Behind the scenes of a RICS working group

Joe Arnold

May 8, 2019

Joe Arnold (pictured), managing director at Arnold & Baldwin

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has recently announced a consultation into proposed improvements to the way that home surveys are carried out and communicated.

This consultation follows many months of hard work from the working group of which I was part. So, what happens behind the scenes of a RICS working group?

I first became involved in September 2016, when I was approached by RICS and asked to join the Residential Survey and Valuation Working Group as one of only two SMEs involved in the process.

The panel included the likes of Countrywide, e.surv, Connells, representatives from major lenders and RICS staff, and my role was to keep the group abreast of what was going on with smaller businesses and surveyors in the industry. We met on average once a month depending on the latest developments and work that was required,

In February 2018, the first meeting was called to start to focus on Residential Survey Standards. Within the working group we all represented different businesses with diverse commercial motivations but from the very first meeting we all agreed to maintain a focus on the consumer, agreeing that this had to be at the heart of what we were creating.

By putting the customer at the centre we removed any commercial influence and made choices for the right reasons and consequently, there were very few areas of disagreement during the process.

The next step was to then carry out research amongst consumers and across the industry, including lenders, solicitors and brokers, to get a genuine picture of the existing situation.

We asked whether the existing process was still fit for purpose and two main themes emerged.

The first was that many issues arise not from the competency of the surveyor but in the way that information is communicated and the management of expectations.

The second was that the way people consume data has changed dramatically in recent year, but home surveys have not caught up. Current standards do not enable flexibility and people simply don’t have the time to read a long report anymore.

So, the new standards that have been proposed will enable greater use of other media like photo and video, more accessible terminology, and more open communication.

The new standards might be open for consultation, but there are already new products that are being created in line with the new standards that will deliver a better customer experience.

I’m also involved in the Home Buying and Selling Working Group, which looks at the entire process and feeds directly into government. One trend that has been clear from this is that a significant blocker in the process is the provision of information and, more specifically, who has responsibility for that provision of information. This is an area where I would expect further action in the future.

Give that there are 1.2 million properties transacted every year, it’s hugely important for the economy, and for people’s lives, that the process works efficiently and so it is encouraging that these working groups share a single objective to deliver real, positive change.

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