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4 common questions being asked in the building surveying market right now

Dan   Questions Being Asked

Article posted by Daniel Scott on Dec 06, 2021

We regularly receive questions from both clients and candidates about the building surveying market and what the current status quo is. So we took a few minutes to talk to Daniel Scott, who heads up our construction team, to find out what questions he’s been most asked this month.

What is the building surveying market like at the moment?

Building Consultancy practices - this market is very busy. Our clients are all looking to hire, and they are all looking for the same types of people. Over the last 12-18 months, lots of building surveyors have been moving roles, but there is still very much a skills shortage out there, and it’s proving harder for smaller SMEs to find building surveyors. Anyone looking for a job or thinking about moving consultancy would have the pick of the bunch in the current market (provided they’ve got the relevant qualifications and sector experience). You could easily have your CV sent out to 30-40 practices and pick up a lot of interviews. It’s definitely a candidate-driven market right now.

Client-side - things have definitely got busier, with all of the major players hiring this year. The corporate estates have been hiring over the last 12 months and have typically looked for senior to associate level building surveyors. Within investment management, asset management and development firms, they all want to spend less money on consultancies moving forward and to bring these skills in-house instead. So we’re definitely seeing more roles with these firms, but they are still few and far between as many of these firms only have a small team of surveyors and typically want to hire one person. However, growth is certainly on a roll and we’re seeing greater investment in portfolios, which is only going to continue on the client-side. With estates looking to grow their investments (sometimes by up to 100%) they will need more hands-on Building Surveyors to manage these growing portfolios. Commercial office property and residential property have both been very buoyant sectors over the last 12-18 months, in a generally very busy market.

What are the current salary expectations for a building surveyor?

Salaries have gone up across all levels for all building surveyors and people are now expecting an increase whether they move jobs or not. Surveyors clearly know they are in demand right now and many can expect multiple calls from recruiters each day. We can still see an underlying apprehension about the market, with people still reluctant to move, so if they can achieve a pay rise in their current role then this reduces their need to move jobs.

We’ve definitely seen salaries go up because of retention methods and competition, with many firms offering £3-5k more than the industry average in order to secure talent or beat a competitor. More often, they are having to increase salary bandings outside of budgets and generally, the most competitive salaries are securing the candidates.

But it’s inflating salaries. For example, across all levels, salaries compared to 3 years ago are up by around 10% (depending on the company and individual) despite the pandemic and a multitude of redundancies within the construction and real estate market. That means someone on £50k 3 years ago could now be on £55k for the same level of experience. Packages have also improved for building surveyors, with consultancies becoming more competitive and offering healthcare, pensions and long-term investment plans. We’re also now seeing much better-structured bonus schemes being put in place, and it’s not uncommon for a building surveyor to earn 15-40% of their salary in bonus.

The past 12-18 months has definitely seen more clients seeking our help with benchmarking advice and reviews. Due to such a volatile market, our clients are constantly being asked by their staff to review their salaries and packages, so naturally, salaries will go up. On one hand, clients can’t afford to lose people as they are so hard to replace with the lack of candidates in the market, but with continued salary increases, clients can’t afford to keep hold of ever more expensive staff.

Client-side v consultancy - what is best for me?

It’s a common dilemma for a lot of building surveyors. Many come to us as want to know what is best for them. In a nutshell, it depends: on you, your priorities and what you want from a role.

One of our candidates is currently in this exact dilemma and asked for my advice. He’s currently within a corporate multi-disciplinary, and has offers from another corporate multi-disciplinary, a medium-sized building consultancy, and also a commercial developer.

My advice to him was that the current business you’re in will be very similar to the other larger corporate – it will have similar structures, frameworks and the same red tape. You might see a £5-10k increase in salary and the promise of exciting schemes to work on. However, those projects might not come to fruition, and you could face the same frustrations as your current role. The grass isn’t always greener.

With the SME role, it will be a similar working environment, in terms of the types of projects and how it works, but likely to be less red tape. You’ll have more autonomy, more enjoyment working for a smaller business and less hierarchy. If it’s an SME going through a rapid growth phase, then there could also be an opportunity to progress into a management role faster. If you don’t enjoy large corporate businesses or if you like working in a close-knit team, then a smaller firm would be better for you.

The developer role on offer would be a complete change; you’ll be on the other side of the fence. You’ll no longer be working with multiple clients, but just one portfolio of property, with greater responsibility and autonomy of projects. However, you’ll have less support and structure and a potential lack of progression. If you enjoy delivering projects, then client-side is for you.

If salary is your main motivator, then in this current market all three roles will compete at the same level. Think about what’s the best working environment for you and focus on something other than salary. For more advice, read our blog Working client-side vs consultancy - The pros and cons

Going into 2022, how do we expect the market to move forward?

We don’t expect to see a drop off in hiring as we move into 2022. For the first half of the year, we’ll likely see companies behaving in the same way as they are now: looking to hire new staff but not moving particularly quickly, and therefore missing out on talented building surveyors. A lot of hiring will be dependent on successfully winning bids. We’ll continue to see a number of vacancies coming to market, but with the continued shortage of candidates, companies will still struggle to fill roles.

As we move into the second half of the year – we expect to see a shift, with firms hiring quicker and the market getting back to pre-pandemic levels. Companies will have learnt that it’s still a candidate-driven market and they need to move quickly. Those hiring will accept that a candidate who ticks 60% of their boxes is better than holding out for someone who ticks 90%.

We’ll also see more growth in other sectors, which will increase the number of jobs coming through. Next year, student accommodation, PRS, logistics and life sciences are all likely to be high activity and growth markets. We’ve already seen growth in project management and development management in these sectors throughout this year, so we expect this to filter down into building surveying and asset management in 2022. Overall, the market isn’t likely to change too much with a continued skills shortages and candidate-driven market for the next year.

If you’d like advice or guidance on how this can impact your career progression or the avenues open to you, we’d love to help. Contact Daniel Scott in the first instance.

Article written by Daniel Scott, Managing Consultant - Construction & Property.