Do local Surveyors value better than National Valuers?



We always recommend having an independent building survey

Always have an independent building survey as this will pinpoint any property problems.  Caveat emptor means buyer beware and is why you need to have a building survey to find out if there are any problems within the property; the estate agent certainly will not advise you of any.

Remember the independent building Surveyor that you employ will be the only person working for you with your interests at heart.


Do I need a Surveyor or a Structural Engineer?

Many people find it confusing as to whether they need a Structural Engineer or a Surveyor.  We would say you need someone who is qualified and experienced with the type of problem you have.

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The puzzling world of valuation

For those of you who have ever been at the receiving end of a valuation that you couldn’t understand this article may have some answers and it certainly poses a few questions.

The most fundamental question we feel is why do property valuations vary so greatly from surveying company to surveying company?  To understand this you need to know the background a bit more of surveyors and valuers.


Once there was a valuer, who was an estate agent, who was a building surveyor

In years gone by there was, and still is, what would be referred to as a general practice chartered surveyor who had a rounded knowledge and did a little bit of everything, including running the estate agency and property management company.

Over the years this changed as the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) looked into having specialists in different areas across the property field.  This in turn coincided with banks, building societies and mortgage lenders viewing estate agents as a means to an end for getting a mortgage.  We could be cynical and say that as there was little regulation in this area at the time Chartered Surveyors tended to be used for valuations and were the biggest income generators, with less qualified/unqualified people for the estate agency and the property management.


Local versus National Valuers

This situation developed until we are where we are today, where estate agencies are quite separate from valuers and by now surveyors have become regulated valuers, following the process of valuing set up by the RICS and eventually other surveying institutions worldwide and estate agents became quite separate as did property management.  Valuers once in the back of estate agent offices were now in their own offices and eventually many of them started to work from home.


Street view of terraced Victorian properties


Street view of modern properties

We also started to have networks of what we would term as local surveyors, who aren’t that local, and national surveyors who aren’t local in any sense of the term.  To some extent there’s a better availability of data on the values of properties sold at and the value the properties are on the market at and it could be argued that you didn’t need to have valuers as local.  However, we would argue that this also has to be balanced against the quantity of work that valuers are involved.

Our experience of national valuers is that it really is the quantity that they are interested in not the quality.  We know they would argue against this but from personal experience, and from talking to other surveyors that have been involved with valuations, it very much is quantity not quality, having once carried out one of the top performing surveyors valuations during a time when he was ill we found this quantity could be considerable.

Valuations, the problem comes when the data is not reliable

We were talking to a local commercial valuer recently who advised they were unhappy when a national valuer swans into the area (and we quote the term) and tries to carry out a valuation without any real valuation information other than that he got from the local surveyor and from a database.  The problem with this information is that he had no way of validating this information and one valuer’s view on something may be quite different to a different valuer’s view.   He said he was aware of local valuers who would simply would not return calls to national valuers and others who enjoyed talking to national valuers but not saying very much as the local valuer should be carrying out the work!

From this the national valuing company, who is sometimes valuing a national portfolio of properties, has to make their mind up.  They are of course patterns when they are valuating nationally can be seen that can’t be seen when valuing locally, but we would argue the patterns of valuation should come from the local values up to the national values not the other way round

The introduction of automatic valuation models

Something that we’ve studied quite a lot is the use of automatic valuation models and risk analysis valuations.  As these develop they rely more and more on information that perhaps isn’t accurate and in turn this inaccurate information is relied upon again.  We then tend to build valuations based upon a computerised automatic valuation models for values, which could in theory throw the whole valuation process out.

We had an experience of working at a valuers who were ultimately owned by a bank and we very much felt the pressure was on to value up from the smallest of evidence.


Property valuations

Do national valuers and local valuers value differently?

We would argue that although fundamentally they have to meet the same criteria set out by the RICS and sometimes very different processes can be going on due to different knowledge levels and experience.

Building society/mortgage company owned valuers

The other thing that needs to be factored in is where the valuation is coming from?  Building society owned valuers and mortgage company owned valuers can give incredible expertise and knowledge to the companies that own them or are in partnership with them, however equally when the property market is high you can ask them to carry out too many valuations and stretch their resources and ask them to go further afield than they are happy with but feel obliged to as they are part of the group/system and this is where we find rogue valuations occur.


If you pay peanuts for valuations you get monkeys not valuers!

The other problem with valuations is as it is pushed further away from core business (although we don’t know how mortgage lenders would lend without a valuation) the value of it has changed and it’s become a commodity, where the banks, building societies and estate agents go out to the lowest bidder and we are in a spiral of valuers then being able to spend less time on the valuations and we are getting less money.  They either caveat the valuation to death or make assumptions that are just not correct as it’s less litigious for them and with the best valuers simply walking away from carrying out valuations from that particular company, which we’ve heard of quite a few times where valuers have moved out of the valuation market altogether.  These are the risks and lack of fees and insurance premiums.


Future of Valuations

This brings to the future of valuations, which is possibly computerised with automatic valuation models.  When we did a survey of this in 1999, as part of a course we attended on automatic valuation models, generally no surveyors considered that automatic valuation models / computerised values would be used by lenders, however now we would argue that it’s quite common. 

We did point this out all those years ago when in America the mortgage lender was deciding whether to use a human valuer or a computerised valuer.  It could be argued that both are as good or as bad as each other given the variables that we’ve discussed earlier.


Compare our website articles and compare our surveys

Have a look around our website to see the quality of our survey articles, for example this one, and look at the quality of our surveys (we are more than happy to send you an example).  We pride ourselves on our professional standard and easy to read reports which we have been carrying out for many years on every age, type and style of property across the UK.

Below are a few articles we think will be of interest to you.   We have literally written hundreds of articles relating to property and surveying, go to our website free property articles page to see more: Click here

Examples of our building surveys

If are buying a property then you may like to see some examples of Building Surveys we have carried out.  You will see that our surveys contain photos, sketches and definitions that help to explain the specific problems that we find within the property.  There is also an Executive Summary at the start of the survey report that highlights the main issues that we find with the property.  Please call us and we can email you some specific examples relating to the type of property you are wanting surveyed; click here to see more:  Example Surveys

What do the ovals or circles in our building surveys mean?

Within our reports we utilise a system of ovals and circles to highlight problem areas or characteristics within a property to better explain the issues.  If this does not explain the issue completely then we can also use one of our sketches that have been commissioned exclusively for us for use in the reports.


Cracking indicating floors not tied into walls


Trickle vents allow airflow

Our unique sketches help you understand the survey

If the report, along with our photos, does not explain the problem or characteristics of a property enough then we also have a vast range of sketches, as per the examples below, that we have had commissioned exclusively for us that we can use in our reports.


Sketch of a concrete portal frame for a commercial


Sketch of a structural frame of a non-traditional

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