This month we ask Louise Warren at award-winning property developers Kebbell to tell us a little more about a day in the life of a building surveyor.
What does your job entail?
As part of the construction department, my job has a number of roles from quite a lot of administration to valuations, keeping on top of cost control and budgets for any given project, or working with the site manager and contractors to keep to specifications and drawings. Having good relationships with the team and contractors is important. I try to get to site once a week and additionally attend monthly team meetings on site where we look at all the activities and how the project is coming along. As surveyors, we get involved before a site is even active, such as getting it ready for demolition, and follow the project all the way through to the sales stage and then work on the finishes, final accounts and aftercare once the properties are sold.
What made you want to become a surveyor?
I didn’t always want to be a surveyor, but I first joined Kebbell as a trainee surveyor in 2005. I trained there and really enjoyed it, particularly the atmosphere and the challenge of solving problems. I then gained more experience in different companies but came back to work for Kebbell in November 2015 and haven’t looked back since.
You need to have a good understanding of the building industry and be computer literate, have solid budgeting skills and be good with people and communicating. As a woman in a male dominated industry, you have to have a certain level of confidence too. I still learn something practically every week with the job, which I love.
What are you working on at the moment?
The main project I am working on at the moment is Misbourne House in Gerrards Cross which is eight luxurious and highly specified 2/3 bedroom apartments with basement parking and a lift. I will also be working on new sites in Ascot and Chiswick.
How long do you stay on a project at any one time?
I worked on a development in Chiswick, Aubury Place, for almost four years but usually I expect to be on a Kebbell project for 18-24 months. It really depends on the size of the development and the challenges involved.
What are the biggest issues facing the property industry at the moment from a surveying point of view?
At the moment the costs, availability and supply of materials and products are constantly changing because of the pandemic and Brexit, which is a challenge. We have to stay very flexible and agile to continue to balance the books with all the constant changes. As a result of the pandemic, many people are wanting to move to small towns or villages or rural areas to enjoy open spaces and to have a lovely garden which has caused a huge shift in the property market.
How important are environmental issues compared to 10 years ago?
As surveyors we have to make sure that we adhere to a lot of environmental requirements and need to deal with all sorts of potential issues that may crop up. For example, as gas heating in the home is on its way out, we have to look at different heat sources for varying developments, whether that be solar, ground sources or electricity. Different solutions work for different projects and we have to be mindful of any potential obstacles there may be, and the costs involved.
Tell me about your typical day.
I have a seven year old son so we have to be out the door at 07:45 and I am ready at my desk at 08:30. I go straight to my emails to see what has come in and if there is anything urgent to deal with. My day will be spent looking at invoices and orders, focusing on my surveying and valuation tasks, checking in with what contractors are doing and attending assorted meetings. It is really varied, and I am involved in lots of different tasks. I usually finish around 5pm and it takes me an hour to get home. I then enjoy spending time with my son, family and friends.
What are the best & hardest things about the job?
I get on really well with my colleagues and every day is different. Nick Kebbell is a really good boss and easy to talk to. My proudest moment at work was being part of the team that won a few awards for our development Aubury Place. From start to finish I saw through Wintersbrooke in Berkshire, and it was relatively smooth sailing and at the end it felt like quite an achievement, really rewarding. Whenever we hit a minor bump in the road on a development, it can still be stressful, but together we can always find a good solution.
What do you think makes a house a home?
The people that live in the home are what make a home, but also giving your space a happy, personal touch is really important. Location is so critical. I enjoy that there are lots of nice walks where we live, particularly because we have a dog and are quite an active family.
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Rebecca Morpeth Spayne,
Editor, Showhome Magazine
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 922