For most of us, our property is our biggest asset.
We invest time, care, attention and money to turn bricks and mortar into a comfortable home where we will live for many years to come.
But whether we have no plans to move or spend hours a day scrutinising three-bed semis on Zoopla, we should always have a good idea of what our property is worth.
How to get a house valuation
If you’re selling up or are just curious to see how your property measures up in today’s market, try getting estimates from at least three different agents to get the most realistic figure.
Better still, by using free data widely available on the internet, you can work it out yourself for free.
And, as well as assessing the value of your property now, you can also roughly predict how to increase its potential and sale price.
Big property websites like Rightmove and Zoopla can help you search for homes in specific postcodes, but on the Land Registry website, you can find historic data showing how much people actually paid for properties - something that can often be very different from what they were asking for it.
Another free tool is the HomeOwners Alliance instant online valuation tool, which can give you a free instant valuation of your home or the home you want to buy.Beginners' guide to mortgages
Find a realistic house price
Paula Higgins, Chief Executive of the consumer group HomeOwners Alliance agrees it is vital to use all the tools at your disposal to get a realistic valuation.
“Getting the sale price of your home right is essential and makes the difference between you selling quickly, and it languishing on Rightmove and Zoopla forever and a day,” she says.
“House prices go up and down for numerous reasons. Interest rates, buyer confidence and inflation all play a part. Locally, access to good schools, green spaces and great transport links usually have a positive impact on your house price.”
Property expert Henry Pryor says there are a lot of property myths which can lead buyers and sellers down the wrong path when it comes to property values.
“Many people mistakenly think house prices are a function of supply and demand. They’re not, they are based on the cost and availability of credit. Make money cheaper to borrow or easier to get and house prices rise,” he says.
“When it comes to selling your current house, what you get for it can fluctuate by as much as 10%. Remember that an asking price is not a statement of value. As a professional buyer, I assume that it’s either an indication of the greed of the seller or the enthusiasm of the agent to get the business.
“A good asking price is just part of the way you attract buyers to see your home. Get it wrong and Google will record your mistake for eternity. Get it right and you’ll end up with a couple of buyers scrapping over the property.”10 questions to ask when buying a house
Should you invest in an expensive home makeover?
Loft conversions, downstairs loos and garages can potentially help boost your home’s value. But beware the temptation to inflate the sale price with a pricey makeover.
“If there are any obvious conversions – adapting the garage into extra rooms, or extending up into the loft – and you have the funds to invest in these projects, why not take advantage of the value this could add to your home. Check with a high street estate agent first that they think the planned project will add value and that you are likely to recoup your money when you come to sell,” says Paula Higgins.
“Design-wise, although sprucing up the kitchen is always a very good idea, don't go too mad by spending tens of thousands on top-end designer kitchens when you could put that money to good use elsewhere.
“People's tastes are so different. One man’s luxury, high-end designer kitchen could be another man’s gauche nightmare. Think practical instead. Getting a downstairs toilet will also add value, appeal to nearly all homeowners and cost less than a designer kitchen.”
How to plan your next move
Estate agent Rachel Andrews of Olivia Louise says knowing the value of your home can help you determine your next move on the property chessboard.
“Unlock the value of your home because it will benefit you to know how much it is worth,” she says.
“Knowing the value of your biggest asset can help you keep up-to-date with the property market so you can decide on whether it is worth moving to a larger home for more space, release some equity for home improvements or perhaps you would like to be mortgage free and can downsize. Whatever the reason, just spend some time researching your home is worth.”