I carry out M+E and fabric surveys and although this is a bit of a plug i will also explain what a condition survey is to those who are unaware.
When carrying out a condition survey its main focus is in identifying the condition of assets. In the Mechanical and Electrical condition surveys (M+E). This could be identifying things like has the maintenance been carried out and to an acceptable standard. Is the equipment operational and in good working order. How soon would the equipment last before it needs replaced.
Does the equipment sit in or out of scope? E.g. a contract may say all things are in good working order but you discover many items are failing or outside of compliance and regulations. E.g. an electrical isolator may be 50 years old but its replacement would also lead to an entire rewire from where it was originally fed. This needs to be identified as a risk and to be removed from scope or an adjustment in budget to cover its costs.
Fabric is similar because although its not pumps, motors and air conditioning. It does have things like periodic refurbishments and repairs. This means things like mold that can cause paint flaking and health issues are a problem. As well as ground movement cracking walls etc. which can often see written into a contract what is defined as a chargeable crack and what you should expect to absorb within the contract at no extra cost.
All these things affect building a contract for maintenance and as such its a critical part of renewing a contract or setting one up. It gives a realistic view of the business and all its assets as well as identifying any assets that are missing from the system completely.
As a graduate building surveyor you will often find it difficult to find work due to lack of experience.
Doesn’t mean impossible just that you often have to be more creative and do a lot more work in sourcing companies that will use your skills. Some this may also involve taking a lower salary than you had initially hoped for.
The positive side of this though is once you have your foot in the door it gets easier to get better jobs and contracts and with it your salary would increase.
What I found for myself is that there is a demand at certain levels for building surveyors. For example your local authority generally employ building surveyors for things like the void inspections and problem solving on their maintenance contracts. These roles originally were filled by semi retired guys from my experience. But as I have found over the last decade they are being opened up to general building surveyors. There is in fact a shortage of building surveyors in the maintenance industry. Everyone wants to build!
But its a stepping stone, its easy to get into the role of building surveyor for a local authority and normally working alongside a team so getting familiar with how everything works isn’t an issue. If anything its adapting to a “social” working mentality which is often a lot slower than that of the private sector. Nothing wrong with it as the salaries are below private sector pay scales but getting into the private sector without experience is a lot harder.
I have seen salaries ranging from £22,000 – £30,000 for most housing authorities but would advise going via an agency because if you work it right you can increase the income significantly. For example permanent employees work “flexi time”. You get paid for every hour done which on the average contract I worked was a 60 hour week compared to 37 1/2 hours that a permanent employee work. So you can near enough double the salary.
Adding to that using your own vehicle with millage allowance can also be beneficial to the pocket, although not as favourable as it once was. Working a contract a few years ago I hit the 10,000 mile barrier that reduces your per mile rate within a month. Not good and even at a more senior level within the company they were having staff using trains as their millage level had dropped to the point it was no longer viable to use a car. Because a train ticket is something you can claim back 100%. The rise in fuel costs and the sliding scale had meant using their own cars had got to the point it cost them money to go to work.
Before anyone says “well I have to pay to use my car to go to work!” the region I covered was Norfolk some of Suffolk and up to 90 miles away towards central England. Its not a case of throwing away £20 a week in fuel its literally £200+ going into the tank.
Anyway I recommend trying some of the agencies for work, roam around the web and advertise yourself on a lot of the online sites for jobs including uploading your CV. Because if an agent gets hold of your CV they will also shove it on other system making it easier to find work.
Most of the problems I found with housing association and council projects seem to be annually based on routine problems.
For example heating systems with burst pipes in the winter and the problems of damp at different times of the year leading to mould and other issues. Understanding the route problems and how to resolve them makes things a lot quicker and easier to deal with on a regular basis.
For example programming boiler maintenance for the heating systems during warmer months as well as assessing pipe lagging to help insulate against cold spells that lead to burst pipes.
The majority of the rest of the work seems to be things like faulty windows which often relate to the heating systems yet again where they haven’t been used by tenants who look to save money and in turn this results in damage to the properties. Wooden windows often taking the brunt due to condensation that then causes the timber to rot.
Preventative maintenance is key to keeping things within budget and understanding the housing stock leads to less reactive calls. For example if you know that there are certain properties already programmed for replacement kitchens, bathrooms etc. many of the routine calls won’t need to be processed in the same way as someone with a unit that isn’t going to be replaced. Sometimes you will get tenants trying to push for early replacement. But as much of this type of work is pre-programmed with sometimes hundreds of replacements on an on going basis I advise “not” allowing people to jump the queue. The main reason for this is it doesn’t take long for people to tell other tenants how the got to the top of the list for a new kitchen. The next thing is you start getting a lot of calls expecting to jump the queue or get their kitchen replaced.
It can often be a fine balance of getting work done and keeping tenants at bay as a lot of the problems I found over the years are primarily down to the way tenants treat the properties or that the housing stock is old and in the process of being upgraded or demolished for replacement. Whatever the reason understanding the property portfolio will make your life as a building surveyor a lot easier. There may be from time to time “acts of god” but even so you will still have to deal with the problems that come with them such as emergency housing, pumping out flooded properties, drying the properties and then getting them totally refurbished.
I enjoy building surveying for housing associations and councils because it does have a lot of variety of work and generally I look for contracts that need some time and efficiencies to sort things out. It makes the work more varied and a challenge as I have found most roles have at least 6 months to a year backlog of work when I initially arrive. But within a short period of time you can find that the work load can be whittled down by looking at things smartly.
An example of this is locating multiple problems in the same area or household as you may find the same problem reported multiple times over a period of time, or that its an issue that affects multiple people which led to another complaint being raised by a neighbour. Being able to sift these out at the office and getting on the phone you can put a lot of fires out quickly before getting onto the work of surveying.
One of the biggest problems I found that tenants complained about was the lack of communication from surveyors. Yet a simple call, email or text is often all it needs to create a happy tenant. They don’t expect miracles but being able to say that there will be someone there this week to fix a wall rather than a job just being booked and they are still wondering what is happening. Can make all the difference between someone being happy and raising a complaint.