50 Years as a Surveyor

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News article

50 Years as a Surveyor

February 2010

general practice news

I wouldn’t advise anyone to volunteer to clean silver in an auction room as that’s how I started my career as a chartered surveyor.

It was in the gap between leaving school in July 1957 and going to university in October. A friend of my parents, a Chartered Surveyor in Sheffield, asked me to go and help with cleaning silver in their auction room.  I went, he took me out on various other jobs and I thought this was a good job, better than going to university, and so in September 1957 I was articled to him the princely pay of £3 per week.

By 1962 I had passed exams and qualified to be an Associate of the Chartered Auctioneers & Estate Agents Institute which is no longer in existence. In 1970 it merged with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

In 1964 I became a Partner in the Sheffield firm where I was earning the sum of £1,000 per annum, paying £500 for my very junior share in the partnership, which was what you did in those days.

All my life I have been involved in general practice, not specialising in anything at all, but merely being a ‘Jack of all trades’. This exposed me to as much information as possible, equipping me with a broad knowledge of surveying.

I worked the vast majority of my life in Worksop and in 1964, it was surrounded by 10 collieries which were the main life blood of the communities in the area. A thriving cinema industry flourished in these towns, but as the pits started closing, due to either exhaustion of the seams or other geological difficulties, the villages became almost dead and so did the cinemas.

We acted for a firm based in Leeds who operated a chain of cinemas. At one time they had up to 200 cinemas, 3 of them were in Worksop, and we were tasked with finding alternate uses for those that were unfortunately closing.

One such alternative came from the food industry which began to look at mini supermarkets, where food was stacked high and sold cheap. Many redundant cinemas provided perfect accommodation. Bingo was also increasing in popularity and we were able to utilise some as Bingo Halls. 

When the Firbeck Colliery, situated in the mining community of Langold some 5 miles north of Worksop closed, it left a large number of residential properties empty due to miners being relocated to other collieries. The National Coal Board (NCB) Area Property Director contacted us and met us at Langold because about a third of the houses, approximately 120, in that community were empty. 

We tackled that by selling them at realistic prices and then suggested to the NCB that it might be more prudent for them to try and offer the tenanted houses, which had been built in the late 1920s, to the tenants.  This is before Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Right to Buy’ came in the 1980s. We followed that course and sold large portions of the colliery houses in the Langold, Worksop and surrounding areas. It was a profitable part of our firms business for several years. 

In one mining community, Shireoaks at Worksop, we valued a 2-up, 2-down cottage at £350.  The reason for mentioning this particular house is that only last year Fisher German resold that £350 house for £90,000.

Obviously my 50 years have seen dramatic changes. When I started in the profession, there were no computers, internet or digital cameras. Properties were advertised just by lineage in the local papers and brochures were 2 sheets of duplicated paper with no photographs. 

When photos were first used in the press they were usually outsourced, which took about week to get the pictures back from the photographers. They weren’t always what we wanted.  Today we use digital cameras which show instantly if a picture is what we want.

Comparables of previous transactions and similarly priced properties can easily be found through the Internet now and information quickly saved on the computer.  When I started my career, we used to keep written records of our comparables which were difficult to find on a card index.

Regulations were also scarce 50 years ago. We would say what we liked about things, there was no Misrepresentation Act, there was no Money Laundering Act and in many ways it was a free for all.

I think after my 50 odd years one of the most important things is to always enjoy the job and don’t worry too much. Have faith in your knowledge and use comparables wisely. Valuations are a matter of opinion based on evidence but as long as Red Book rules are followed, yours should be a fair and accurate reflection.

Richard Hassett is a surveyor at Fisher German's Retford office: 01777 709943

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