Skills shortages are not entirely bad news and they are about more than a lack of resource. Demand for valuable people is just as much a story of opportunity and growth – and in this respect, the valuations industry is ahead of the curve.
Progress in the housing market has preceded the rest of the economy for years. At the start of 2013, when the UK recovery was still by no means established or assured, house prices were already providing a glimmer of hope – up 2.1 per cent on a year earlier at a time when annual GDP growth was only 0.5 per cent.
Between early 2013 and today, house prices and the rest of the economy have seen a true resurgence. On the way up that curve, both property prices and transactions volumes have stayed ahead of the rest of the economy – such rapid changes in fortune, especially after a recession puts pressure on those who support this growth. Ask any bricklayer how they spend their weekends and, in the current environment, the majority will probably say: “At work.’’
For valuers and surveyors, the impacts of the improving economy and a resurgent mortgage industry have been similar – a busier and busier diary. This is all in an industry that lost some of its most experienced professionals in the years following 2008.
In the rest of the economy, skills shortages are only just becoming topical because the recovery has just started to require a fresh supply of able people. The catch is, after seven years of economic pain, those people have become hard to come by. The realisation of that new reality can happen suddenly if plans are not made in the early stages.
Long before other industries, the valuations sector has felt this. Since last summer, in the postcodes with the sharpest growth in demand, valuers have been worth their weight in gold and rushed off their feet in equal measure.
At Connells Survey & Valuation we foresaw the impact of the market upturn on the valuer sector and have been increasing capacity since 2012 although we too have suffered from a lack of skilled valuers over the past 18 months.
This recruitment will continue for the foreseeable future. We are currently hiring graduates literally by the dozen, with another 12 starting in October, all of which will be trained as quickly as possible, to be fully qualified within a year.
In parallel with that, we are bringing back and retraining the experienced hands who took a career break or a change of direction half a decade ago. The overall effect will be to double our headcount from its post-crisis low by the end of the year.
Valuations and surveys are a vital part of the homebuying and mortgage process. But we must look beyond outright transaction volumes. In fact, one fundamental lesson of the financial crisis is that quality valuations are imperative.
There is an inherent danger of expanding businesses too quickly with adverse impacts on service delivery. So we remain totally committed to sustainable growth.
While the surveying industry as a whole has faced many challenges over the last 12 months, we can now look more positively into the future.
Those of us who have been preparing, recruiting and training the surveyors of tomorrow will continue to play a key role in supporting the housing market in the years ahead.