As someone who spends quiet a bit of time travelling by car and with not much interest in music, I often find myself listening to BBC Radio 4.  Among the many interesting and often excellent programs, I recently caught a discussion on the “Slow movement”.

Originally a reaction to “Fast food” with small producers taking the time to produce a superior product.  The common examples are bakers and brewers but it is something that has soon spread and now can be seen across nearly all the food and drink industry.

The “Slow movement” does not stop there, as the pace of life increases more and more people are looking for “Slow” options, anything from slow travel to slow books, even slow cities.

So what has this got to do with Residential Surveying and why am I happy to think of myself as a Slow Surveyor?  Surely no one wants their purchase to be delayed by a ‘slow’ surveyor.  My view is that taking the time to do things right not only provides the best level of service, it can often speed things up.

One of the keys to the growth and popularity of the slow movement in all its forms is that it is not just about taking time for its own sake.  It is about taking just the right amount of time to do a job properly.  Whether that is giving bread dough the extra time it needs to rise properly or taking the time to complete a thorough inspection and explain your findings clearly in a report, it is about doing what is necessary to produce a superior product.

To me there are three areas where any surveyor needs to focus their time.  The first is the time spent on site.  As an experienced surveyor I can make some fairly good assumptions about a property before I have even been there.  This could really speed up my inspection but unless I take the time to check and focus on what is really there how do I know my assumptions are right?  And unless I am checking each and every time how do I know that over the years my assumptions are not getting further and further away from reality?

The next area where a surveyor should always make time to do the job correctly is writing the report.  There are many ways that I as a surveyor could pretty much write my survey report as I go round the property, particularly with the use of modern technology such as voice dictation and iPads.  That would definitely speed things up but it would also be doing my clients a disservice.  Even a simple house is actually a complex structure with many different elements, most of which interact in some way with many other elements.  Until I have looked at everything and considered what I have seen how can I be sure I have correctly identified a problem and be able to give my client good advice?

The last area where I always take as long as is necessary is speaking to the client afterwards.  No matter how good the report, there can often be some questions to answer.  Most people don’t move house that often and understandably don’t know the next steps they should take.  That is why to me one of the most important steps is the conversation I have with my clients after they have received their survey.

So how does taking time speed the process up?  The answer is by avoiding the phrase “Further investigation required”.  Technically a surveyor should only recommend further investigations by a specialist when it is outside the bounds of his expertise or where it is not possible to access or see where a problem is coming from.  There will always be the odd occasion where a problem is beyond the humble residential surveyor or you just can’t get to a bit of roof and see what is going on but more and more this phrase is being used to speed the process up.  If you do not have time to find out what is causing the damp because you have three more properties to get to that day, why not call in a specialist?  Great, those three words have saved you time on site and you have less to write in the report.  But how about the client and everyone else in the chain who now has to wait for yet another report?  The fast survey is not looking so quick now.

So how do you find a slow surveyor?  Firstly, look for an independent surveyor, one where you can actually speak to the surveyor who will be visiting the property not just a call centre.  Surveying has its own version of fast food, large corporate firms.  These firms are ideal for serving up the quick hamburger of a valuation, but would you really go to McDonalds expecting fine dining?

The other key way to spot a slow surveyor is by the products they offer.  Products such as the Home Condition Survey (not to be confused with the RICS Condition Report, possibly the bacon bap from a greasy spoon of the surveying world).  The terms of this product discourages surveyors from opting for the easy option of suggesting further investigations and has active auditing to make sure high standards are maintained.  Another good product is the Building Survey, this product requires a higher standard of inspection and also allows a surveyor to give opinions even where he can see exactly what is going on.

If you are not sure there is always a good question you can ask: how many surveys do you carry out each day?  Among the large corporates they expect their surveyors to aim for 5 or 6 valuations, or three valuations and one condition report each and every day.  Personally I tend to visit one property per day as this give me the time to do the job properly.

There will be a time and place for fast food (possibly when you have just moved in and you don’t know which box the plates are in) and there will always be a place for fast surveys but if you are looking for something more then please contact us.