Sam Dunn: 'How can we convince our agent to raise our asking price?'

House Doctor
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Question: My partner and I estimate our three-bedroom family house is worth about £240,000, but each of the five estate agents we've seen has valued it at less than £215,000. We really want to use an agent to help us sell but are very reluctant to put it on the market anywhere near this price. However, the agents categorically say it won't sell at that level. Should we stick to our guns? Or have we got our sums wrong?

B Parker, Birmingham

Answer: Hell hath no fury like a proud homeowner scorned. Who hasn't scoffed at absurd prices for properties in estate agent windows, but woe betide such sniping sentiment when applied to your own home.

Yet pare away pride, estate agent valuations, any price your neighbours may have managed to sell for, and any ideas of grandiose values for your property.

In the end, there's only one true price for your home, says Gavin Brazg from property advice website , "and that is the price that somebody else is happy to pay for it".

Like it or not, as long as the buyer's mortgage lender is also happy to agree with them that it's a fair price, then that's the going rate for your home.

"Many people harbour misconceptions about their property's true worth," Brazg warns.

"It might hurt, but what your property will sell for has nothing to do with how much you paid for it; how much money you've spent on it over the years; and how much you'd like to sell it for."

Instead, offers are made up of several major elements: what similar properties nearby were sold for; the prices of similar properties currently on sale; and a dollop of market 'mood music' – whether there's a general optimism or pessimism about buying a house nationally.

Put brutally, a valuation can be little more than a game of pin the tail on the donkey.

And while estate agents, of course, play a big role in this process, it's worth remembering that they don't actually undertake valuations – they simply give an opinion about how much they think they can sell your house for.

"We regularly have to manage vendors' expectations about what to realistically expect – people can easily get carried away," says a spokesman for Brooks, a estate agent in north London.

Given that five different agents have all come in at the same ballpark price, and will know an area's popularity and prices, there's a fair chance they know the right price for a sale.

But if you're still not convinced, try the free valuation web service and click onto its "home values" icon. Using a mix of Land Registry prices, economic trends and bank analysis, it offers a decent, and normally accurate, stab at the price at which you can expect to sell your home.