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UK’s biggest surveyors slam the brakes on certain postcodes as they battle backlogs

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.

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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.

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.

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 the firm says the actual figure is up to 10 days.

Colleys head of survey and valuation services Mark Devlin says: “Across the market, we’re seeing an increase in application volumes.

”At present all appointments are being booked within seven to 10 working days. We are also in the process of increasing our panel members nationally in order to secure capacity in areas where seeing demand out is stripping supply.”

But Coreco director Andrew Montlake says that valuers – and especially Colleys at the moment – are quoting three to four weeks to get a valuer in certain parts of London.

He says: ”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.”

A director at a top lender says: “We are seeing delays of at least a week compared with last year and sometimes they can not get there for weeks, with sickness and holidays. How can I tell a customer that they cannot have their mortgage because their valuer has got haemorrhoids?”

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.

If you are having a similar problem in your area, please call deputy editor Paul Thomas on 0207 943 8051 or email: paul.thomas@centaur.co.uk

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  • GHU 21st June 2013 at 2:41 pm

    seeing some of these comments just makes me realise how little some brokers know about a field in which they are supposed to be experts.

    And I am pretty darned sure that a valuer does far more for his few hundred quid than many brokers do for both their client fee and their proc fee.

    Guess it is time for the big lenders to go back to AVMs – ahh but aren’t they a discredited concept that forced many valuers out of the profession…hmmm!

  • Tom Cleary 21st June 2013 at 9:34 am

    Colin – Don’t forget that they also have to ring three estate agents and ask them what they think it is worth. And then all the research on Rightmove and Zoopla. It all takes time you know…

  • colin 20th June 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Strange that there should be a delay after all it normally only takes 10 minsassuming they actually get out of the car. Perhaps it,s the traffic

  • colin 20th June 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Strange that there should be a delay after all it normally only takes 10 minsassuming they actually get out of the car. Perhaps it,s the traffic

  • Tom Cleary 20th June 2013 at 3:43 pm

    JB- How about Homebuyers surveys then? They are taking even longer to book in…
    And just for the record, it is abbreviated as CeMAP.

  • JB 20th June 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Anonymous | 20 Jun 2013 11:53 am

    Obviously an amateur – the basic valuation is for the lender/banks benefit not the clients. The client just pays for it, but the whole point is for the lender to assess the security and decide yay or nay. Maybe worth a re-read of your cemap??

  • JB 20th June 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Anonymous | 20 Jun 2013 11:53 am

    Obviously an amateur – the valuation is for the lender/banks benefit not the clients. The client just pays for it, but the whole point is for the lender to assess the security and decide yay or nay. Maybe worth a re-read of your cemap??

  • Richard Sexton 20th June 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Certainly our guys are working weekends,early mornings and late into the lighter evenings. We’ve been very pleased by their commitment to go the extra mile (Pun intended) for our clients. I’m sure others will be too. Average turnarounds remain comfortably below 5 days whilst I believe mortgage apps take- weeks? so I would urge some more considered debate. There is certainly a challenge, but only in certain South East postcodes. I’ve yet to hear of a failed app resulting from a delayed val and the industry is working hard to adjust to the new ‘normal’

  • Tom Cleary 20th June 2013 at 11:53 am

    JB – What a ridiculous comment! The applicants pay for the valuation fee (with the exception of Abbey), so they have a right to expect a valuation to be carried out within an appropriate timescale…

  • JB 20th June 2013 at 10:55 am

    Since when do applicants/brokers dictate when they want a val and when they want to complete? Some applicants/brokers think they can boss and bully the banks around when they are clearly missing the fundamentals. The banks call the shots, they are the ones with the money and the val will be booked in whenever they can fit it in.

  • Tom Cleary 20th June 2013 at 10:25 am

    We have started to see valuations being booked in for Saturdays…

  • Arron Bardoe 20th June 2013 at 8:55 am

    I would be interested to know if surveyors are working over-time, weekends, etc.

    Their industry has seen an exodus of advisers, so they should be looking to “make hay while the sun shines” at the moment.

    It would be disappointing to find parts of the surveying industry are fixated on the Mon-Fri 9-5 mentality.

    Many of my peer self employed mortgage brokers are busier than ever and are working long hours and weekends to ensure their clients are not disadvantaged, but also to capitalise on the uplift.

  • Tom Cleary 19th June 2013 at 4:32 pm

    Pay peanuts, get monkeys…

  • Richard Sexton 19th June 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Regrettably, the 9000 figure offers little comfort. Based on average advance sizes and standard surveyor productivity, that many active valuers would be able to service a market 10 times the size of market the CML current estimates comfortably. that fact that we have challenges at current levels indicates this figure is ‘ptimistic’ Whilst there are many valuers registered, they aren’t all residential and many are precluded from lender work by PI considerations. For most of the country, there is no issue, but lending patterns have shifted south due to LTV considerations- concentrating demand rather than significantly increasing it.

  • Melinda 19th June 2013 at 12:46 pm

    we have lots of cover in nearly all postcodes. .call Metropolis its worth a try to see if we can cover surveys sooner than you have been quoted…i cannot promise but as i say worth a call?

  • Tom Cleary 19th June 2013 at 12:07 pm

    A Mortgage Adviser – Ever heard of reading a comment fully before posting a reply that makes you look like a complete idiot?

  • A Mortgage Adviser 19th June 2013 at 11:32 am

    @ Anonymous | 19 Jun 2013 10:19 am

    ever heard of cash buyers?
    can be quite common in London

    you may not realise this

  • James Lindon-Travers 19th June 2013 at 10:41 am

    I have a client who is separating from his wife and is living in an intolerable situation in the marital home. I have submitted a 46% LTV mortgage to Scottish Widows who now tell me that the survey will be on the 1st August(yes – you read it right). I find this level of delay astonishing – it is all well and good surveying firms blaming sickness and holidays. I always thought large firms employ a holiday chart which ensures sufficient cover in times of absence. Furthermore I know at least three surveyor firms who have the correct level of indemnity and a good reputation who could help out in times of need.

  • Tom Cleary 19th June 2013 at 10:19 am

    I understand the issue but surely all buyers are in the same boat? Why would people lose a property when anybody else will experience the same delay? Unless they are a cash buyer, in which case the vendor would have probably have gone with them in the first place?

  • Ben Gillespie 19th June 2013 at 10:18 am

    This is a major problem currently. I think many companies have just one or two surveyors in each area. With increased busines levels and the holiday season in full swing its a big problem. Colleys are never off hold in most postcodes, and then we have to go to smaller companies that actually charge us alot more than the likes of Metropolis.

  • Avenue & Co Private Finance 19th June 2013 at 10:02 am

    We had a 3 week delays from Scottish Widows Bank to get a valuation carried out in Stratford, and a 2 week delay by Colleys for survey in Clapham. Both lenders reason for this is a shortfall of surveyors in the area.

    Lenders should inform brokers of any delays so that we can let clients know, and that is something that no lenders are doing right now. Its cut throuat to secure a property in London, and clients are not happy as a 2 week delay means they could lose a property.

  • Fox Davidson 19th June 2013 at 10:00 am

    You cant have this outside of London either Mr Montlake as people will lose properties all over the country. Current delays of 4 weeks in Sunny Bristol too!

  • Edward Riordan 19th June 2013 at 9:58 am

    This is a serious problem. Many of my cases are being held up for 2 weeks whilst waiting for the valuation to take place. Then there is the issue of getting the report signed off and returned to the lender which in some cases is adding a further week. Atleast I can shift the blame for the delay on to the Surveyors to my clients.