Can the Valuer be Influenced...? 

The answer is no, but that doesn’t stop people from trying.

Property settlement cases can be complex and emotionally charged affairs. When it comes to dividing assets during a divorce, individuals often find themselves using various tactics to influence the valuer involved in the process. These tactics can range from subtle persuasion to more aggressive methods, all in an effort to tip the scales in their favour. Here are some common strategies people try to employ to influence the valuer in property settlement cases.

Providing Favourable Information

One of the most straightforward ways people try to influence a valuer is by providing them with information that portrays their assets or properties in the best possible light. This might involve highlighting recent improvements or renovations, presenting positive rental data, or emphasising unique features that could increase the property's value. Whilst it may be good to highlight things that the valuer can’t see at inspection (such as upgraded electrical board, new insulation and the like), if it is visible at inspection the valuer will note it and take it into consideration, whether highlighted or not. They are trained to ensure that the information provided is accurate/verified and substantiated.

Hiding Negative Information

Conversely, individuals may attempt to hide or downplay negative aspects of their properties or assets. This can include concealing maintenance issues and defects, failing to disclose past disputes or legal problems related to the property. While this tactic may work if the valuer is not diligent in their inspection, valuers are generally trained to conduct thorough due diligence and will often recommend third-party inspections/reports when defects are noted but the extent and remedy (including costings) are outside their personal level of experience.

Playing the Emotional Card… easily the most commonly used tactic

Property settlement cases often come with a significant emotional burden. Some individuals may attempt to use their emotions to sway the valuer. This can involve showcasing the sentimental value of a property, emphasising the impact of the settlement on children, or sharing personal stories to evoke empathy. While emotions can play a role in negotiations, valuers are trained to base their assessments on objective criteria, such as market data and property condition. We are not heartless, but we are indeed independent and cannot take sides.

Strategic Selection of Valuers

Choosing the right valuer can be a strategic move in itself. Some parties may attempt to influence the process by selecting a valuer they believe will be more sympathetic to their cause. Others may even select multiple valuers, and try to ‘shop’ a particular outcome, noting that valuations are subjective, and they are likely to get a range of values/opinions depending on who is appointed. Generally, this tactic involves choosing to only put forward the opinion that most aligns with their preferred outcome. Valuers are expected to maintain strict professional ethics and impartiality, making it challenging to sway their judgment solely through this approach. The general rule of thumb is that if multiple valuers are assigned the task of assessing the same property, they should be within a 10% range of each other and if not mediation between the differing valuers may be sought.

Legal Challenges

In certain cases, individuals may resort to legal challenges as a means of influencing property valuation. These challenges can include questioning the valuer's methodology, demanding additional appraisals, or appealing the valuation outcome. While legal action can impact the timeline of the settlement process, it does not guarantee a more favourable valuation. In fact, on many occasions, when a second or third opinion is sought by a party wanting a different outcome, they may become more disgruntled than they originally were.

In property settlement cases, the valuer has a duty is to the court. The valuer is also bound by the professional standards as a member of the Australian Property Institute, remaining professional, objective and independent.  Whilst individuals may employ various tactics to sway the process in their favour, the influence of valuers is a fruitless task. Valuers are trained to recognise and mitigate these influences to provide fair and accurate assessments. In the end, the most effective way to navigate property settlement cases is through transparency, cooperation, and a commitment to reaching a fair resolution for all parties involved.

Mark Robins
State Director SA
— Adelaide Property Valuers
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