A North Somerset estate agent is considering charging an extra fee for providing valuations to DIVORCING COUPLES - after finding himself at the centre of a blazing row between one feuding pair.

Andrew Simmonds, a director at Parker's Estate Agents in Backwell, says a post-pandemic surge in divorces is skewing the housing market that has seen agents finding themselves pawns in bitter disputes between couples.

Mr Simmonds said agents are being put under pressure to provide valuations for homes, usually the biggest asset shared by divorcing couples, which often do not end up on the market.

And he said it is becoming such a big problem, he is considering charging a fee for valuations involving divorcing couples.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of couples contacting us for home valuations for divorce purposes,” said Mr Simmonds, an associate of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

“As a business we are obviously delighted to meet prospective customers but divorcing couples can present a challenge that can leave us between a rock and a hard place.

“Valuing a home for a divorce is never easy and can often be a fraught process. Each party always has a different view on valuation.

“Often you get a call from one or the other before the visit to ask if you would ‘do them a favour’ and value the property ‘up’ or ‘down’. It obviously doesn’t work like that. And more times than not, you actually only meet one of the parties.

“We don't even know whether they are even going to sell or are just gathering independent valuations from local agents so they can use the information to settle their financial affairs."

And he said one recent incident had prompted his thinking on a potential charge for at-war couples.

“I found myself in the middle of a domestic altercation between an estranged pair," he said.

"Emotions were clearly running high, and I literally walked into a full-blown argument between the couples and found myself having to mediate.

“I had to remind them that I had spent time researching and visiting the property and would be putting that information into a formal valuation letter to them, all without any certainty of an instruction at the end of it.

“I still provided the valuation but wondered whether it’s time to start charging for divorce valuations and to deduct from our final fee if we were successful in being appointed to market the property.”

North Somerset Times: Andrew Simmonds of Parker's Estate Agents, BackwellAndrew Simmonds of Parker's Estate Agents, Backwell (Image: Parker's)

Mr Simmonds, who has worked in the residential property sector since 2005, said divorcing couples should consider a more formal valuation such as a RICS Red Book valuation that requires a fee if they are looking to buy one-another out of the property.

Estate agent valuations, based on the trends in the local property market, are useful though if you intend to sell the property and split the proceeds.

He said: “If a divorcing couple intend for one partner to stay in the family home and receive money from the other partner then an RICS Valuation is best.

"I would say only contact your local estate agent if the plan is to sell the home and split the proceeds.

"The price the home is marketed at can then reflect whether a quick sale is needed or whether the parties are prepared to wait a little longer to maximise the price.”

Chris Longbottom, partner and family law specialist at Clarke Willmott LLP, said: “It is important to ensure that divorcing individuals obtain expert advice from the outset from specialist family lawyers.

"They will also clearly need to obtain independent and accurate advice as to the value of their assets to ensure that the right expert and report needed is obtained – and at the right time.

“Lawyers can also assist to ensure that valuations are undertaken and obtained independently and therefore reduce the chances of circumstances like those referred to above occurring.”