Ask the expert column for NACFB magazine

What are the most frequent broker misconceptions about the surveying process?

There are many brokers’ misconceptions that are frequently held about the surveying process. The most common misconception is that a valuer and the surveying process is an obstacle to achieving their goal and earning their commission. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the pressure brokers are under to deliver, but it is a complex process requiring many calculations, and reviewing a number of documents including planning applications and Land Registry to name just a few. Get it right, and everyone is happy; get it wrong, conversely, and you may open Pandora’s box.

Some brokers clearly feel that they can almost bully a surveyor into an incorrect valuation; only very recently, for example, I valued a property at £800,000 and the broker asked if I could bump it up to £925,000 so it could achieve its loan to value! Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

The best brokers respect your professional advice, and work in partnership with you to achieve a common end; the worst behave like pushy salesmen and have little or no understanding of what the process entails, trying to rush valuations through as though on a conveyor belt. Meantime, they   invariably provide little or no information and any detail that adds any value, and often withhold information that might prove critical – such as describing a property as ‘empty’ when in fact it is occupied by multiple tenants!

I also recently attended a site for a large ‘commercial to residential’ project for around 50 flats – the purchase price was circa £3m and the eventual project value around £10m. The lender and broker were pushing for the valuation to be completed in 24 hours. There is a great deal of research required to get this type of valuation right and to inspect, and report back in one day is a monumental task. How much of the £3m, I wonder, would lenders be prepared to lose if we were to get it wrong?

What it is that brokers need to know about it?

Brokers need to understand how complex our job can be. We have to be thorough both in the countless documents we have to review, and in the inspections that we undertake. Even with something like a three-bedroom house, where we know the rough value due to other similar properties in the area, it can still take 48 hours to complete the valuation and have it on the lender’s desk.

We have tried on a number of occasions to hold events to demonstrate to brokers what our role entails, but they do not appear to be interested. A number of solicitors have come on inspections with me in the past to see what happens, but by and large the broker community don’t seem to want to engage.

The best brokers smooth the way and make our part as easy to play as possible. They will manage the entire process, give us as much detail and guidance as possible to complete the task. They add real value. Sadly, there are too few of them around.

In many ways, I’d like us to go back to the how it was many years ago – the instructing source was the lender and the broker didn’t get involved. Brokers should trust the experts and stick to what they are good at.

Arwel Griffiths, Senior Partner, Robert Sterling.