Ray Simmonds is the Technical Manager at Countrywide Surveyors, one of the largest, most trusted property surveying and valuation practices in the UK.
The Relationship Between the Panel Firms and Lenders
As a Technical Manager at Countrywide Surveyors, Ray Simmons answers queries and sorts out problems coming from both valuers and lenders. As he says, the lenders usually no longer have a valuers department and they come to panel firms for these services.
“When you spend time with lenders, you get a feel for the problems that they have, and you can use that knowledge and experience of working with them to improve the service that you provide. We are a service provider, so providing a good customer experience is absolutely key,” Raymond says.
“When I answer queries or do any work with either the clients or the valuers, most often you could just give a yes or no answer that would solve it. But I always spend extra time explaining why I said yes or why I said no, in the hope that they’ll get a greater understanding of what the job is of the person that they’re working with. That’s going to enhance the relationship and provide a better service for everyone, including the people that are actually purchasing the property.”
The Decision Making Process
When answering queries, Ray pulls on his varied working experience in the industry. He talks about making decisions and the thought processes behind them, but also about assessing the risk of the work.
“We’re thinking all the time,” he explains. “We’re looking at the ceiling, looking at the walls, looking at the floor. You’re using all of your senses. You’re constantly looking at everything thinking what condition it is in, and if it’s in a ropy condition, whether it is a problem or not. You constantly cuff 1000s and 1000s of decisions for every single property that you go to, even for a mortgage valuation. You’ve got to listen to that inner voice. I’ve learned over the years that if it feels wrong, then it usually is wrong.”
“Don’t take on a job unless you’re competent to do it,” he adds. “When we get queries coming, we ask, can we do this type of work? Is it what we are competent to do? And if we’re not, then we will turn that work away. It’s one of the key decisions that you make.”
Working During the Pandemic and Post-Pandemic
Thinking about the post-pandemic, Ray wonders how it will impact the office industry, since not many people will go back to offices and feel comfortable with being around people. He talks about his experience during the past year and embracing the change.
“I was furloughed for five months,” he says. “I felt like being in limbo. When you come back, your confidence is lower than it was. It took me about two months to really get back into the swing of things, and I think the majority of people felt the same. They didn’t feel like they were on holiday on furlough, they felt they were in limbo. That’s why a lot of people never got anything done. I believe everyone will come out a bit different, but much stronger in many ways.”
“You’ve got to embrace change because nothing stays the same. You don’t know what’s going to come around the corner. The pandemic last year was an extreme example. Even without the pandemic, there’s always new stuff going on. Your walls change, the way you do things always changes even if the core job is the same. As surveyors, you’re still going out there looking at the houses for defects, and doing your reports and analyzing the valuations. That would always stay the same, but the way you do it will change, like the clipboards that have been replaced by tablets and more IT.”
How AVMs Affect Surveyors and Valuers
We’re witnessing a rise in automated valuation models, statistically-based computer programs that use real estate information to provide a current estimate of market value for a specific property. However, Ray doesn’t think this can replace physical inspections.
“Twenty years ago, desktops and drive-bys were becoming a greater part of the work we did,” he says. “And yet, we still got a lot of physical inspections going on. I’m sure that they will come where they will be lower than they are now, but it seems to be a long time coming. I think there will be greater use of AVMs, desktops and drive-bys, but I don’t think it’s going to completely take the place.”
“If you do all the processes you ought to have done, then you won’t be found negligent. Both corporates and SMEs will have their processes and their proformas in place. The proforma may be on a tablet, but the proforma will still be there. You need to go through those boxes and make sure that you inspect everything that needs to be inspected,” Ray concludes.
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