Estate Surveyors and valuers are not so well perceived in the public’s eye, that’s if they are even known. Albeit, a distinguishing feature of a profession is its acceptance of its responsibility to the public. The clients of Estate Surveyors and Valuers consist of the three arms of government; private investors, the business and financial community, and others who rely on the objectivity and integrity of members to maintain the orderly functioning of the real estate business.
Public interest on the other hand is defined as the collective well-being of the community of people and institutions that the members serve.
With respect to estate surveyors and valuers in Nigeria, the public often refers to them as either “estate agents” or “property valuers”. Because of the level of ignorance among majority of Nigerians on the functions of the real estate practitioners, various questions have led to debates among estate surveyors and valuers. Such questions include:
(i) Do readers and beneficiaries of their services really understand and appreciate what they do?
(ii) Are valuations generally well regarded?
(iii) Are members of the estate surveying profession adequately rewarded for their skill and the risk likely?
(iv) With constraints of competition in an environment where consumers cannot evaluate or compare quality, are valuation reports a waste of money?
(v) Are most clients only concerned about the bottom line in terms of the benefit of the valuation figure to them or the cost of getting it?
(iv) Is competition forcing efficiency, or does it lead to cutting corners among members?
(vi) Is a valuation exercise an attempt to replicate what a prospective buyer and seller would actually do in the real world?
These collated observations from those in practice and more are the issues that the estate surveying profession needs to grapple with.
There is a process a graduate of Estate Management must pass through before he or she can be considered for membership with stamp and seal before he can practice the profession. In view of the enormous land mass of Nigeria and the small proportion of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, and Estate Surveying and Valuation firms, there is an urgent need to encourage Universities and Polytechnics offering estate management courses in Nigeria to increase their yearly intake of estate management students. In November, 2010 the Federal Government announced the establishment of six new universities with one in each of the six geo-political zones of the country. This move was not unexpected in view of the inadequacy of practicing estate surveyors and valuers in many major towns and all the rural towns and villages in Nigeria. The spread of these firms is mainly in the major cities , especially State capitals of the country.
One is mindful of the challenges being faced by the populace who need the services of valuation professionals. It is rather pathetic that 30% of the entire states in the country are without the offices of estate surveyors. The implication of this development is that majority of the citizenry have no professional estate surveyor and valuer to cater for their interest. It is in a bid to fill this gap that ubiquitous ‘local estate agents’ who are known and referred to as ‘quacks’ spring up in all the nooks and crannies of towns and cities, serving the need of the desperate citizenry in the areas of small retail shops, residential and office accommodations as well as the sale or purchase of plots of land that can be developed. Same goes for the sale or purchase of partially completed or existing houses. It is the unwholesome activities of the quacks in real estate business that has earned even the professional and legally recognized estate surveyors and valuers the poor image in the eyes of the public because most uneducated Nigerians refer to all real estate practitioners as estate agents.
Under normal conditions, no professional body would want any of her members to be exposed to ridicule as a result of negligence or unprofessional behavior. It is to the benefit of all estate surveyors that high standards of professionalism be maintained so as to earn respect from clients. To automatically earn this respect from the public at large, the following issues need to be addressed.
First, there is the need to ensure the training of more estate surveyors so that there can be enough practitioners for adequate coverage of the country. It is by so doing that the quacks can be flushed out of business. Then, a situation where estate surveying and valuation firms shy away from the rural areas of the country, where the greater members of the society resides with the greater land mass is not acceptable. Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers need to educate members and encourage Institutions offering estate management courses to harp on the potentials in rural estate agency.
Secondly, registration of members should be through extensive training, rigorous accreditation standards while those in practice should be mandated to allow the publication of their achievements on valuation-related issues before being considered as fellows of the Institution.
Thirdly, the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers and Estate Surveyors and Valuers Registration Board of Nigeria in partnership with Universities offering estate management courses in Nigeria, need to ensure the running of designated specialist courses in the valuation of specialized buildings, plant and machinery valuation as well as the use of ICT in real estate activities. Experts in relation to particular areas within the profession should be those whose qualifications and experience stand them out.
Finally, the profession cannot continue to allow most firms to run on sole proprietorship. Groups of existing firms should be encouraged to merge and form partnerships for the purpose of exploiting the growth opportunities in the real estate business. By so doing, such groups would have the capacity to penetrate the market effectively as per their collective knowledge, skill, experience and social leanings thereby checkmating the invasion of the industry by quacks.
Though the surveying profession in Nigeria has come of age, the profession should be notched up before age fails them.