A shortage of qualified surveyors has forced some of the country’s biggest firms to stop accepting new valuation instructions in certain areas as market activity increases.
In recent months industry experts have warned that there could be huge delays in the home buying process due to a lack of qualified surveyors to deal with the pick-up in mortgage activity.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors could not provide data on how many residential surveyors there were at the peak of the market but says there are approximately 9,000 practising at the moment.
Money Marketing’s sister title Mortgage Strategy conducted a mystery shopping exercise on 14 June to examine how bad the problem is and found that in certain parts of London, surveyors have temporarily stopped taking on business.
Even those that are still accepting business warn borrowers could face waits of up to five weeks to get a surveyor to conduct a valuation. Brokers say an acceptable waiting time for a completed valuation is around a week.
Posing as a borrower, Mortgage Strategy contacted three of the biggest surveyors – Colleys, e.surv and Connells – to ask how long it would take to get a homebuyer report and, separately, a less detailed valuation done on a property in SW15, with a mortgage from Halifax. Countrywide was also contacted but was not available.
Connells and e.surv say they are currently “on hold” in SW15, meaning they are not accepting new instructions.
A customer service representative for Colleys said: “We are really busy in this area. We are booked up until the first week of July and then our surveyor is off for two weeks, so we are not available until the 22 July.”
Some brokers say they have been told to expect waits of up to three weeks in other London postcodes by Colleys, although when contacted for comment, the firm claimed all appointments are being booked within 10 days.
Coreco director Andrew Montlake says: “Valuers, and especially Colleys at the moment, in certain parts of London are quoting three to four weeks to get a valuer in. I have a client who needs to complete by the end of the month. It was instructed last week [week commencing 3 June] and it cannot go in until 3 July.
“You can’t have that in London because people will lose properties. Valuers seem to be struggling a little bit at the moment.”
John Charcol senior technical manager Ray Boulger says: “One of the reasons why this is happening, apart from the pick up in activity in London, is lenders have taken a rather short-term view in squeezing the fees they pay valuers to the bone when the market was flat, so there is no fat in the system and there is no money for these firms to train new staff.”
E.Surv business development director Richard Sexton says the issue is predominantly in London and South-east and the problem could get worse in the summer.
Sexton says: “The hot spots are London and the South East. There is no point in denying there is a backlog and we have been flagging it for some time.
“What we need to do, as an industry, is to sit down with lenders and innovate. So whether we look at doing more drive-byes, for example, or if there are other ways about it. It is an in-built structural issue and it will get worse before it gets better, especially with the summer coming up.”
Connells refused to comment.