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.
I have carried out many condition surveys for social housing throughout the United Kingdom and wanted to talk about the key reasons this is done as often people don’t realise why they are carried out.
Because there are multiple surveys often being carried out at the same time. Main one being related to health and safety but also followed with energy efficiency and refurbishments.
The one I personally mainly cover is the issues relating to the age of the properties inherited onto a housing associations books. Generally we find that ex military,Royal Air Force or even ex council houses often don’t meet our requirements as a housing association so we need to begin to bring the property standard up to specification.
The decent homes standard is something that was introduced and is often referred to as part of the ideals your looking to be able to provide as a standard.
Often though inherited housing stock is well below par when it comes to ages of bathrooms, heating systems, kitchens and windows. Often age and other factors also mean some buildings being prone to things like condensation and damp. Being able to understand the affects and prevention of how one thing impacts on another is an important factor in improving a homes condition.
For example wall and loft insulation can often have a huge positive impact on a home not only for the resident but in also maintaining the quality of the home reducing the number of repairs as well as extending the life of some components of the home.
So although sometimes people don’t see the immediate benefits in fact they have probably forgotten the surveyor was ever there by the time large budgets are allocated for entire estates. But even looking round the plumbing of a house a resident isn’t aware that we are often looking for things like pipe lagging to protect the pipes from frost as well as help in lost heat. Both having a positive impact on the resident and the housing association stock of done properly.