PROPERTY JOURNAL

How social impact drives award-winning valuer's career

A career in surveying has enabled 2023's RICS Matrics Valuation Surveyor of the Year to work towards making more affordable housing available in London, as he tells one of the award's sponsors

Author:

  • Joshim Uddin MRICS
  • Nicole Setterfield

03 May 2024

Profile photo of the article's author Joshim Uddin

Nicole Setterfield: What appealed to you about a career in surveying?

Joshim Uddin: My drive to pursue a career in surveying originated in my personal experience growing up in London. I directly faced the challenge of housing supply – affordable housing in particular – that the country continues to grapple with today. This was coupled with limited access to public services and much-needed infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and safe play areas for children.

Growing up, I always felt that local people – especially those in deprived areas – did not have a strong voice when it came to land regeneration and development, and were limited in what they could do to contribute to their communities.

This motivated me to embark on a career that would have a direct, positive impact by creating better, inclusive places and communities offering equal opportunities for those in dire need of public support.

After conducting thorough research about property valuations, developer contributions and what it entailed to become a property professional, I was led towards a career in surveying and ultimately RICS, a body taking a lead in improving the built environment and promoting best practice.

By becoming a chartered surveyor, I have exceeded my initial expectations in terms of how much positive impact I can make. I now directly undertake development appraisals for planning viability purposes, to assess the level of affordable housing that can be provided by new developments across London.

I am also closely involved with viability in establishing local authority housing targets, as well as the implementation of the community infrastructure levy. 

This latter process seeks contributions from development to provide local infrastructure, helping residents have a fair chance in life. I am thrilled that I can deploy my understanding and experience to benefit others.

NS: Did you always want to become a surveyor?

JU: When I was very young I wanted to be a Formula 1 racing driver, but soon realised it was a little too dangerous for my liking.

Due to the challenges I faced when growing up, at an early age I decided I would like to pursue a career that related to property. However, I only discovered the route to becoming a chartered surveyor when I entered further education, which led me to focus my study and time on relevant subject areas.

Becoming an RICS member is the pinnacle for a property professional, and I was determined to do so. I kept abreast of market developments by reading blogs and articles on sites such as Modus and the Estates Gazette, and started to speak with professionals in surveying where possible. This wasn't as simple as it is today, especially with limited access to other RICS professionals through existing networks.

Those who already know people or have relatives in the industry have the advantage of being introduced to other RICS members. Not having such an 'in' to the profession can be a difficult barrier to overcome before and after qualifying. As time went on, I sought to obtain experience during my studies to gain a true understanding of practices in different surveying disciplines.

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NS: Can you give us some background on your career to date?

JU: Following my BSc in Estate Management at the University of Westminster, I was incredibly fortunate to be appointed a graduate surveyor at the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).

The training programme and exposure to so many highly experienced colleagues gave me a solid foundation of understanding in the property sector. The support provided allowed me to gain experience of a full range of valuation work, broadening my knowledge beyond my own research.

This experience included matters such as business rates, inheritance tax, capital gains tax, development appraisals, shared ownership – so-called staircasing valuations – lease extensions and right-to-buy valuations.

The VOA also placed deserved importance on the APC, which I undertook and successfully completed. I was absolutely thrilled when I got the email from RICS telling me that my candidacy had been successful and I was now a full member of the institution.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was on the Tube on the way to work, and the train stopped at one of the stations – on the Jubilee line, to be exact. The wi-fi came on and I kept on refreshing my inbox. Suddenly the email I had been eagerly waiting for all week arrived.

After qualifying, I spent some time at the VOA pondering how to I could use my knowledge and qualification for the public benefit, which was my key ambition. This led me in 2017 to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets: what better place to start my career as a chartered surveyor than the borough that I grew up in?

The council had recently set up a dedicated viability service due to the level of development taking place. When I first joined, it was primarily obtaining advice from external consultants until a team was recruited to undertake such valuations internally.

I faced challenges with recruitment, as it can be difficult for the public sector to find valuers and pay competitively compared with the private sector.

As a result, I decided to hold viability training sessions to demonstrate the value of the work and the impact it has on communities.

I also turned to the grow-your-own option, and took on graduates to train as chartered surveyors and expand their expertise in development viability.

This proved incredibly valuable alongside recruiting by traditional means, as I am now surrounded by excellent colleagues who deliver outstanding results every day. This was the first team of development surveyors in London conducting development viability work in a local authority setting who also undertake work for other councils.

Once I recruited a full team, we were recognised by other valuation professionals, development surveyors, planning authorities and the Greater London Authority (GLA), for which I was selected to offer advice on development viability across the capital for an interim period. This further broadened my experience, and I expanded my network of other local authorities, developers and valuers in the private sector.

Having continued to gain experience and exposure in the valuation sector, I was appointed as the council's in-house development viability expert witness.

Subsequently, I successfully represented the council at the Westferry Printworks planning inquiry where I argued a variety of matters, including the need for various reviews throughout the course of the development which may result in a higher percentage of affordable homes as plans for the development progressed and its potential value increased.

I have also recently been elected as a panel member by the GLA to appear at the London Assembly Planning and Regeneration Committee alongside other valuation experts to offer views on the London Plan Viability and Affordable Housing Guidance (LPG), which was recently published for consultation before it is formally adopted.

Today, the development viability team at Tower Hamlets not only undertakes internal valuation work, but also offers its services to fellow planning authorities. I have led the formation of a commercial service that allows our surveyors to act on behalf of local authorities in need of valuation advice on development viability and planning.

This initiative was not part of my career plan, but the opportunity arose and allowed me to help with planning and development viability at a much greater scale. The initiative has yielded considerable benefit and is the first of its kind as both an internal and external service. We now represent and work with planning authorities across London and continue to grow as a team.

Our efforts have been recognised and the team is a finalist in this year's Local Government Chronicles Award for the Small Team of the Year Award 2024.

I was also fortunate enough to have been awarded RICS Valuation Surveyor of the Year 2023 while also being appointed to the newly formed RICS Valuation Professional Group Panel.

One of the judges of the RICS Matrics awards commented as follows: 'This one will be extremely hard to beat! I've never come across a local authority valuer that managed to achieve something like this, and I've worked with many valuers!'

NS: What do you enjoy about your role as a chartered valuation surveyor?

JU: To be able to use the knowledge and experience gained as an RICS professional and give back to local communities is the highlight of the role for me. Quite often the relationship between work carried out by surveyors and the public benefit is not explicit to many; however, having a career in which I regularly meet local people and political figures, I have found the advantage of being an RICS valuer has become more apparent. 

This has helped me inspire many students and colleagues by shining a light on the RICS as a professional body that encourages talent to join the sector. I very often come across young people who ask me what I do. 

I reply that I value development to see whether a scheme can provide affordable housing for those in need. I always enjoy speaking with young people to provide an insight into the work of valuers in my field. I highlight the link between the work I do and how it helps others, which brings immense satisfaction.

I also work with so many in different professions such as barristers, planners and architects, which is a great bonus. All of them are from other professional bodies offering valuable input – the level of collaboration is second to none.

Finally, by undertaking development valuations for planning purposes, I deal with proposed developments, existing land and estates, mixed-use properties and schemes that are small and strategic projects of more than 1,500 homes. So no two valuations are ever the same, and it's always exciting.

'I always enjoy speaking with young people to provide an insight into the work of valuers in my field'

NS: What advice would you give to others looking to progress a career in surveying?

JU: Find your genuine purpose and give it your all – no one else can do this for you. You will be the best in your field once you decide what you'd like to do and your job will become a passion that will drive you to success. 

For those who are interested in surveying but unsure about which discipline to pursue, speak to professionals in these disciplines and have an open discussion about what they do, and how and why they do it, so you can make an informed decision.

Understand the different areas in surveying, recognise the purpose of each area of work, and make decisions early on so you have a clear pathway. There are now multiple routes of entry into RICS, so be sure to explore them to identify which is right for you.

Begin by establishing yourself on platforms such as LinkedIn and build up a valuable professional network. The best way forward is to work collaboratively with others in surveying – many of whom are involved in some very exciting projects. So keep learning and never stop.

Surveying is always developing, and we're surrounded by new technology and world views that will affect the work you undertake. Stay on top of the latest technology and market developments. The key is to always be abreast of market activity and anticipate how it may affect your area of work, so you're prepared to adapt and face challenges confidently.

'Surveying is always developing, and we're surrounded by new technology and world views that will affect the work you undertake'

NS: Looking ahead ten years, what do you believe the surveyor of the future will look like?

JU: I believe that surveyors of the future will play a key role in the fight against climate change and be ambassadors for promoting greener professional practices, such as biodiversity net gain in development. Sustainability will continue to gain momentum as time passes, where surveyors in all disciplines will need to be acutely aware of the impact that their work will have. 

For example, those in the development industry will need to consider modern methods of construction such as modular building, or the way development is coordinated and carried out in a cleaner and more environmentally friendly way.

In every field, I believe there will be numerous means in which valuers will advocate approaches that contribute towards saving the Earth. This is a key consideration and focus point of the RICS to tackle climate change and deliver a more sustainable future. 

In addition, we live in an ever-changing world where technology advances at a rapid pace, including the likes of artificial intelligence. A surveyor in 2034 will be well acquainted with the latest technology, embracing its benefits and be open to improving the way that they undertake their work to become more efficient and accurate in providing an opinion of value.

Joshim Uddin MRICS is development viability manager at London Borough of Tower Hamlets and was the winner of RICS Matrics Valuation Surveyor of the Year award 2023

Contact Joshim: Email

Nicole Setterfield is a relationship manager at Landmark Valuation Services, which sponsors the RICS Matrics Surveyor Awards

Contact Nicole: Email

Related competencies include: Valuation 

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