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From estate agent to surveyor: how I made the switch

The end of the year is always a time of reflection around careers and whether we should pursue pastures new. I made the leap from corporate estate agent to residential building surveyor and started my own business at age 29. This is my journey from one side of the property industry to another.     

I always loved the idea of a career in property, so estate agency was the obvious choice - it’s such a dynamic and fast-moving industry. While I enjoyed visiting homes to carry out valuations, I wanted to learn more. Estate agents are big players in this industry, and during my time working as one, I developed numerous skills and contacts that ultimately led me to retrain as a residential surveyor with Sava.

I found there was a lot of crossover with the valuation skills I’d learned as an estate agent and it also transpired around 80% of my fellow students shared a similar career path to my own.  


No degree required  

I didn’t realise it was possible to train as a surveyor without having a degree but Sava’s Diploma in Residential Surveying & Valuation doesn’t require one. It’s a vocational course that is equivalent to a Level 6 qualification, this was ideal for me because I’d left education after studying for one year at college. The course was structured so I could study part-time which was the perfect situation because I kept my hand in the property industry with my full-time estate agency role throughout the diploma. This gave me easy access to a bank of different types of properties to use as a focus for my practical reports, required as part of the qualification.

There’s also a good amount of similarities between estate agency and surveying so having done mortgage and Help To Buy valuations meant I had a head start on this part, while the hardest section of the diploma was acquiring building pathology knowledge. This isn’t part of estate agency because agents don’t need to know how a home is constructed.  

Heading back into education at any age is daunting. I was 24 years old at the time and it took a while to get back into the mindset of classes, assignments and general learning but I was motivated by the opportunities ahead once I’d qualified. I continued working full-time alongside my studies, which wasn’t easy and involved some long days and late nights. I always wanted to run my own business and was struck by how much lower the start-up costs were for a small surveying firm. I estimate my set-up costs have been between £3,000 to £4,000 in total and I don’t have to fund an office as an ongoing cost. 


In terms of remuneration, I obviously had to outlay the initial cost of the course which was a large investment in myself but the diploma is industry-recognised and equivalent to a degree - however, it’s not as expensive. The entry salary for a qualified residential surveyor is around £30,000 to £40,000, so I made the money back from the diploma within about a year of working as a surveyor. While the majority of my classmates were estate agents, there was also an ex-police detective, a hairdresser, and also someone in their 70s who also now runs his own surveying firm. The diploma is designed for those who are passionate about becoming surveyors, so it doesn’t matter what previous career path is involved.       

Every day is different 

After setting up my own surveying firm in May, I’ve enjoyed regular and constant work, thanks to my estate agency contacts, and am looking to expand the business as early as next year with another surveyor and an administrator. For me, I love this job because every day is different. I may visit a 1990s house and then survey a barn conversion with parts of the property dating back to the 1600s. I test myself on my knowledge every day and know surveyors who have worked for decades but still come across various types of buildings they’ve never seen before.   

It suits me down to the ground because I’ve stayed working among bricks and mortar, following a fantastic springboard into surveying via estate agency, and landing a role more suited to me. 


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