First published by Financial Reporter
Looking at what the surveying sector might wish to see or do better in 2021, it’s ‘easy’ to consider some rather big-ticket issues.
In a very general sense we might all say we want to improve our service – who doesn’t? Or we might wish to see the end of the pandemic which would potentially allow us to conduct more surveys and valuations – again, who wouldn’t want to see this? Or we might wish to see the level of housing transactions maintain the trajectory of the second half of 2020? Or perhaps have an extension to the stamp duty holiday which would ease some of the pressure we are all currently under?
There would be few in our profession, or indeed, in any property-based profession, who might not wish to pursue these ends throughout the next 12 months, or have the market move in these directions in order to facilitate greater levels of business.
And yet, some of this will clearly be out of our control, although again as an industry we are able to put pressure on the powers that be to deliver in these areas, and we can certainly help ourselves with perhaps a greater focus on technology in order to improve both the products we offer, the service we deliver, and the tools we give surveyors in order to carry out their jobs in the most efficient way.
But then, in my view there are also some areas which would probably seem utterly baffling to an outsider and often feel the same to us that work in the profession. Change here is possible and, indeed, desirable.
We recently held a Market Update session for our in-house surveyors and network firms and Kate Faulkner from the Home Buying & Selling Group (HBSG) mentioned one of those very areas – keys. At the very mention of ‘keys’ there was a sharp intake of breath, eyebrows were raised, and I’m sure many of those watching the session on Zoom went to a very dark place of home visits past where they found themselves in a tricky position.
That fact is that the issue of keys is one of the banes of surveyors’ lives. It’s wrapped up in the issue of getting access to people’s properties, being told that a key isn’t required, only to find that they’re not in so you have to go to the agent. This then means that the surveyor has to return the key, which impacts on the timings for the rest of your daily appointments, etc, etc. Or indeed many variations on this theme.
Kate suggested there was an opportunity to solve these types of key-related issues via companies who operate outsourced estate agent viewings, working along the same lines in that they provide the keys to the surveyors, meaning we’re not reliant on the property owner/their tenants/their agent, or indeed anyone else who might be required to let a surveyor in.
This has been an issue for surveyors for so long, that you can imagine any suggestion of a solution raises eyebrows. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done, or isn’t worth pursuing. It might seem little more than a ‘marginal gain’ for surveyors but it would undoubtedly provide a great deal of benefit, certainly in terms of time, energy, resource, and ultimately, money.
It’s probably not going to be talked about in terms of those big-ticket changes or developments that industry commentators generally highlight, but it has the potential to make a real difference in the field. And ultimately, from those relatively small acorns, greater efficiencies can be delivered – maybe it therefore should be our focus to concentrate on the work that surveyors have to do, the means they have to do their jobs and the conditions they have to work in, before we look at the more generalist problems, some of which are way beyond our control?
What we’ll endeavour to do is keep looking for solutions to these types of problems, because we know our surveyors and clients benefit from it. Within every single business, this type of focus can deliver real results and ultimately act as the catalyst for wider improvements across the entire industry. As always, it starts with one step, or in our case perhaps, one key.
Simon Jackson, Managing Director at SDL Surveying