In the first of a series of articles on how business that play a vital role in residential property transactions are operating post lock-down, Emma Vigus, Managing Director of Estate Agent’s sales progression platform, mio speaks to Sofia Lennquist, Business Development and Operations Managers at London’s Surveyors and Valuers.
Residential property transactions don’t happen without Surveyors. The volume of Mortgage Valuations provided via an Automated Valuation Model has risen during lock-down but approximately 70% of mortgage valuation instructions still rely on a surveyor. And with over sixty per cent of the UK housing stock being built before 1964, the ability of the surveying industry to meet consumer demand for condition reports is also critical.
Established in April 2009, London’s Surveyors and Valuers employs eight residential surveyors and three commercial surveyors. The business provides Mortgage Valuations, Building Surveys and Homebuyer reports for Private Banks, Lending Institutions, Solicitors, Accountants, Investment Funds, Private Clients and Mortgage Brokers.
What level of instructions have you seen since mid-May?
Sofia Lennquist “We only re-opened a month ago and the situation is evolving all the time, but instruction levels are really picking up. We’ve cleared our backlog of instructions and we will have a full team of Residential Surveyors back in the business on 1st July.”
It must be a challenging market to operate in, what’s working well?
Sofia Lennquist “People have been forced to embrace new ways of working because we had no choice and we’re beginning to see the benefits of those changes. The surveying industry has been slow to adopt new technology so it can be over reliant on paper but with people forced to work from home, everyone in our business has moved to paperless and we’ve made our workflows and our software more efficient. With the right technology and the right way of working, we can get reports out quicker so we’re starting to see improvements in turn-around times which is a really big success.
Working from home has also allowed for a more flexible way of working and everyone seems to be happier for it.
What’s proving to be a challenge?
Sofia Lennquist “Everyone wants to know what impact Covid has had on property prices, but we don’t have the answer to that, yet. So, right now our biggest challenges are economic uncertainty and the impact that has on valuations and, variations in Lenders’ approaches. We’re still working with comparable evidence from pre-lockdown, so Lenders want to understand how we are arriving at our valuations. Everyone is hungry for information but there’s a lack of communication between all the parties in the industry which means there’s more questions than answers.”
Due to the economic uncertainty, we’ve had to add caveats to our reports for example, we highlight that we are valuing based on comparables from January and February and we recommend that Lenders get a refreshed valuation in three to four months.
What would make your Surveyors’ lives easier?
Sofia Lennquist, “Better communication between Lenders and Surveyors and improved technology. The system we are using feels clunky and outdated but there’s very little choice in terms of surveying platforms. The surveying industry has to find more streamlined ways to serve our clients.”
There’s a lot of speculation about people moving out of London as home working becomes more prevalent. Are you seeing any evidence of that?
Sofia Lennquist, “It’s too early to see a real pattern emerging but some deals that were agreed in London before lockdown have subsequently fallen through as buyers look to move further afield. We’ve also seen an increasing proportion of instructions relating to properties outside the Capital.”