With Christmas fast approaching Adrian Tod takes a look at how the property market is shaping up as we approach the holiday season.

In these austere times, especially in the run up to Christmas, it is quite natural to want to get the best deal going, particularly on big-ticket items. And there is no bigger ticket than property.

There are lots of ways to try to get a good deal when buying or selling a property. A favourite is to attempt to buy a house for less than it is worth. Would you sell your property for less than it is worth? No you wouldn’t. And neither will anyone else in their right mind. Another way is to try to get someone to buy your own home for more than it is worth. Would you pay over the odds for a house?

But what is a property really worth? That is an emotive question that always has a subjective answer. Nowadays a fun thing to do is to look up the value of the property in which you are interested on one of the many internet property portals. You may be delighted at the stated low value - until you look up the value of your own property. It is then that you discover what a complete farce it all is. Because the value of an individual property can’t be determined through some clever algorithm.

Yes, value is influenced by recent local sales, details of which can be stored on a database. But value is also determined by appearance, proportion, condition, orientation and running costs. It is determined by décor, cleanliness, smell and feel. It is determined by places to put things like cars, clothes, vacuum cleaners, empty suitcases and children. Then there are the neighbours, the nearness to local schools, shops and public transport, the view, the garden size, the state of the market and the desire of the buyer. These issues can’t be quantified by data that can be stored on a database. Even in a street of identical houses one side of the street or one end of it is usually more desirable than the other – and therefore more valuable. But an algorithm doesn’t know that. Sentimentally put, it is one’s heart that knows the value of a property. And commercially put, it is an experienced estate agent who is best placed to advise.

And it is estate agents too that are in the minds of dealmakers. Of course we all like to get a bit of a bargain – especially at the moment. But there must be limits. Some sellers seem all too happy to put their most valuable asset in the hands of an inexperienced and/or cut-price firm of estate agents or an online lister. Why would they do that? Thousands and even tens of thousands of pounds are at stake in the sale of their property. It is like turkeys voting for Christmas. A cut-price surgeon doesn’t seem a very good idea for one’s health medically, and likewise a cut-price estate agent may not be very good for one’s health financially. Estate agency is one of those areas where, for relatively little extra cost, there is a greater likelihood of a much larger return, not to mention valuable reassurance during a difficult time. And remember, unlike surgeons, estate agents don’t get paid at all unless their clients agree with the results! Sometimes economies can be false - few more damaging than in property.

So there you have it. Try and cut corners and your move will rarely be anything other than a headache. Don’t cut corners and your move may still be a headache but you could end up with more money in the bank or a better roof over your head. It’s your vote.