049 Alan Milstein from the Residential Property Surveyors Association

Phil Parnham, the director of Bluebox Partners, sat down to chat with Alan Milstein, the Chairman of the Residential Property Surveyors Association. RPSA is focused on supporting the interests of independent residential surveyors and making surveys more attractive to homebuyers.

Although a practicing surveyor, Alan spends most of his time lobbying with the government and industry stakeholders to promote the importance of surveys and the skills of the independent practitioner.

The Two Things I Love About Surveying

Alan Milstein is passionate about surveying, as well as about restructuring RPSA and moving it forward for the benefit of all residential surveyors.

“The number one I love about surveying is variety. Even in a row of houses, which are all identical on a road, you walk into each of them and every single one is different. You never know what you’re going to face. The number two thing is, although we produce surveys as our product, that’s not what we’re delivering. What we are delivering are dreams of our clients, and helping them realise their dreams. That’s what we need to focus on, and it’s a privilege to be able to do that for people. Particularly over the last few months during the pandemic, when we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes, our homes have become more important, and so our role as surveyors has become more important,” Alan says.

Surveyors as Home Buying Facilitators

Another mission Alan has with RPSA is to change the perception of surveying and surveyors in the public.

“I like to think that we are facilitators. So people want to buy the house, the seller wants to sell the house, and it’s not our job to stop people doing that, our job is to help them do it, but in an informed way. When we do a survey, one of the reasons why I think doing full, thorough inspections is so important, is because then we can give people the full story of what it is that they’re buying into. We don’t want to put people off buying properties, we want to help them work their way through any issues that we identify on the way. I look at this as a very positive process. As an industry, we need to focus on changing the perception of both buyers and estate agents, that surveyors are out there to kill the sales.”

“Around 80% of home buyers don’t commission a survey,” he continues. “That’s just plain wrong, we need to change that. I have always felt that one of the main reasons why people don’t get a survey is that it’s just too complicated for them. When they’re faced with all the forms they’ve got to fill in for the conveyancers, and the estate agents and everybody else, it’s a really complicated process, and people can’t get their heads around it. We need to keep this simple. But I think that we are now entering the golden age of surveying. One of the things that we’re seeing is a gradual decoupling with lenders, a decoupling of valuations and surveys, and that seems to be happening across the industry. There’s a lot more valuations now being done without a visit to the property, and lenders are very conscious that their borrowers need to have good information about the condition of the property. So I think that we are starting to see a swing towards pressure being put on buyers to commission a survey. And that’s that 20% that I’ve mentioned above, we’re seeing that now increasing.”

RPSA – What’s in There for Surveyors

As the Chairman of RPSA, Alan gives us an overview of their activities.

“I spend a huge amount of my time working with other industry stakeholders – the lenders, the lawyers, conveyancers, estate agents, so working at a national stakeholder level, promoting the importance of RPSA and what we can offer to consumers. This simple proposition of voluntary inspections is a good message to deliver, so we can see that the number of surveys that are going to be commissioned will continue to increase. Our job is to make sure that RPSA is out there flying the flag and being the brand that people want to buy into, because they know it’s going to be good quality. Beyond that, there’s a massive opportunity for all sorts of new products like property logbooks, or a packet of information about a property that people get ready before they put it on the market.”

RPSA Panel

Alan goes on to explain how the RPSA panel was formed, how it works and what it offers to its members.

“There were a lot of home inspectors who couldn’t join the RICS because they didn’t have a valuation qualification, so a lot of these people were displaced. We recognised that the only product that many of them could offer would be the SAVA Home Condition Survey, and so we asked ourselves how we could help people offer this product into the marketplace. We came up with the idea of a panel, and later on we recognised that there was a demand for a greater range of products, in particular building surveys. Ultimately, we created our own product, which was a building survey product based on a full comprehensive inspection and full of photographs. We started showing that to various potential introducers, and they thought it was a fantastic product. And that’s really how the panel came about. Now we offer three different products, and we also have our own proprietary surveying software called Skyline that the panel members can use.”

“The panel is open to any RPSA member,” he adds, “and you don’t pay anything extra to be on our panel. We are a not-for-profit organisation, so our primary interest is to get the maximum fees for members. We give 70% of the total gross fee to the surveyor, the rest of that fee, we may pay a commission to an introducer, the running costs for the panel, and also some money goes for the coffers of the RPSA, which allows us to offer other services. The independent residential surveyor is our sole interest in terms of promotion and development. Being so focused, I think we can deliver great benefits to members in fighting their cause at a national level,” he concludes.

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