Simon Jackson, managing director at SDL Surveying, explains how the surveying industry can nurture the next generation of valuers and help them develop the right technical skills, even if more work comes from desktop valuations.
The idea of turning up at a house with a clipboard and pen probably seems quaint at best to young valuation surveyors starting out on their career.
Automated valuation models (AVM) and desktop valuations mean surveyors no longer have to visit every property, which has created significantly more capacity in the system over the past decade. Whereas it might once have taken a professional a day to complete six standard valuations, they can now do around 50 in the same period, without even leaving the office. Faster delivery is good news for buyers and developers, not to mention lenders, who all want to avoid unnecessary delays.
Where a physical inspection is needed, surveyors today use an app on their tablet rather than filling in reports by hand. As well as making the process quicker and simpler, tools like these have improved accuracy and consistency because users work within pre-determined parameters and can access relevant data. Of course, standardising the process gives lenders greater confidence in their decision-making and protects surveyors from legal action if a property is over-valued.
Proptech, including digital valuations, has transformed our industry, enabling both buyers and professionals to streamline the sales process and bringing clear operational benefits to businesses.
But does this mean we are in danger of deskilling the workforce of tomorrow as surveys become increasingly automated, or at least easier to complete? Compounding matters further is the fact that many professionals are reaching retirement, so their valuable technical skills and deep local knowledge, honed via traditional surveying methods, could be lost forever.
Young people joining the industry today are digital natives, who can intuitively navigate their way around any platform. To attract new talent, employers must therefore continually invest in the right tools to help them do their job well, without any unnecessary paperwork to slow them down.
I believe that any investment in technology has to be supported by a commitment to helping young people grow their expertise, area knowledge and understanding of lender criteria.
They must be able to value any property type accurately, from your standard three-bedroom suburban homes to unique period properties and new-builds not yet constructed. Working to RICS standards, surveyors need to understand the nuances of different properties and the best way to do this is to visit sites regularly, particularly when training.
At SDL Surveying, our trainees undertake the two-year training programme for their AssocRICS so they can eventually gain full chartered status. This combination of practical experience and classroom learning means they develop a firm foundation on which to build.
In our experience, trainee surveyors are hungry to learn new skills and understand the rigours of the profession. They are also aspirational and determined to move up the career ladder.
Mentoring is perhaps the most effective way of ensuring experienced surveyors pass on both their knowledge and passion to the next generation before they retire. After all, they have valued countless properties of all shapes and sizes and seen sometimes-dramatic fluctuations in the market.
It is well-known that construction is facing a skills shortage and surveying companies, like others in the sector, must work hard to attract new talent. Even if young people are aware of what we do, it is not generally considered a ‘sexy’ industry.
So, as well as investing in technology, training and mentoring, we need to deliver the experience millennials expect, particularly around health and wellbeing and CSR. As a national organisation, we’re able to provide a personal trainer for staff and organise huge fundraising events – but there are plenty of creative and cost-effective ways to motivate your workforce.
While we are unlikely to ever reach the point where every valuation is completed remotely, whether via AVM, desktop or drive-by, technology will continue to make valuing properties quicker and more accurate.
As we have seen, young people are well-placed to maximise the potential of technology, yet it is just as important for them to develop the technical skills that give lenders confidence in their decision-making. We shouldn’t forget either that it won’t be long before the current cohort of trainees will be passing on their knowledge to the next generation, so we cannot afford to cut corners.
Career Opportunities at SDL Surveying
If you’re interested in developing your career as a surveyor take a look at the career opportunities open to you at SDL Surveying.