Valuation: promoting the career

A valuable resource

11 September 2015

Sarah Sayce looks at how valuation can be better promoted as a career

The valuer training pipeline is under scrutiny like never before and recent RICS figures highlight both the current challenges and opportunities. The first and very real challenge is that the average age of valuers in the UK is mid-50s, so where will we find the valuers of the future?

It takes some time for student numbers on RICS-accredited courses to recover from a recession; figures collected by RICS show growth is still slow after a very marked drop off. The greatest recovery is in construction-focused courses, while the numbers of real estate valuation courses are still well below prerecession levels. Another facet in the supply chain is a shift in real estate from undergraduate to postgraduate, with some 75% of students now entering at the higher level. But those prepared to accrue yet more debt with a further year of study will only do so if they see the prospect of well paid jobs at the end. Further, many of the postgraduate students are from the developing economies and do not plan to work long term in the UK, and due to visa restriction, often not even in the short term.

Key issues

How do valuers' earnings compare with those of related professionals? The RICS and Macdonald & Co Salary Survey 2015 revealed that the average RICS member salary is £54,771; £56,609 for men and £44,794 for women, indicating a significant gender gap in pay. This compares with average valuer earnings of £45,948, only slightly above the earnings of real estate academics. Could this also make it difficult to attract people to valuation compared to other areas of surveying, or indeed to attract surveyors to follow an academic route?

The first and very real challenge is that the average age of valuers in the UK is mid-50s...

Oonagh Macdonald's report, Balancing risk and reward: recommendation for a sustainable valuation profession in the UK (2014) was the catalyst for a questionnaire to RICS registered valuers, aiming to deepen understanding of its findings. The questionnaire sought opinions on their area of work, perception of valuer supply, skills and education.

The respondents represented a good cross-section of areas of work and a typical age profile for the field. It was felt that the key issues that may lead to a shortage of valuers are:

  • challenge of the work: some found it overly challenging, others insufficiently so
  • poor image: other disciplines are seen as more inspiring
  • fees v risk: the fees paid do not make up for the risks of being sued, and professional indemnity insurance premiums are becoming increasingly expensive
  • long hours culture: heavy workloads lead to a poor work/life balance
  • age of valuers: a significant proportion are approaching retirement
  • careers advice: awareness of valuation is poor.

While none of these results are entirely surprising, they add weight to the Macdonald report and reaffirmed that valuers considered their jobs require a broad spread of knowledge.

Skills and knowledge

Moving to questions about the appropriateness of the academic courses, respondents felt that their education had prepared them well for their current roles, but that the required skills and knowledge base were now changing. This suggests that keeping up with these changes is a high priority, adding to the pressures on valuers and leading to the need for effective CPD.

Moving forward

So, what are the skills required and how can the profession respond to the dual challenge of low pay and too few trained valuers? Automated valuation models (AVM) are an obvious part of the future. These cannot supplant human judgment, but represent an opportunity to offer clients more and to use big data effectively. It will be up to professionals to respond to the changes taking place around them.

There is a need to address the perception of valuation as difficult, risky and with a long hours culture

There is a need to address the perception of valuation as difficult, risky and with a long hours culture. Is this indeed a reality? If so, the challenge is how to make valuation a better career choice. Women's status and salaries also need to be tackled.

The related question is to whom to promote a career in valuation: school students, graduates or even those midcareer in other areas? Or all three? At present, despite recent moves by RICS there is more to be done in promoting valuation and real estate related careers to young people in schools. The erroneous view is given that being a chartered surveyor is synonymous with being a construction professional or an estate agent.

There is much work to be done, in improving fees and professional indemnity risk, in responding to new technologies and in inspiring the next generation, but raising awareness is the first step in moving towards a positive future for valuation.

Sarah Sayce is Emeritus Professor at Kingston University

Further information

Related competencies include: Valuation

This article is taken from the RICS Property journal (July/August 2015)