Between the lines: It’s all down to the surveyor

Picture: Bill Henry/TSPL

Picture: Bill Henry/TSPL

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Home Reports in Scotland have been an outstanding gold star in the surveying profession’s jotter. They were instrumental, on their introduction, in stabilising a turbulent market and they have proved an efficient and well-understood tool in the succeeding years.

However, despite the fact that the majority now undoubtedly serve the purpose for which they were created – providing transparency, impartiality and clear, unequivocal information – there is evidence that some inconsistency remains.

On occasion, when respected professional firms are asked for reappraisals by a third party, it becomes clear that some reports wrongly apportion repair categories and miss or do not provide clear information on defects. How can this be, in a profession which rightly holds itself accountable to the highest standards?

The answer, I suspect, is a combination of human nature and double standards which, in microcosm, reflect some of the pressures under which surveyors labour.

There is no doubt that there are double standards inherent in house transactions – the biggest financial commitment most people will ever make in their lives. They arise from the huge variance in the perspective of buyers and sellers.

In the view of many sellers, the Home Report should emphasise everything that is wonderful about the property. Negativity is not appreciated. However, when the same sellers become purchasers, the perspective flips.

Occasionally, buyers also expect advice far beyond the confines of the report and regard it as a guarantee against future defects – and the surveyor is caught in the middle of this web.

Why do some property professionals accede to the pressures to comply with the seller’s partial and biased view of the merits of the asset?

There are a number of understandable reasons. Some people just do not possess the personal skills to enable them to stand up to abusive and intransigent clients; some may fear losing business from instructors .

But while this may be understandable, they are professionally invalid. Reputation is a fragile flower and surveyors have a major part to play in educating other parties involved in the transaction process about realistic expectations.

Surveyors should be acutely aware that they are the only people who are in the transactional process for the long term, since lenders will rely on their valuation for periods of up to 35 years.

It would be comforting to think that Home Reports are steering buyers and sellers in the right direction in terms of expectations, but until then it is up to all surveyors to continue the educational process by the simple expedient of doing the right thing.

l Eric Curran is managing partner of DM Hall Chartered Surveyors, based in the firm’s Glasgow North office

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