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Surveyors warn of buying delays as sector faces a numbers crisis

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Surveyors have warned of big delays in the house buying process and increased use of less accurate desktop valuations if the sector is unable to attract new blood to match an expected increase in mortgage market activity.

Experts say the profession is already underpopulated and warn a sharp increase in lending will result result in serious consequences for borrowers.

Gross mortgage lending hit £140bn in 2011 before it exceeded £152bn in 2012. For 2013, the Council of Mortgage Lenders says gross lending could hit £156bn. 

E.Surv business development director Richard Sexton says: “We are in the middle of a perfect storm. There is definitely a supply and demand issue embedded in the market and I do not think there is any short term solution.

“Very broadly, surveyor numbers peaked in 2007 with something like 7,000 residential valuers and there are between 1,500 and 2,000 active now. To deal with current demand, you realistically need another 20 per cent growth in the surveyor workforce.

“Some might go back to automatic valuation models which are very cheap and very quick but are not necessarily very accurate. Also, borrowers could see the time it takes for an application to be processed take longer, particularly if the lender is one that has left it until the end of the mortgage application process to instruct the valuation.”

Countrywide financial services director Nigel Stockton says: “If gross mortgage lending in the UK grows at 10 per cent this year and next then we will have an issue with the numbers of surveyors available to value houses.

“But we are already seeing a lack of surveyors being a problem with current market volumes.”

Hometrack chief operating officer David Catt says surveyors were forced to curb their numbers during the global financial crisis and cannot be expected to regain them in time to match an upturn in lending.

He says: “The concern for the surveyors is that, because they have reduced their capacity to match the demand, a small increase in volumes will disrupt the most efficient business models since they are built around the minimum number of people required.

“A tipping point is reached fairly quickly where you cannot simply go out and hire 10 per cent more people. You cannot rebuild that capacity fast enough.”

But surveyor trade body the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors says this sentiment does not match the feedback they are receiving from their members.

RICS global residential director Peter Bolton King says: “I do not perceive this as a problem in the foreseeable future but we are aware that we need to play our part in encouraging youngsters to come into the profession. We are not conscious of problem at the moment.”

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  1. I have specialised in recruiting resi valuation surveyors for the past 19 years. The current shortage in the south of England is very real and happening now. The major firms did drastically reduce numbers during recent years and some of those surveyors have since been re-employed. Most have now retired or gone on to do other things. An underlying problem for many years is that a very high percentage of surveyors in this sector are in the twilight years of their career, and continuing retirements are occuring all the time. At the same time the market is improving and this shortage in the south has all come about in the past year since increased demand. When mortgage lending improves across the whole UK ,then we are going to experience the same problem elsewhere. There is little or no new blood coming into the sector because of the difficult practicalities of training,the stringent requirements of lenders, the high demands and pressures of the role and not least the salaries are way down on what could be earned prior to 2007.

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