On the surface, it might seem like the price of the property and its value are one and the same, but this isn’t always the case in the eyes of a lender. Here, we share insight into how value is assessed, so you don’t get caught out paying too much.

The price tag a seller puts on their property is just that: a price tag. While the price you agree to pay is generally reflective of a property’s value, it can be motivated by other unlinked factors, such as willingness to stretch to secure a property or skillful negotiation from a real estate agent. 

After you have agreed to a purchase price with the seller, a lender will do their own valuation of the property, in order to see if they can give you unconditional approval for your loan. This is confirmation from a lender that they will allow you to borrow a set amount to finance the property. Because the property is the lender’s security, the property valuation process is extremely important.  

It’s wise to keep this in mind, because if you agree to a price that seems high for the area, or is a far stretch relative to what you expected, your lender may be of the same view, and not lend you what you need to purchase the property. 

The good news is, insight to how lender’s valuations work can help you make the right choice when agreeing to a price for a property, and ensure you aren’t paying too much.  

What is a lender's valuation?

Essentially, your lender needs to be confident the money they’re lending is for an asset of equivalent or greater value to the money you’re borrowing. This is part of ensuring the loan and its security are in sync, says Carolyn Bray, Head of Credit at Macquarie’s Banking and Financial Services Group.

“So if the loan defaults the property can still be sold to cover the value of the loan. The lender’s valuation may differ from a real estate agent's appraisal. Real estate agencies will often list at the highest realistic market price,” says Bray. 

“They’ll base it on recent sales in the area and what they anticipate it will go for, but they tend to be on the optimistic side.

The lender’s valuation may differ from a real estate agent's appraisal.

Carolyn Bray, Head of Credit at Macquarie’s Banking and Financial Services Group.

“A lender’s valuation may be more conservative. A lender will also look at the value of comparable recent sales, but it’s not about the maximum market price, it’s looking at a realistic price.”

Understanding property valuation and pre-approval 

Pre-approval is a lender’s way of giving you an indication of how much it is willing to lend you, based on information you have shared with them, including about your financial position. However, there is a reason pre-approval is often referred to as conditional approval, it is subject to change and adjustment from your lender.  

The valuation of the property you intend to purchase is one of the variables that may mean a lender adjusts what it is willing to let you borrow, relative to your pre-approved amount.  

If the agreed purchase price aligns with the lender’s valuation, and your financial position meets the lender’s expectations, your home loan application will typically progress as expected and for the pre-approved amount.  

However, if you agree to an inflated price, or buy in an area where a lender has determined a risk to valuations, your pre-approved amount may not be the amount you are ultimately approved to borrow. For example, a lender may assess certain suburbs as high risk if they have a large pipeline of new apartments set to reach the market, which can dilute prices for existing dwellings.  

It’s good practice to speak to your lender about this and understand if they are not lending for purchase in certain suburbs. Your lender should also be able to give you an idea of their valuation practices and what is involved in the valuation process for them and for you.

What happens when price and valuation don’t match?

If the purchase is completed via a typical open market transaction, involving an agent and a public listing, and the purchase price is comparable to available recent sales, then the valuer is likely to be comfortable a buyer has bought at fair market value.

However, there are a range of factors and red flags that a lender may consider in their property valuation. For example, in an off-the-plan purchase where there is a gap between the buyer agreeing to a price and the lender’s valuation taking place, market conditions may have weakened, causing a valuation shortfall.  

“There are many methods that can be used to assess a property’s value,” says Bray. 

“Valuers may go out and inspect the property – they'll look at the size, the condition, they'll look at the area the property’s in and any development plans in the area. They'll also look at similar sales nearby to get a handle on what other properties have gone for.” 

If a lender’s valuation is lower than a purchase price, there are a range of scenarios and remedies to consider, which differ from lender to lender. It’s important to speak to your lender, mortgage broker or home loan specialist should this situation occur to understand what the best course of action is for you.  

One scenario could be that the lender will use its valuation combined with its loan-to-value ratio (LVR) - which is the proportion of a property’s value a lender will allow you to borrow - as a basis for the size of your loan. So, if the LVR is 80%, you offered $500,000 for a property but the valuer thinks it is worth $450,000, the bank will lend you 80% of $450,000, rather than 80% of $500,000. 

How can buyers find the market value of a property? 

Before you enter negotiations to purchase a property, being well-researched on recent sales in the area you’re looking to buy in is one powerful way to make sure the price you’re willing to offer is reflective of fair market value.   

“If you're a buyer, there are so many ways you can get an indication of what the property may actually be worth,” says Bray. 

“Go to Domain and realestate.com.au, these sites will give you an idea of recent sales in the area. There are also reports available, and you can speak with your mortgage broker and local real estate agents to get a better picture.”

By keeping the principles of valuation in mind, you can avoid agreeing to an inflated price, and help ensure the borrowing process brings you one step closer to securing the right property.

Key takeaways

  • The price you pay for a property is not necessarily the same as what a lender considers its value. 

  • A property valuation can be impacted by local market factors, such as a surge in new builds.  

  • Do thorough market research to understand recent sale prices in the area for comparable homes. 

  • Engage with your lending specialist or mortgage broker early to ensure you understand the property valuation process.  

Discuss your options

We’re here to help. Talk to a home loan specialist today about your property goals.

New clients

Monday to Friday 8am – 6pm (Sydney time)

13 62 27

Existing clients

Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm (Sydney time)

1800 007 722

Help and support

Visit our online Help Centre.

Additional information

Unless stated otherwise, this information has been prepared by Macquarie Bank Limited ABN 46 008 583 542 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 237502 and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider whether it is appropriate for you. All applications are subject to Macquarie's standard credit approval criteria.