Why Is Technological Innovation Key For Valuations?
Simon Jackson, managing director at SDL Surveying, looks at how surveyors must consider an agile business model and investment in proptech, especially if lenders became more risk-averse.
Despite the political turmoil of this year, the mortgage market has remained remarkably buoyant – supported, in part, by the evolving practices of valuation surveyors. But if the market falters, and lenders become more risk-averse, surveyors will need the right mix of strategy, expertise and tools to help banks make fast and accurate decisions.
It is a sign of how strong the UK mortgage industry is that, even with Brexit looming, approvals for home purchase were more than 3.2 per cent higher year-on-year in August 2019. Given what is happening on the political stage, it seems that buyers are bored by uncertainty. So far at least, they are carrying on as normal – but whether this will continue is a question nobody yet can answer.
If lending fluctuates in the coming months, valuation specialists must be primed to deliver the volumes required with greater efficiency, flexibility and accuracy.
Speed and Accuracy
Brexit aside, we have come a long way from the days when someone would turn up at a property with a clipboard and pen. Banks and building societies, aware of how savvy consumers now are, need someone who gets the job done quickly and accurately, so they can confirm a mortgage offer that day.
This clearly puts fresh demands on surveying professionals, who like those in other industries, are expected to worker faster but deliver more accurate results – particularly where properties are at risk of being over-valued during uncertain times. Without an agile business model, and investment in proptech, it is doubtful whether they would be able to achieve this.
Our approach has been to build multiple layers of capacity into our business, allowing us to provide full coverage for every UK postcode via a team of 80 in-house surveyors and wider network of 320 independent professionals.
Technology has been the catalyst for this structure, enabling us to schedule property visits in line with capacity. Increased valuation volumes, and smaller patch sizes, mean surveyors can expect a full diary of work and spend less time on the road. Home buyers and lenders benefit from more accurate valuations too, since the surveyor is local and will have good knowledge of house types in that area.
We have also leveraged technology in other ways, working with eTech back in 2012 to develop an iPad app for surveyors that not only saves time but also standardises the process so there is less risk of human error, including poor quality pictures and illegible handwriting. We are proud to see that the use of this app is now common practice amongst most surveyors, resulting in improved standards industry-wide.
More recently, we have moved towards desktop valuations on standard property types, removing the need for a site visit and helping surveyors concentrate their expertise on the less-straightforward cases. This is a big bonus for surveyors who are under pressure to carry out valuations quickly on behalf of banks and building societies.
This approach to technology has been invaluable within our business, as together with the growth of our network, it has led to an increase in our market-share despite the turbulence in our current political landscape. It has also contributed to our position of becoming the lead panel manager in the industry for service delivery.
Brexit is not the first political event to potentially destabilise the property market and it won’t be the last. KPMG recently warned that UK house prices could drop by an average of 6.2 per cent in the event of a no-deal, although a deal is likely to see them rise by 1.3 per cent next year. In the worst-case scenario, economists at the firm say they could drop by an alarming 10 to 20 per cent.
Whatever happens, lenders are going to rely more than ever on the expertise and service of their surveyors to deliver the most rigorous valuations. For forward-looking companies, it could be a golden opportunity to grow their market share, even in a challenging climate, and build on their success as the sector recovers.