Surveying – The ever changing landscape


Chris BramhamIt is fair to say over the past 6 years, the landscape of property finance has changed. The industry we see today is almost unrecognisable from the heady days of 2006, when basically the only criteria in obtaining a mortgage was to have a pulse! I say this somewhat tongue in cheek, but the fact remains that the criteria requirements that we see now are far more stringent than we have ever known. Lenders have had to get their house in order, brokers have had to look for new ways to seek out new income, but what we do know is that that the ones that are around are a resilient bunch of entrepreneurs, with a “can do” attitude.

The same can be said of the survey world. As a surveying business, firms such as Metropolis have had to deal with a huge raft of issues that in reality could sink many a business (please excuse the nautical metaphors!). In 2007 not only did we see an almost 70% drop in business pretty much overnight, we faced a growing problem in the “confetti claims” that were being sent to us daily from Lenders who had massive exposure to bad debt. The stock answer was that the surveyors were either negligent or over valuing, and it was clearly obvious that we were seen as an easy target for some lenders to recover some of their losses. Coupled with this was the retraction from many insurers from the PI market, and the phenomenal increase in premiums if you could manage to get cover. This sent many firms under and left only a few surviving. Fees were then driven down by lenders, and the big Panel managers were able to capitalise on this as they had greater backing, and could roll with the punches more easily.

That was then and this is now! Whilst we have not seen business levels anywhere close to what we had in 2006, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Businesses have had to diversify, and look for alternate sources of income. Inline with this we have seen a growth in the specialist lending arena, and the brokers that have also adapted to change, have seen their fortunes alter, rather than change. As a business we have encountered all of these problems, and it is fair to say whilst we haven’t seen any massive increase in fees, we have managed to align with some very dynamic firms in the specialist lending market, who have seen our business change and diversify.

We have to ensure that we are not only broker centric but we understand the needs of the broker and their client, and the importance of their relationship. The strength of the relationship between broker and client can be so easily jeopardised by choosing the wrong business partner. It is fair to say that surveyors aren’t the most dynamic of people, but they are professional, although that sometimes takes the shine of the “people” side of the business. At Metropolis we have instilled the importance of customer service into everyone from the administration, through to the surveyors and senior management.

This was always about change or die, and we believed there was “life in the old dog”, and knew we had to find a way through the crisis that was the Mortgage Industry as we knew it!

We genuinely believe that big is not always best, as we have had to change course to continue as a viable company. Of course our core market is in the Residential Mortgage Market, but we believe there is huge value in working with the right people in the Specialist World too.

Chris Bramham, director, Metropolis Surveyors


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