“What Fresh Hell is This?

I have recently been joined in the Peebles Office by a new member of staff. Liam Boal has joined as a Graduate Residential Surveyor, completing a BSc Honours degree in Construction and the Built Environment. He joined us from The City of Edinburgh Council, where he served as an Apprentice Quantity Surveyor in the Housing Property Department since leaving school in 2019.

My initial response was to realise how old that made me feel. I then considered how I would feel if I embarked on a new career as a Valuer now in a market where we face ever-increasing demands from clients and lenders. The thought terrified me.

This gave me cause to reflect on my 40-year career, starting as a 17-year-old Trainee in Edinburgh (I know, you all thought I was much older) and the changes/challenges in our industry since then.

I have witnessed the widespread introduction of computers, which brought with them the Internet, emails, and, thankfully, the demise of the fax machine. Mobile phones, on the other hand, brought with them social media and the facility to be contactable 24 hours a day, wherever you are in the world.

The introduction of Home Reports and EPC changed how residential valuers work and our relationships with clients on its head, with the vendor, or their agent, in most cases now our client.

The financial crisis in the late 2000s hit our industry hard, as the lending restrictions that followed led to an increase in regulation and a toughening of the audit regime imposed by many mortgage companies and panel managers.

I have seen mortgage interest rates hit 15%, yet last year, there was panic at rates rising to less than half of that. There have been many government changes, all with their own agendas and fiscal policies; we have had an Independence Referendum and left the EU.

COVID-19 was massive, making most of us furloughed and unable to work or produce fees.

In recent years we have seen the lenders focus on cladding materials and spray foam insulation. Global warming is having life-changing effects on our planet, with flooding and carbon emissions increasing in our thoughts as surveyors.

I have seen a significant improvement in the number of people from different gender groups and ethnic backgrounds in our profession. Whilst this is very welcome, it is long overdue. We are lagging in this regard and still have a long way to go. I am also delighted to see increasing support for mental health issues.

I am unashamedly proud that two former trainees now sit at the Board table with me.

Chartered Surveyors are not renowned for our willingness to embrace change, but we have an unerring ability to deal with whatever is thrown at us. Over the past four decades, I have lost most of my hair and I am certainly a lot grumpier, but I have just about got through it. My admin staff will be the first to tell you that my go-to reaction, borrowed from an American sitcom, for any remotely tricky situation or difficult mail is “What fresh hell is this”?

I cannot imagine what the next forty years will bring. When I look at our current crop of young Surveyors, just starting out on their careers and ask myself if they will be able to cope with it all, I look at the previous forty years and say “Yeah, they’ll be fine”.

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