Integrity vital to keep Home Reports consistent

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Home Reports in Scotland have been a 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 serve the purpose for which they were created – providing transparency, impartiality and clear, unequivocal information for buyers and sellers – 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 – which unfailingly have been preceded by a cheap fee – wrongly apportion repair categories and miss clear information on defects.

How can this be, in a profession which prides itself on the rock-solid worth of an unsullied reputation?

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 are double standards inherent in house transactions which arise from the huge variance in the perspective of buyers and sellers.

Many sellers believe, the Home Report should emphasise everything that is wonderful about the property. Negativity is not appreciated.

When the same sellers become purchasers, the perspective flips.

Now they want a Home Report which focuses on what’s wrong with the property physically, to provide a bargaining counter on price.

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, trying to manage conflicting expectations.

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

There are a number of reasons. Some people do not possess the skills to enable them to stand up to intransigent clients; some may fear losing business from instructors; the biggest fear is upsetting the client base.

These reasons may be understandable but they are professionally invalid. Reputation is fragile and surveyors must educate the parties involved in the transaction about realistic expectations.

It is fair to listen to clients’ arguments, but it is also imperative to point out how, if the surveyor accommodated them, they might feel if they were on the other side of the transaction.

If a client is being abusive, coercive or unreasonable, a surveyor can close his notebook and walk away.

Since Home Reports achieved the authority they now enjoy, agents have effectively handed the baton of client expectation management to surveyors.

They should be acutely aware that they are the only people 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 it is up to all surveyors to continue the educational process by the simple expedient of doing the right thing.

Eric Curran is managing partner of DM Hall Chartered Surveyors, based at its Glasgow North office.