Valuers from the UK and beyond filled the 2019 RICS Valuation Conference in London for an update on the bigger picture of the condition of the sector, as well as specialist break-out sessions.
A fascinating economic update from Walter Boettcher set the tone for the conference. Dr Boettcher, Colliers International Director of Research and Forecasting, was sanguine on how the UK might fare in the face of Brexit, expressing that the market was still in a strong position, with institutional investors increasing UK exposure through 2018, a not over-leveraged market and a continuing shortage of grade A office space. With ageing populations in much of the developed world, pension funds are looking for secure long-term investments, and real estate would continue to provide this, he felt. Regarding Brexit uncertainty and outcomes, he suggested investors would hold on to UK assets until the situation and Sterling stabilised, rather than pulling out of the market.
Heavily debated among attendees, a case study on "What is the Tower of London worth?" proved both entertaining and enlightening on some of the principles of valuation. Experts from a variety of backgrounds examined the worth of the land, the buildings, the contents and the cultural value of the ancient royal palace. Could it be priceless? Or worth nothing due to its unique nature? The end conclusion was a sum of around £4.5bn might cover all the qualities of the UNESCO World Heritage site. But do you agree?
David Tretton, RICS Red Book Technical Director, gave an essential update on valuation standards, reminding delegates that valuers will receive increased scrutiny following Brexit and that, in general, auditors are now looking much more closely at their work – valuers must be able to justify their conclusions and be clear on the purpose of each valuation. He also outlined the importance of international standards and data standards in aiding the flow of real estate deals around the world.
A panel on challenges and opportunities for valuers asked whether technology drives disruption, or if the need for change was driving the technology? The feeling was that, as a process-driven activity, valuation has seen efficiencies and improvements with the help of technology, but no true disruption.
Adrian Nicholls, Ernst & Young felt that more data and information provide an opportunity for valuers to showcase their expertise. Scott Hussey, Head of VR valuations at Siemens similarly believed that technology enhances what experienced professionals can do with the data available to them. Reducing human error was another bonus for valuers, added Samantha Rowland, Head of Healthcare Valuation at Savills UK.
Speakers also examined the social aspects of technological innovation – art consultant Claire Grindey explained how Instagram has revolutionised the sale and marketing of arts and antiques, offering new generations a way to see and buy with a click, while Michael Marciano of EG Valuations pondered how the social media popularity of underground or niche businesses could impact the valuation aspects of food and entertainment venues. The challenge was laid down by the panellists to RICS to ensure that pathways into the profession remain up-to-date and accessible by people from all educational backgrounds.
Well-attended break-out sessions covered real estate, machinery and business assets, arts and antiques, business valuation and trade-related property.
The day's discussions suggested that challenging times are ahead for valuers, but backed up by standards, ethics and technology the opportunities are there to move the profession forward with confidence.