Collaboration in the Industry

Yesterday I was part of a panel speaking at Nottingham Trent University (The Poly to me). It was a session looking at how collaboration works (or doesn’t) in our industry. Actually I was a bit of a lone voice as the audience and some of my fellow panel members were quite ‘building’ focussed.


There was an interesting question put to us; “Do we need Universities any more – can we teach people via Apprenticeships and on-the-job training“. At first sight this is a fair point. Particularly in my profession. Some of the work I do could be taught in an office. Some of what we do can best be described as a process. So yes part could be learned.

But a profession is more than just a process. The joy of my work is that I am sometimes challenged to think. To come up with solutions. Solve problems.

I was asked in the week on another occasion whether any of what I learned at the Poly was ever used by me? Well it is. The core skills I learned about technique I use most days. The the legal framework in which we operate hasn’t changed much (other than the odd bit of case law) and I use that a lot. My knowledge of building construction still is critical to my day job.

So my view is that we do need Universities to train our future surveyors to think. To grasp the core skills of building construction, measurement, value and the law. Understand how property works as an asset class. We can collaborate with the learning institutions to make sure these skills are delivered to make surveyors employable.

What I don’t think Universities can do is teach ‘commerciality’ and I guess that only 1 in 10 graduates enter our office with it. We can probably teach it to another 4 and the rest will probably never get it. That may be tough – but I suggest is true.

How to survey a roof…

I have spent a fair proportion of my working life inspecting roof coverings! It can be a challenging part of the job.


Sometimes it was a contractor who would meet you on site and he would announce with glee that access was via a triple extender ladder. The fire service would have palpitations at the Heath Robinson nature of these contraptions. Then of late we have powered access platforms – like something from Thunderbirds. Equally scary.

Recently a number of companies have set up using a telescopic pole to get a camera high above the ground – in fact these are really effective. They are however ‘fixed’.

If you are a techie person you may have noticed a new phenomena in the last year or so – that of quadrocopters. These gadgets allow a small camera – usually a GoPro underneath and have a flying time of a few minutes. They are a bit ‘flimsy’.

But, at the weekend, I was at The Photography Show at the NEC and saw some of the latest offerings.Two caught my eye – these can mount serious SLR cameras – the QU4D X – pictured is available now for a cool £8,500.

At this price point they are still an expensive tool but as the price drops it will perhaps soon be perfectly normal for surveyors to use these to gain ‘access’ to high points on buildings. Sure beats a long ladder on a windy day!

Time – where does it go?

You may have noticed that my blog has been a bit quiet of late! I have dropped from my Sanatogen One-A-Day approach to the Martini method – anytime, anyplace anywhere…


There is a reason – and it’s not that I have run out of things to say!

I am busy. I’m not sure that the market is ‘on the up’ but my workload has, in the last six or eight weeks, gone through the roof. I have valuation work coming out of my ears! But, perhaps more reassuringly, I am buying and selling property again. I am actually doing deals. The days may be longer for sunshine, but my office hours have increased too. My colleagues and I are in the office for much longer.

There remains a fundamental problem with the property market though – finance. I can’t say that the High Street Banks are back lending again. The hoops you need to jump through are high and sometimes smaller than you can squeeze through. The confidence in the lending market simply isn’t there. In fact there seem to be more obstacles each time some of my clients talk to their banks.

Until that gets resolved the market is going to remain ‘bobbling along the bottom’.

But it’s not all the Banks fault either. The rules about them lending have been tightened and they are trying to improve their capital base – so they need to be risk averse. It’s a vicious circle.

We do need though to sort this out somehow…

In the meantime, the long hours will continue?

Talking the market up …

The Bankers may have dented the confidence further of thee sector which isn’t good long term. But is there better news looking at the sales results for the last month? In a word – no.

Yields are moving out, meaning that prices are getting worse. According to the Property Investor Bulletin which arrived this week from PropertyData, average yields last month were 6.45%, over three months they were 6.29% and over six months 6.19%.

And,as you can see from the graph, the value of transactions remains down on the equivalent period in both 2010 and 2011. Life is better than 2009! That was the bit of good news, but other than that it’s not pretty out there.

It is a little odd in some ways because there is still a wall of money (not Bank money) chasing property. If you think that the average yield is nearly 6.5% against what you can get for your cash on deposit, it could be a good time to buy. But the warnings – it’s an illiquid investment, the costs of getting in and out are high and, more importantly, the risks of tenant failure just keep rising.

The only people who are selling are those that have to.

People who borrowed back pre- 2007 are almost certainly in breach of their loan-to-value covenants, but in many cases are covering the interest payments. We are seeing more Banks working closer with the lenders to find a way out. Which suggests that the Banks think it will get worse before it gets better.

The end of the tuner just seems to get further away – and at the moment looms rather dim…

I was going to suggest ‘roll on summer’ but after the weather of the last few days, I’m not sure we can all run off into the sun?

Surveying – a good career?

Over the last month or so I have been asked a few times as to whether Surveying is a good career.

It’s funny that none of my three kids have followed me into the profession – I presumably haven’t ignited their enthusiasm! Perhaps they only see the bad stuff? There was not an inkling of interest from any of them!

On the whole I love my work. Sure, I have bad days when stuff doesn’t quite go right, but generally speaking I get a massive amount of variety. The good outweighs the bad!

I accidentally fell into the profession. I knew I didn’t want to work in an office when I left school. I had been with my dad to a few meetings and they definitely weren’t for me. I spend hours in meetings now. But I started as an Architectural Technician – but through a few quirks ended up working in surveying. My degree was part-time and I qualified in 1989.

I don’t really have a typical day. I certainly don’t spend much time in my office – so there’s plenty of travelling around. Meetings can be a bit tiresome, unless you make progress on work. I get involved in all manner of things – from strategic advice, to acquit ring property and selling it. In the meantime I get to manage it for clients. I value property – quite a lot in the education sector.

I get to meet lots of people – and some really interesting folks at that.

So would I recommend it – yes undoubtably.

My old Partner at Walker Walton Hanson once said to me that you’ll never get rich doing it, but you will earn a good living – especially if you work hard at it. I think that is very true.

Those talented individuals who ‘get it’ can earn well. And best of all – they don’t have to be tied to a desk all day!

Hen’s Teeth and Property Jobs

I was asked a couple of weeks ago by a client whether I would still recommend young people enter the property profession. My answer was an unequivocal, “yes”. Sometimes I think I have the best job in the world (interspersed with the stresses and hassles I have to deal with!). It still challenges me and most days are different! I consider myself lucky in being involved in some really interesting work.

At the weekend there was a survey in Property Week which indicated that for the first time since the recession began the big firms have taken on the largest number of Graduates. This has to be good news.

However, in amongst the good news was a startling statistic; only one in 40 applicants will get a job. A 2.5% success rate. There are substantially more Graduates than jobs.

We see it at my firm – we are constantly bombarded with applications. This is, in some ways good for us – it does allow us to select the very best candidates. This keeps the professional standards up. I noted from the article published that some of the London firms are now adopting a zero tolerance approach to applications- typos and errors are dealt with swiftly and fatally. I have always thought this is an easy way of doing an initial sift. In some ways I have little sympathy if you spell my firms name incorrectly – it suggests a sloppy approach? Or does it?

We all make mistakes. I remember having a discussion with a Director from Savills some time ago about how they were only interested in people with ‘Firsts’. I don’t agree with this approach. We need Surveyors in our world who can ‘do’ valuations. People who understand the law and can apply it. But much more importantly, in my view, are people who can communicate with others. Who can talk to clients and colleagues. People with personality and a little ‘spark’.

That stuff doesn’t come across in application letters and CVs?


Thanks for the kind corrections. Much appreciated. My post was suggesting that we all make mistakes and I don’t agree with the zero tolerance?

RICS assessment day

I am in Cheltenham today; carrying out final assessments for the RICS. There are normally four candidates seen by the panel, but today we have only three – so I get a lie in…

I enjoy assessing – it gives me a chance to keep up-to-date with current practice and legislation. It also helps me to help my own firms candidates – by giving them some insight as to what is expected of them at interview.

We know it is a fairly pressurised environment, but all candidates should come into the room assuming the have passed. In theory they have at that point if they have done the required hours of competency based tasks. They have also been ‘signed off’ by two members of the Institution. What tends to catch people out is that they have perhaps exaggerated the work they have done – 29 days of experience in February 2011 is not a good start! The common reason for referral (you don’t ‘fail’ in this uber-PC world) is that the candidate couldn’t demonstrate that they had achieved the competency level.

We know that every candidate is nervous – and we take account of this.

Interestingly the RICS give feedback to assessors on the last session sat. Last Autumn 70% of all candidates passed, 746 on their first attempt. There are no quota’s – but as a generality I have found that we tend to pass three out of the four we see ( We have referred three out of four – that was a bad day!). You hope that all of the candidates will pass…

So, I look forward to meeting the three candidates today. It will be a long day for me – but it will be longer for them! And they have to wait for three weeks before they hear the result.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged Assessors, Cheltenham, , Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors,