The Building Surveyor – A Misunderstood Profession by Steve Hogevold

Morse Consultants Blog
Surveyor On Site

You don’t see many building surveyors on TV!  And when we are given airtime there is nothing glamorous about the way we are portrayed!  On property programmes it is always the architects who are the key players with their stylish studios and black pens – all nicely-dressed and nicely spoken.

The building surveyor usually turns up on Homes Under the Hammer, in his hard hat, fully anoraked with his clipboard – shaking his head at a hairline crack, a dodgy roof, or if you’re really lucky he might offer the occasional valuation or market overview. I remember laughing out loud at the late John Anstey on TV in the ’90s when he appeared in what looked like his old fishing hat!   Building surveyors are rarely mentioned by the likes of Sarah Beeney, Kevin McCloud or Kirstie and Phil as a necessary participant in the process of designing and building a house or assisting with an ambitious business venture, which is a real shame.

There is so much more to the profession than people realise.  We cover such a wide skill base and can be of assistance to virtually anybody residing in a property, running their own business or working for a company with a building of any sort.  I can assure you that although we do occasionally wear anoraks (in the rain) and wear hard hats on many of our sites (obligatory), we are far more dynamic than our reputation suggests – and our input will offer a practical slant to a project or conundrum that could also deliver cost savings in the process.

Many building surveyors I have worked with over the years have had varied backgrounds, having started off training in a very hands on capacity either as architectural technicians (learning to draw by hand and on CAD), or working on site and learning about the construction process before deciding to undertake their qualifications.  This design and construction knowledge is vital in understanding how something is built, and can be helpful when faced with the vast number of challenges our clients present to us. There are also lots of women in our profession – something we should be really shouting about.  They are capable of demonstrating vast technical knowledge, great problem solving and people skills and can enjoy a flexible, varied and rewarding career in the construction industry.

It is not easy to become a building surveyor…there is a 3-year degree course, a work placement, followed by intensive training under a qualified surveyor when we begin working.  If we progress to obtain our Chartered status with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) – we have to prove our capabilities at an APC (assessment of professional competence) interview – normally with a panel of 3 surveyors grilling us about our property and construction expertise.

Our profession includes many branches of knowledge (a Jack-of-all-Property Professionals without the “master of none” bit) including design and presentation of plans, construction methods, leases, planning applications, works contracts, space planning, building conservation, project management, costing of works, negotiation and building pathology (diagnosing defects and recommending effective solutions).  As well as specialising in any of these areas, surveyors can also provide the entire range of services from one humble company (as Morse Consultants does!).

It can be a somewhat lonely job inspecting buildings in the depths of winter, or slightly scary when we find ourselves hovering over a roof in a cherry picker on a windy day. Then, the next day there is the hustle and bustle of managing a project on site, often liaising between senior business professionals  and the workers on site.  This is not a skill that everyone can master – but if done successfully brings the whole project team together and gets the job done.

Project management is a profession in itself, but having in-depth construction, design and property expertise can provide our clients with access to wide range of options they may not have previously considered. A client may contact us because their business is expanding and they want to extend their current facility.  Having examined the space and looked at the lease – as well as considering the long-term plans of the business, we may suggest looking for an alternative premises.  This might then involve assisting with the property search, reviewing the lease terms, negotiating the rental agreement, managing the relocation, planning the space, applying for planning consent, managing any works required, carrying out a dilapidations assessment on the old property and negotiating a settlement on exiting that property.  From the initial idea to the final operations – our involvement could be paramount in achieving a successful outcome for the business.

If a company is moving out of a premises – whether the business has been downsized or is moving to a more suitable building elsewhere – the cost of exiting a property without being properly prepared could induce a nasty shock – as we have seen many times with tenants that ask for our help after they have moved on.  Dilapidations expertise, one of a building surveyor’s key skills, combines knowledge of leases and the cost of works to find a settlement that is fair for both the tenant and landlord.  Not understanding a lease fully, a tenant could inadvertently sign up to a whole host of terms which could amount to thousands, if not tens of thousands of pounds at the end of the lease.  Whilst solicitors would normally flag unreasonable or dubious terms – an understanding of the condition of the building and what the landlord expects at the end of the lease is something only a building surveyor could provide.

The building surveyor is always a handy person to have on your side. If we are involved at an early stage we can interpret a client’s unique needs and provide advice that will help them to achieve their goals. If necessary, we can appoint a team appropriate for a project, that is briefed properly, and designs something that is suitable for the budget, space and requirements.  At Morse Consultants, we guide our clients gently through every process to ensure they are fully aware of the implications of their decisions and we are always available to provide advice and support long after a project or piece of work is completed.

So….let the building surveyors unite and help businesses everywhere!  And maybe you might see more of us on TV sometime soon…