A commercial/residential surveyor deals with all aspects of residential and/or commercial property in both the private and public sectors.
Principal activities are related to the management, purchase, sale, or leasing of land and property, as well as valuing and surveying property.
The surveyor may act as an agent, broker or auctioneer during a sale and may also carry out contract negotiations between landlords and tenants.
Types of commercial/residential surveyor
Commercial/residential surveyors may specialise in:
Consultants may work in private practice, for a local authority or other public sector organisation or they may be self-employed.
Commercial/residential surveyors generally specialise in either commercial or residential property, but the activities involved are mostly similar.
Common activities include:
- valuing properties by applying expert knowledge and awareness of the local property market;
- taking accurate measurements of sites and premises;
- assessing the impact of a major development in terms of economic viability and environmental impact;
- purchasing land and securing funding;
- visiting sites at all stages of development, from green field to foundations and completed buildings;
- writing detailed reports on property for purposes such as rent reviews, investment potential, valuations for mortgages and other purposes, marketability and building surveys;
- negotiating with confidence, orally and in writing, on issues such as rents;
- selling and buying properties and sites on behalf of clients;
- applying appropriate law for landlord and tenant negotiations and enforcing health and safety regulations;
- assessing properties for business rates, capital taxation, acquisitions and disposals;
- in the case of surveyors specialising in investment: advising clients on the purchase and sale of individual investments and managing large property portfolios;
- in the case of surveyors specialising in management: managing all kinds of property on behalf of a landlord to meet the landlord's contractual obligations, ensuring compliance with the conditions of the tenancy, collecting rents and handling building maintenance and repair;
- in the case of surveyors specialising in development: working closely with other professionals such as highways and structural engineers, town planners and architects, in considering new developments.
- Typical starting salaries range from £19,000 to £25,000. This is likely to increase with experience to between £30,000 and £36,000. Qualification as a chartered surveyor attracts a higher salary.
- Range of senior level salaries (e.g. after 10 to 15 years in the role) is £35,000 to £62,000. Average salary at this level is around £50,000.
Those who specialise in financial services and investment analysis are the best paid.
Members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) earn more than their non-RICS counterparts.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
A working week is usually 40 hours, although in the private sector, regular extra hours are expected, which might include weekends. This may be required to meet deadlines, liaise with clients or network with other professionals. In order to progress in the private sector, you will usually need to work longer than average hours, though there is some variation within the cultures of different firms.
In the public sector, working hours will usually be regular and may be based on flexitime. Networking and making personal contacts takes up less time for surveyors in the public sector.
What to expect
- Work is office based but also involves a lot of time out of the office, attending meetings, visiting sites and meeting with clients.
- The dress code tends to be smart and it is expected that surveyors will be smartly dressed even when visiting sites. Opportunities for qualified surveyors exist throughout the UK, but there is a large concentration of them in London and the South East where the large firms are based.
- Career breaks are possible but you must keep up with legal and market developments.
- Self-employment and freelance work are frequently possible, particularly for surveyors in private practice who have good qualifications and significant experience, and there is the possibility to work from home. These opportunities may occur in all areas of work, but especially in valuation.
- Travel within a working day is frequent and may involve absence from home overnight.
- Overseas work or travel is rare but is increasing, particularly in the fields of investment, valuation and consultancy.
There are several ways to become a commercial or residential surveyor.
The most direct, is to take a RICS accredited undergraduate degree. This is available in many different subjects including:
- building surveying;
- building construction management;
- quantity surveying;
- estate management;
- construction management;
- facilities management.
Another is to take a RICS accredited postgraduate degree. This is available to those who haven't completed an accredited or relevant undergraduate degree. Some companies may allow you to complete the postgraduate qualification while you're working and may also be able to help with funding.
A full list of accredited undergraduate and postgraduate and vocational courses is available at RICS Courses.
Once you have completed an accredited undergraduate or postgraduate degree you will be able to get a job as a trainee surveyor, where you can begin to work towards chartered status.
You can also enter this profession without a degree if you have at least four years' relevant experience, or a relevant vocational qualification (HND/HNC/NVQ3/BTEC/foundation degree) with two years’ experience. There are also some fully funded and supported apprenticeship schemes such as the ones delivered by CSTT; leading to associate membership.
For a career as a residential surveyor, there is also the option to gain direct entry to RICS associate membership through an approved vocational diploma - see the RICS website for details.
Associate members can choose to apply for full chartered status once they gain a further four years' experience and complete an assessment on ethics. see RICS - membership progression for further details.
Professionals with a degree and at least five years' post-degree experience can achieve chartered membership through an accelerated 12-month course.
You will need to show:
- enthusiasm and commitment;
- good oral and written communication;
- excellent interpersonal skills;
- negotiation skills;
- readiness to take responsibility and act on your own initiative;
- teamworking skills;
- the ability to remain calm under pressure;
- confidence in your own judgement;
- the ability to confidently develop and maintain a network of professional contacts.
Many of the jobs in surveying require physical mobility to survey a site, a building under construction or an inaccessible part of a residential property. A driving licence is usually essential, unless you are working in a defined urban area, such as a city local authority.
It is extremely beneficial to get some pre-entry work experience as it is highly regarded by employers. Relevant experience might include clerical or sales work with an estate agency or labouring on a building site to learn how buildings are constructed. Anything that can give you an insight into the property industry will be helpful.
In the public sector, commercial and residential surveyors are employed by:
- local authorities;
- regional development agencies;
- hospital trusts;
- several central government departments.
In the voluntary sector, surveyors are employed by housing associations.
The Valuation Office Agency determines business rates and council tax bands and recruits graduate surveyors who have completed a RICS accredited degree.
Private practice is split between commercial and residential property.
Employers in the commercial property sector include:
- large private surveying practices;
- house building companies;
- property developers;
- financial, pension fund and insurance institutions;
- large corporate organisations, such as retailing chains, banks, railways and other utilities that own large amounts of land.
The residential property market tends to be focused on smaller employers all around the UK. The large national chains of estate agents or major regional firms employ surveyors. Smaller firms are more likely to refer clients to an independent surveyor.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Jobs.ac.uk - for vacancies in universities.
- Opportunities: The Public Sector Media
- Property Jobs
- Property Week Jobs
- RICS Recruit
- university departments that run accredited degrees.
- national and local press, particularly newspapers that have a local property supplement.
- university careers services' vacancy lists.
Speculative approaches are definitely worth trying. The RICS Find a Surveyor site is useful for contact details.
Specialist recruitment agencies include:
The property job market varies with the state of the economy and entry is competitive. Many large private practices have an annual intake of graduates and may have closing dates as early as December or January of your final year. Others will accept speculative applications slightly later.
Smaller employers are typically open to receive speculative applications while public sector organisations commonly only accept applications to advertised vacancies.
Once you have secured a job as a trainee surveyor you can then work towards gaining chartered status. This will show companies and clients that you've been trained to the highest possible standard and will allow for promotion and wage increase opportunities.
To become chartered you must complete the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) which is offered by the RICS.
If you have no prior relevant surveying experience this will consist of at least two years of structured training, regular meetings with a supervisor and a set amount of hours of professional development.
You will have to evidence your training through achievement records and logbooks and will need to complete an assessment interview.
The above requirements are reduced slightly if you have substantial pre-entry experience of five years or more. Once the APC has been successfully completed you will be able to become a RICS member (and therefore a chartered surveyor).
In order to maintain current professional knowledge and stay up to date with new developments, RICS members are required to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) every year for which online study programmes are available.
At more senior levels, there is a growing need for surveyors to understand business and management skills.
As a chartered surveyor, you may move employers to gain more experience and broaden your skills.
You will usually have specialised in either commercial or residential surveying and will normally stay within that area, it is rare for surveyors to move between the private and public sectors.
There are many different employers. In the public sector, you may work for:
- local authorities;
- hospital trusts;
- government posts.
In the private sector you could work for different size practices in order to gain different experiences. Some large organisations may own considerable numbers of premises or have dealings in property development.
Surveyors are required throughout the UK for the residential property market, but commercial property surveying practices tend to be based in major cities, the majority being in London and the South East.
If you work in a large private sector firm you may have the opportunity to become an associate or salaried partner. You may also be invited to put money into the firm to become an equity partner, where you would directly share the profits.
You may decide to specialise in a particular area such as:
- plant and machinery auctioning;
- valuing and auctioning of fine arts and antiques.
It is quite feasible, after you have gained experience, to set up in business on your own, and manage this either as a sole trader working from home or in partnership with other surveyors.