It's amazing what some people send me on twitter now. I received this heartfelt anecdote from a property surveyor who witnessed things go to pot in the run up to the 2007 collapse.
They said I could post it, so here it is, probably nothing people didn't know or expect:
"I used to work as a survey secretary 20+ years ago. At the time independent surveyors got put out of business by lenders / estate agents offering free mortgage valuations (then offering surveys) so that the prices all became in house and under the control of agents and lenders.
I worked on and off as a survey secretary (c1995-2001) before, during, and after having my children so a bit on / off but blimey did I see some massive changes each time I went back! Flushed face
Surveyors used to run their own practices. Ie be independent. They were respected professionals.
But estate agents and lenders started offering “free mortgage valuations” in deals between agents and lenders.
Well, obviously if your agent offers you a free MV you take it!
Then if the sale progressed “Would you like us to arrange an (in-house) building survey too?”.
So all pricing, and the survey which was meant to check that pricing, was taken in-house.
I worked for an independent surveyor who got put out of business / bought out by a building society, who then got bought out by a huge mortgage lender.
All within about 5 years. Same across the rest of the industry.
The surveyors used to come back from surveys, furious, saying “There’s no way it’s worth that much! I’m not signing it off at that price!” then there’d be a phone call to the manager, an argument, and basically if they didn’t agree to it then they were free to go and find another job.
But, as I say, all the independent surveyors were neutered and put out of business / bought out and the lenders owned the surveyors (albeit via subsidiary companies).
Basically they were told to shut up and agree to the high prices or find another job … but the big lenders had bought out all the independent surveyors by taking their business away first, crippling them, then buying them out cheap.
The pressure (and even threats!) to in-house surveyors to agree overvalued property prices was enormous. They had families and mortgages of their own to pay. They were really stuffed!
This property is in Scotland and the surveys are done up front here by the seller so I guess they are still more independent than English surveyors.
I honestly think this is one of the biggest unreported financial scams of our generation.
No one seems to have reported on it.
Unfortunately a lot of it predates good internet / email usage so evidence may be hard to find.
Just thought you’d be interested in my amateur survey secretary experience of watching lenders buy out surveyors and totally neuter them.
They all started out loving their jobs then hating them but being powerless to do anything about it.
I don’t understand how agents and lenders were able to work together to neuter surveyors and run wild with house prices.
Then followed up with:
"Someone needs to dig into the mid- late 90s / early 2000s and look at Bradford & Bingley / estate agents undermining independent surveyors but offering free mortgage valuations.
Then look at B&B setting up their own surveying offices “Bradford & Bingley Surveyors”.
Look at which estate agents pointed buyers to B&B / BBS for free valuations.
Look at B&B (having bought out the surveyors) being bought out by Santander.
I worked for the XXXXXX offices. So I know what happened in that area but I’m sure it was industry wide.
There was some deal going on between agents and lenders to direct the MVs / surveys in their direction away from independent surveyors. This was happening mid-90s when I bought my first flat and was offered a “free” mortgage valuation but of course I had no idea why or what was to come back then.
It’s how they cut the independent surveyors out of business though."
From some of the other messages I have received their concern is very heartfelt, now with 2 20 something children who wont be able to afford shelter, I think the scam is become more apparent to people now.