Kirsty McLuckie on online tools and home valuations

Considering I write about property all week long, I am seriously lacking in curiosity when it comes to the value of my own.If anyone is ever rude enough to ask me how much my home is worth – and a surprising number of people are – they are met with a shrug, as I have little idea.
Image: Adobe StockImage: Adobe Stock
Image: Adobe Stock

But, I do know how much it cost us to build it, the sum that is left to repay on the mortgage, and the amount we spend on utilities and maintenance.

For the last remortgage, I was asked the value and came up with a figure that seemed about right. We were not close to a loan-to-value threshold, nor were we switching lender, so the exact number was of little concern.

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My interest has been piqued this week, however, as a friend who is considering building a house nearby asked if we would instead consider selling ours and, if so, for how much?

We hadn’t really thought about moving, but with a growing idea that the house is too big for us as empty nesters, it seems that it might be time to find out exactly what we could get for the place.

How else will we know if he gives us an offer we can’t refuse?

It seems there is no shortage of people who want to assess my home’s value for me.

Every time I go on an estate agency website – which, in my job, is a lot – a virtual prompt asks if I would like to make an appointment for someone to come round and size us up.

But I am hesitant to make an agent schlep all the way out to my remote address. I would feel guilty about taking up their time when, in the event of a sale to a friend, they would not be needed nor recompensed.

A more in-depth valuation from a surveyor would be another option, but for the most basic appraisal the fee would run into hundreds of pounds, which seems unnecessary at this stage of vague musings.

There are online options which will give you a rough guestimate based, presumably, on the last sale price of the place, and the average changes in market values in the area since then.

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But, seeing as the house was only built 17 years ago and hasn’t changed hands since, it seems the algorithms can’t cope and, having filled in the details on numerous websites, I find myself awash with officious machine-generated emails informing me that my house is worth precisely £0.

I could go on the recent sales price of similar properties in the immediate area, but the values are mostly based on their outlooking views of water – which our house singularly lacks.

But, in the era of artificial intelligence, there is a newer option. This week, Homemove has launched an AI valuation tool called Homer, which the company claims is more accurate than most online valuations.

You upload four images – exterior, sitting room, kitchen, and one of a bedroom – and the tool promises to visually analyse key property features, from structural damage to outdated interiors, to give an accurate picture of what it’s worth.

I tried this, and despite impressive activity scanning the pics back and forth, and a promise that the AI being was reviewing 21 data points, it soon decided that it couldn’t cope and gave up trying to critique my interior style.

Perhaps it is currently overwhelmed by the numbers of home owners curious to get a bot’s eye opinion of their decor. The makers explain that “there are still tweaks being made and the AI is still being trained.”

Or maybe having reviewed my home inside and out, it is intelligent enough to go with the old adage – if you have nothing nice to say, just say nothing at all.

- Kirsty McLuckie is property editor at The Scotsman

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