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Residential valuation surveyors have been practising in the UAE for many years now. However, the vast majority of people know of their existence here solely as part of the mortgage approval process. The fact that residential surveyors provide services other than those related to mortgage approval or complementary to it, is not widely known.
A residential chartered surveyor is trained to highlight possible major structural issues and advise further investigation, note alterations, provide a market value and highlight any issues that can affect the transaction of the property. For example, if a house has been altered internally and this has been done in a manner that affects the property's stability, a residential surveyor will highlight that fact and advise further investigation by a qualified individual.
As part of our training, we all have Rics cognate degrees or a master's degree in a real estate discipline and have to spend two years training with qualified Rics surveyors. After which, we take an examination carried out by our peers. The examination is referred to as the Assessment of Professional Competence and embodies a variety of skills, including ethics, client care, measurement and inspection, valuation, etc.
When I first arrived in the UAE nearly ten years ago, I had to change my title from surveyor to valuer — the latter was a more recognizable job title by the majority of our clients. Thankfully, times have changed and being a Rics surveyor is now the norm.
Financial institutions, which now understand the strict international and ethical standards a Rics-accredited surveyor must adhere to, have adapted their credit procedures to implement the valuation reports of Rics residential surveyors as part of their internal due diligence. These institutions benefit from various services offered by a Rics surveyor, such as an independent opinion of the market value of a property, commentary on property defects (if any), an understanding of the alterations and permissions for these alterations to a property, an opinion as to whether the property is suitable to be leased and comments on any issues related to the resale of the property.
Financial institutions now have panels of surveyors that provide valuations that are non-prejudiced, fair and transparent.
It is common knowledge that the majority of property sales in the UAE are done through cash transactions. However, it is not standard for these sales to include a valuation report from a qualified Rics residential surveyor. Now that the UAE market is maturing, surveying firms are seeing a small proportion of their cash-paying clients undertake their own due diligence. This has been particularly evident among high-value stock in areas such as Emirates Hills and the Palm Jumeirah.
Peace of mind
Clients ask for valuation reports prior to purchasing property and in some cases before disposal. For these people, the report will give them peace of mind knowing they have obtained a professional, independent opinion on the value of the property and any issues that can affect the transaction of the property in an open market.
Additionally, for properties that are bespoke, clients usually have them measured to confirm that the advertised values are correct. The valuation report can also be used when brokering a deal between two parties.
Residential valuation surveyors can provide essential knowledge on how to maximise your buying and selling potential. We are not sales agents, so there is no conflict of interest in the property we survey. Taking this into consideration, I am providing a few guide points when going through this process in the UAE:
1. Ensure you have a valuation clause in your memorandum of understanding (MoU). This is a clause in your sales agreement or MoU stating that you will be entitled to your deposit should your property not be valued at a specific amount. For contracts without this clause, and where a property is not valued at the sale price, the deposit may be kept by the other party.
2. Have no-objection certificates (NOCs) for all alterations or additions to your property. If you want to alter your property, first check with the master developer and the Dubai Municipality whether the alteration is permitted. If it is permitted, go through the process of obtaining an NOC so that the developer will allow you to transfer the property without any issues.
3. Cost does not always equal value. If you upgrade your property, the cost would not always be reflected in the property's market value.
4. Maintenance is key. Move sprinklers away from external walls, infill external and internal cracks, rectify air-conditioning problems as soon as they arise and remove damas trees near the property — its roots can break into water and sanitation systems and damage walls. If your property is well maintained, this will be reflected in your market value and will also help you sell your property.
5. Research the market. Before buying property, talk to agents, surveyors and neighbours, and don't believe everything that is advertised. Do your own due diligence.
Source: Catherine Clarke, Special to Property Weekly
The writer has been practising in the UAE for six years and is currently overseeing the Residential Valuation division at Colliers International. She is also responsible for the implementation and development of the Colliers International House Price Index