particular house are worth paying a bit more for, the chances are that when they come to sell the house on, so will other potential buyers.
Lazy surveyors are stopping families, who have scraped and saved to find a deposit, the chance to get on the property ladder. And that’s a crime whichever way you look at it.
Tony Abel is managing director of Abel Homes. For more information visit www.abelhomes.co.uk. Twitter: @tonyabel