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A surveyor crisis around the corner?

by: Richard Sexton
  • 04/09/2012
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A surveyor crisis around the corner?
In 2007, arguably the all-time peak for demand for mortgage products, the equivalent of 7,000 chartered surveyors were employed full time, providing mortgage valuation advice to lenders.

We all know what has happened since. Today the number is more like 3,000 – a classic example of supply being rebalanced by demand.

Chartered surveyors were made redundant in large numbers, refocused their careers elsewhere or disappeared as their businesses failed.

In many cases they simply retired. Anecdotally, today the average age of active valuers is thought to be mid-50s. Surveying is a physical activity and ill health and ageing bones make the job progressively more challenging as the grey hairs start to appear.

It looks likely that low demand will remain the underlying state of the market for the foreseeable future and therefore many would consider that the fall in numbers is of no real concern. However, all the while, active surveyors are continuing to fall inexorably.

One thing that is certain is that one day (surely), demand will rise once again. It’s worth considering now that the profession will be unable to respond by ‘switching on’ new valuers – it’s simply not possible to become a chartered surveyor overnight.

In fact, in some areas, the average time taken to return valuations has already begun to creep up as demand outstrips supply. This is a real worry given the generally accepted poor health of mortgage lending.

If sustained, applicants and intermediaries may need to accept that longer application times are the norm in some areas. Dependent on the suppliers they work with, lenders may find their operating models and strategies constrained whilst they ‘join the queue’ to access a valuer.

There is some light on the horizon. In anticipation of the growing problem, the RICS has created the AssocRICS programme. A qualification that is specifically designed to encourage new blood to enter the world of residential survey and valuation work, improving accessibility, equality and diversity in the profession.

This route to qualification does not solely rely on degree entry, it can speed up the route to qualification, but is not essential.

The first candidates are now in the field gaining valuable experience but if the lending industry is to ultimately benefit from this innovation, lenders must reach a point of comfort regarding the new qualification – ideally sooner rather than later.

Richard Sexton is director of business development at e.surv

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