Residential survey and valuation has faced a succession and resourcing crisis for many years, and now the average residential surveyor and valuer is in their late 50s. The buoyant property market of 2014 gave us a glimpse of the possible consequences of this, when surveying firms were unable to service all their instructions and lender clients were waiting up to six weeks before a mortgage valuation could be returned.
It is easy to see how we got here. For many years the market was static, there were few changes to working practices, and firms saw no need to recruit. Then the crash in 2007–08 prompted them to reduce staff numbers, resulting in the loss of a sizeable number of surveyors. A few years on, as the market recovers, there is a skills shortage that will only get worse through natural attrition. This needs to be addressed swiftly.
Larger firms have established graduate training programmes and are now bringing new recruits into the profession. This is fantastic – but it is not enough, and does not support the small and medium-sized practices that cannot sustain such programmes and may have no clear succession plans in place.
It was against this background that Sava saw the opportunity to create a qualification tailored specifically to the residential survey and valuation sector. This would address employers' needs, as well as open routes into the surveying profession. The qualification aimed to attract talented people to the profession who would otherwise have very limited opportunities in this respect.
Sava recognised that this innovative approach meant that it needed a partner with robust technical knowledge and that was trusted by industry. Accordingly, it formed a relationship with BlueBox Partners.
Sava's Diploma in Residential Survey and Valuation (DRSV) was launched in 2014. The course offers a vocational route into the profession for candidates who do not necessarily hold a degree, or who have previously made different career choices. Training is learner-centric and delivered over an 18–24-month period. Designed to produce surveyors who are confident and competent in residential surveying, the course can be undertaken while a candidate is still in alternative employment, although this requires a high level of commitment.
The part-time course combines classroom learning, delivered by experienced chartered surveyors and using the technical skills of BlueBox Partners, with self-driven practical assessment.
Students who have reached the assessment phase must submit 10 case studies. These include surveys of a variety of properties and valuations using the comparable, residual and investment methods. All case studies must be supported by a detailed analysis, desktop research and a comprehensive method statement.
The assessor, who will be a chartered surveyor, must ensure that the candidate knows the subject and, on qualification, is capable of completing survey and valuation work unsupervised. Accordingly, the submission is closely analysed and the candidates questioned to establish their understanding of the case and the reasoning behind their conclusions. To get this far is testimony to the candidates' tenacity and commitment. At this stage, they must pass 2 short exams before being awarded the diploma.
Sava worked closely with both RICS and employers in developing this training, and has ensured it follows the requirements of the existing Residential Survey and Valuation pathways. The qualification is accredited to level 6 – degree level – by the Awarding Body for the Built Environment, which is part of Birmingham City University, and it has been deemed sufficiently challenging to grant direct access to AssocRICS membership.
Once students have passed the course, all that remains is for them to satisfy valuer registration requirements, if they wish to complete valuations, and they can then become a fully fee-earning surveyor. The advantage of the DRSV is that it provides a route into the profession for many prospective surveyors who may not hold a formal degree, but can bring new skills to the profession from their experience in other industries. To date, there are more than 75 graduates of the course now in work, with another 369 candidates currently studying or in assessment. Their success demonstrates the quality of the training and value of the qualification. Indeed, their skills are such that many are finding employers seeking them out before they have fully completed the course.
Sava is now looking to extend the DRSV into Wales and Scotland. Other courses are under development, including a new Diploma in Building Surveying and Housing Management, with a view to addressing the need for new skills in the industry as the residential market evolves.
Stephen Anscombe describes the journey he has taken through the DRSV
What was your role before joining the course?
I was a delivery driver and had no experience of residential surveying. I was lucky enough to obtain a trainee surveyor role a few months before the course started.
Why did you consider a residential surveying career?
I mentioned to one of my regular customers that I was thinking of a more fulfilling career. He told me he had been a chartered surveyor for the past 30 years.
I shadowed him on a couple surveys and got a buzz for it. Over the following weeks, I did many hours of research into the profession and felt a career in residential surveying would be right for me. It's now 3 years later and I haven't regretted that decision.
What attracted you to the Sava course?
After becoming engrossed in the idea of becoming a residential surveyor, I started looking into what qualifications I would need. I had reasonable A levels and received an offer of a place on a 5-year part-time university course, but I felt there must be a faster route. I contacted Sava and enrolled for the February 2016 intake.
Would you recommend the DRSV?
Absolutely. Many of the other candidates, like me, were in other employment. I was not comfortable with the prospect of going to university for 3 to 5 years. The Sava route offers a degree-equivalent qualification and the option of becoming an RICS member in little more than 2 years. The lecturers and staff are friendly, approachable and incredibly knowledgeable in their specialist area.
What was the highlight of the qualification process?
You would think that would be obtaining the diploma after 2 years; however, the assessment process in the second year was my favourite part. Although the workload was intensive, you built on what you learned during your first year and put it into action.
Do you have any plans now you have qualified?
I attended the Sava careers day in Coventry in March and found it was a great way to connect with employers. I am starting a job with White Horse Surveyors and I'm looking forward to my new career.
Hilary Grayson is director of surveying services at Sava email@example.com; Fiona Haggett is operations director at Blue Box Partners firstname.lastname@example.org
"The course is designed to produce surveyors who are confident and competent in residential surveying"