Residential Property Valuations

A client may want a valuation of domestic property for different reasons. It could be for Inheritance Tax or probate, Capital Gains Tax.

It could be that they share the ownership with a housing association or purchased under help to buy and are staircasing or proposing to sell the property: in those circumstances you are required to obtain a valuation from a Chartered Valuation Surveyor.

The clients could unfortunately be in a matrimonial dispute or a dispute of an other nature and require a retrospective valuation.

The client could be contemplating purchasing a property and may have commissioned a RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) Condition Survey, HomeBuyers Report or Building Survey or maybe require a stand-alone valuation to help them make up their mind about the purchase.

So what would the client expect to get in a valuation report ? You will get a explained purpose of the valuation. You will get recent market trends, my opinion on the market value, if needed a rental value, the date and extent of the inspection, the situation, communications and amenities of the property. It’s description, if it is a flat or a house, terraced or detached, construction, age, apparent state of repair, accommodation and services. It will also describe planning what existing use, any possible development potential, any Environmental issues, contamination, flooding, minerals. Also in there you will find A statement of the valuation approach most probably with reference to the comparable method of valuation where the valuer would probably use recent comparables. Confirmation of compliance with the RICS Red Book.

RICS Condition Surveys

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyor (RICS) has produced a suite of home surveys:

A) A Mortgage valuation is level 1,

B) An RICS HomeBuyer Report is level 2, and

C) A Building (Structural) survey is level 3.

In this blog I’ll be discussing the RICS Condition Survey which falls between levels 1 and 2. It was introduced to be suitable for either home owners who may be selling or purchasers of property. In my experience home owners aren’t (unfortunately) interested in the product. It has not been popular with many surveyors but is taken up by some purchasers.

The RICS Condition survey is suitable for domestic properties say up to 150 years old, in good order and where the client does not intend to undertake structural alterations.

So what does the RICS Condition survey cover? Inside each room we look at the ceiling, walls, floors, doors, windows, heating eg radiators, and in kitchens / bathrooms the fittings. A visual inspection of the services is done but drain covers are not lifted. Roof spaces are inspected from the top of the ladder. Checks are made for damp / woodworm and movement.

Outside we look at the chimney, roof, rain water goods, walls, DPC, windows, doors, conservatory / porch, and the boundaries, garage / car parking, sheds etc..

In doing the RICS Condition survey the surveyor will not consider environmental factors, recommend how repairs should be dealt with.

In contrast a surveyor doing a RICS HomeBuyer Report, would enter roof space if safe and inspect drains as well.

Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)

The Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS) is a method of assessing housing conditions. It replaced the unfit method several years ago and is mainly used by Local Authority Environmental Health Officers.

Immigration surveys.

Housing Health and Safety Rating System is used by Environmental Health Officers to assess whether properties are “fit” as it used to be called, per Housing Act 2004. HHSRS should be taken into account when doing these.

Councils have a duty to ensure dwellings are safe. Tenants can ask Councils to ensure their landlords put matters right. A number of factors can be taken into account when looking at the HHSRS of a property. One of the most common ones that properties fall down on is cold, which can be alleviated by insulation dampness, mould and risk of falls are also important, there are 29 Hazards that should be taken into account. Electrical Faults and fire risk are other hazards.

Much statistical analysis was done in The 1990s into morbidity ie why people died or had serious accidents. The risk of this happening was allocated according to dwellings (ie houses and flats etc) by their age, type, whether they were in single occupation eg by a family or in multiple occupation. Environmental health officers or indeed any practitioner can use this to assess whether the dwelling they’re looking at is more or less safe than an “average” one.  The property can be scored. You look at two things A) the chance of an accident happening, and b) the outcome of an accident eg if you have a fall from a bedroom window which is on the ground floor onto a grassy lawn the chance of you hurting yourself is unlikely, but if you fall from a third-floor bedroom window onto spiked railings then you may kill yourself so an adjustment is made accordingly.

You can see on the video an example of a survey which has been done for a flat on the second storey of a block of flats: https://www.youtube.com/rniyVtn6IKM

A dwelling assessment form should be completed by the surveyor, the property will be identified, described and deficiencies identified. The hazards to which those deficiencies contribute should be notes. As in this case deficiencies may contribute to more than one hazard, though I will only look at 2 here. The average national likelihood of occurrence is obtained from Government booklet. The surveyor should note this (see green line used as convention) but may wish to adjust the figure by quartering see orange lines. The surveyor’s choice should be noted in red and justified. The average national outcomes are then obtained and similarly noted for the different classes – class 1 is typically death, while class 1V is merely a moderate injury eg broken finger. Excel software can conveniently be used for calculating the class 1V outcome, Rating score and Hazard Band.

If you get a high score the property is unsafe and the Council may consider what if any action it should take. Councils have a palette of options eg they can send you a warning letter asking you to put it safe or at the other extreme close the property down and recover their costs.

Expert Witness

While going to Court should be the last resort, regretfully it is sometimes necessary. Property matters may be heard in different courts or quasi-judicial settings for example County Court, High Court, Agricultural Land Tribunal, Lands Tribunal, Valuation Tribunal, Rent Assessment Committee, Compulsory Purchase or Planning Inquiry.

It would be wrong to say “bValued will be pleased to act on your behalf” in any of these circumstances, but where you have a good case and despite the weight of evidence on your side and all efforts to negotiate a settlement, progressing to Court or Tribunal may be unavoidable. In such circumstances bValued’s primary duty is to the Court or Tribunal and where bValued feel merit is on your side we can act on your behalf as expert witness.

An Expert Witness needs to be aware of:

  1. a) Civil Procedure Rules Part 35
  2. b) Practice Direction 35, and
  3. c) The Guidance for the Instruction of Experts in Civil Claims 2014. 

Such work will be done to the standard set out in the RICS Guidance Notes “Surveyors Acting as Expert Witnesses”

Please see my video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPmlzm5Wpjk

Thank you

Compulsory Purchase

If a public development affects your property by taking all, part or even none of it, then you should engage the services of a Chartered Surveyor. bValued can represent you in the early stages of a compulsory purchase including at public inquiry. Also bValued can act for public authorities, who may require an expert witness to deal with objectors. Once though a compulsory purchase order has been confirmed you will be looking for a favourable settlement as regards compensation and accommodation works.

Because of some public need an authority may wish to acquire all or part of your property. To do so they will need a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) or General Vesting Declaration (GVD which accelerates the process).The process though is accountable and you should have a right of objection.

What you are entitled to once the authority has reached that stage? If they have a CPO they will serve on you a notice to treat ie inviting you to make a claim and a notice to enter ie when they require possession. If they have a GVD you should make a claim. As the acquiring authority will pay your reasonable professional fees it is only sensible to appoint a Chartered Valuation Surveyor with appropriate experience (see RICS Website FindAsurveyor). You will be entitled to compensation, in the leading case Horn v Sunderland Corporation: the intention is for you to receive money to put you back in the same position (so far as money can) as you were before being dispossessed. You are entitled to the market value of your property, disturbance ie the cost of removal including professional fees and in the case of your home a Home Loss payment. Similarly there is Farm Loss payment where farms are involved.

Shared ownership & Valuations

Shared ownership definitely works for some people by enabling them to progress onto and up the housing ladder. But there can be disadvantages and you should properly research the pros and cons before proceeding. You should commission a valuation from an RICS Surveyor or an RICS Homebuyer report when purchasing an initial share to obtain an independent valuation and know what if any defects there are, which you can get costed before committing to proceed. Few though do this perhaps partly because most of the houses or flats are modern. I would though say that particularly on new build sites where, developers are selling a share, there is a greater risk that you will pay too much for your initial share, unless you seek such professional advice. The next occasion where you may need a valuation is when staircasing ie where you buy a larger share of your property or where you decide to sell your share of the property.

An estate agent’s valuation is unlikely to be acceptable. Thus valuation should be done by an RICS Regulated Valuer using the comparable method of valuation taking account of relevant recently published RICS Guidance Note.

Rates & Council Tax

Council Tax is means of raising revenue for local authorities, the police and so one. This historically used to be done through the rating system where the gross value, the annual rental value of the property used to be assessed. That was replaced by the poll tax which was not successful and so now we have council tax valuations where the capital value of the domestic property is assessed.

In England, the list was last done in April 1993 and so the valuation date is the 1st of April 1991.

But here in Wales, we had subsequent revaluations so the list is dated April 2005 with a valuation date of 1st April 2003.

Obviously is easier to get comparable for valuations in 2003 than it is back in 1991 which is much more difficult.

Where properties may be newly constructed or improved then it is necessary to reassess or to value them for the first time and this is where valuation expertise is necessary. The lowest value is band A and the highest value is band G. If the council tax payer is not happy with the valuation, he can discuss that with the Valuation Office Agency who does these valuations and if afterwards he still not happy, he can go to the Valuation Tribunal. Where the property is improved and the value is increased then the charges are not imposed until the property is first sold. It is unfortunate that there have not been more regular revaluations because the relative values throughout the UK have changed much since 1991 and 2003

Mediation

Mediation is offered and promoted by the judiciary as an alternative to using litigation; the generally well recognised and traditionally accepted Court process for resolving disputes because going to court is one way: but it often takes time, can be expensive and emotionally draining. The courts are increasingly urging parties to disputes to try Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) eg arbitration, adjudication, mediation, negotiation or ombudsmen services instead of litigation. Should a party refuse to consider ADR then they could be penalised by the court as regards costs, even if they win their case. It is thus foolhardy not to consider such a means of resolution.

Mediation offers the parties (as advised by their advisers if any) the opportunity to resolve their dispute using the mediator as a neutral third person. The process is voluntary, confidential and without prejudice. The solution that the parties achieve through mediation will be one that is good enough for them. It may not mirror what the court might decide. It addresses your real needs, and allows you and your opponent to create your own solutions in a way that invariably cannot be done by a court.

Prior to the mediation the parties will have instructed the mediator, including as to fees, and perhaps provided background material. The parties would normally arrange the venue ie a room where both parties and the mediator can meet, and 2 further rooms where each party can consider their position privately, perhaps with the mediator. The mediation is likely to start with an open session with all parties and the mediator present. Private Sessions may follow with the mediator shuttling between the parties trying to find common ground. Eventually there may be further open sessions as the gap is hopefully closed and an agreement between the parties forged.

Insect and marine borer damage to timber and woodwork – Recognition, prevention and eradication

Insect and marine borer damage

Insect and marine borer damage to timber and woodwork – Recognition, prevention and eradication

JD Bletchly

HMSO 1967

A digital copy of this book may be found at https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/33792296/Insect%26MarineBorerDamage..JDBletchly.pdf

It is 48mb

I hope you find it interesting. JD Bletchly was my father!

USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO HELP MARKET TIMBER FOR SALE.

This article appeared in Forestry and Timber News August 2016

Over 90% of the Uk’s population have internet access. 14% of adults internet users prefer to use social media when communicating with unfamiliar people[1]. So while less than Email (41%) this exceeds face to face meetings, SMS and voice calls. It is thus sensible to consider using Social Media to help market timber.

I inherited a small rural estate including 175 acres of woodland near Hereford almost 20 years ago and while the more accessible areas had been thinned, the larger part still needed attention. I quickly learnt that improving access for timber lorries and forest machinery within the woods was essential and made that investment. I was fortunate to be able to quarry my own stone for new and improved roads and was then left with an accessible timber stacking area. I obtained felling (thinning) licences and of course my timber contractor had an extensive contact list of interested timber merchants etc. I also though harvested email addresses and “spammed” them to broaden interest: for example exporting ash stumps through Cork, Ireland to hurley stick makers definitely paid dividends. That though was all over 10 years ago.

It is not economic for an estate this size to maintain a contractor and his machinery permanently on site: thus thinning will be cyclical. I have recently obtained another felling (thinning) licence. This stop/ start impacts on timber marketing: now it is almost like starting a new business all over again. For sure I still have the contact details of those who I last dealt with, but I would like to bake a bigger cake.

The use of Social Media has grown over the last 10 years. Now 72% of adult internet users have a social media profile with Facebook being used the most. Others include Flickr, Google+, Instagram, Linked In, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, Twitter, WordPress (Blogging) and YouTube, you can see their logos on the graphic.

Coincidentally in the course of my other enterprises I have been successful in attracting French students doing their international marketing baccalaureate to my office on internships. The last one[2] kindly made a video promoting my timber for sale which I published on YouTube: you can see it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQdi61yNn7E So far it has been 77 times and has attracted interest from timber buyers looking for Ash, Douglas, Larch and Oak. A link to the video has been emailed to those on updated lists.

Adequate photographs, sound and video can be captured with a smartphone/ tablet. Sound can then be improved with software like Audacity and the video can be processed with say iMovie which is available for both Mac and Windows.

The cost of marketing on Social Media Platforms can be negligible, compared with the cost of mounting for example a Google Adwords campaign. The Return on Investment may though be variable.

So far I have discussed using social media to help market timber for sale from a small estate. Those with larger estates/ agents who continuously supply timber should integrate their social media presence into their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy ie to promote their website: identification and use of “keywords” will be important.

Brexit may provide opportunities for marketing timber internationally via social media eg in meeting plant health and regulation standards.

Arthur Bletchly – Biographical Note

Arthur is a Chartered Surveyor and has recently also qualified as a Mediator.

[1] The Communications Market Report Ofcom August 2015
http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/research/cmr/cmr15/CMR_UK_2015.pdf Figure 1.73

[2] Jules Balouin