Episode 96

096 Leasehold Enfranchisement Explained with Alison Stone

Alison Stone MRICS is a Chartered Surveyor, specialising in lease extensions and leasehold enfranchisement valuations, negotiations and tribunals. She has successfully negotiated against many of the large freeholders, getting the best agreements in place for her clients. With award-winning expertise, her company achieved Highly Commended in 2021 Enfranchisement and Right to Manage Awards.

What is Covered: 

  • How Alison became a surveyor joining the profession later in her career
  • How Alison got into this niche of valuation work and who her clients are
  • What is leasehold enfranchisement?
  • What are ground rents?
  • Why ground rents escalated and how the new legislation deals with it
  • How Alison gets all the information and calculates the value of a leased property
  • What qualifications you need to do this kind of valuations
  • How to negotiate with freeholders and at what point courts can get involved
  • Alison’s challenges and lessons learned since she set up her own business 

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00:50 Today, I'm chatting to Allison Stone, a chartered surveyor specializing in leasehold enfranchisement. Welcome to the podcast, Alison. Hello, nice to see you. Are you nervous?


Yes, I've not done anything like this before.


I love guests who are nervous. Sorry, that sounds a bit ominous. Like I'm going to interrogate you. I'm not. She goes quiet now and doesn't speak. Because people who haven't done things like this before, I just love people that haven't heard your story or the work that you've done. And I think it's a great opportunity to go diving into people's lives. So So tell us a bit about introduce yourself. Tell us a bit about your work. Right.


I'm a lease extension valuation specialists to do lease extensions, obviously. And in franchise once and only development value around them. I don't do very much else in the valuation but I really specialize in this. It's quite a technical area. And you really need to stay on top of the changes at the moment with the government doing things. It's a real niche area. Nobody ever understands what you do. Even surveyors don't understand what you do. When you speak to them. They're like, oh, so what is it you do?


So my first question is like, how do you spell enfranchisement? How do you promote it? I was looking at, oh, too many letters in a in a word


count chargeable, that that one's just


gives me a background. You know, I want to find out about what this work is like as a surveyor, what it involves today, but tell me a bit about how you got into this work in the first place.


Going my father for that one, because he's been doing it since the 93 Act came out and had been asking me to join him for a while but I was quite happy as a mortgage advisor working locally bringing up my young children but for various professional and personal reasons I stopped doing that didn't work for six months, and was sitting in a cafe in lay thinking journey to go back to work. I might open a cafe deli, but I don't know anything about commercial leases, phoned my dad and said but what do I need to know about commercial leases? He said, if you're gonna do something like that, you'll come back to work, come on work for me. It’s just as hard but you'll learn lots more. So be agreed because he was in London and I'm in Essex, but I didn't so


sorry. So you're gonna open a calf? Yes, started to ask about leases and then started a journey to becoming a surveyor eventually. I don't think I've heard that one before.


It's a bit of a roundabout road, but it's just like, Oh, I was looking at leases in the paper. commercial leases. I don't really understand them. I need some help here. But I didn't want to work for him before that because I didn't want to work in London. My kids were little I didn't want to commute. But we brokered a deal where I would do certain hours on certain days and we made it work and the sort of carry I worked for him for quite a long time, then wanted a bit more experience of other areas so that I could get my APC. So I went to work for another company that did other things as well. And was there a couple of years and then set up on my own just before lockdown. Oh, handy.


Yes, people do that.


Quite a few of them. But how did we get the timing so out, but it worked. It was alright. It wasn't too much of a problem. I was already used to working from home and we were quite lucky being in property we were allowed to get back to work quite quickly.


And so let's talk about lease holes. Man I'm going to use the wrong words and everything now but the whole point of leasehold enfranchisement What is it because there'll be we get a lot of listeners who are just starting their surveying journey or work in totally different fields. Can you explain what you mean?


On a residential flat mostly, there are some houses that you'll have a leasehold instead of freehold when the lease starts to get a bit short, it loses value, particularly 80 years there's a thing called Marriage value, which is getting very technical. But if you want to sell your property and it's got 85 years now, the purchasers will want to extend it or you should be doing it anyway. Even if you're not selling and I value the cost for that lease extension, how much should it cost then negotiate with the other side. I do work for free home designs essays. So I come at it from both angles. And the same with the enfranchisement is the whole thing but we think more of enfranchisement is buying freehold so getting together with your fellow lessees to buy the building between you.


So it's either buying a longer length of time buying time, I guess, on your your flats, or clubbing together to I'm just remembering actually, we did this on a flat that used to live in in London, she says she's forget 15 years ago, when you get together, you take over then the freehold. And it's quite a complex area that I guess is for people to get their head around. Because when you buy a house, you just buy the house, the freehold, the legal responsibility for it, and you know, you buy the boundaries and everything that's in it, when you're buying a flat or something, or at leasehold house. So there are quite a few, actually across the UK, you're almost like effectively renting the space.


Yeah, it's like a very, very long rate. Yeah, in the same way that people buy leases of commercial properties, but they tend to be like 5-10 years. Whereas this is just a very long one. But people also these days, well, ground rent is a big thing. And we have all the issues where the developers basically took advantage. And


yeah, there was there was, there was a lot of that in the press one day I was gonna I was gonna ask you ask you about that. And the leases tend to be from memory now, you know, 125 years or 999 years is the longest one, I think that you'd get. But effectively, the longer you own the property, that lease then comes down. And when it gets to the 80 to five years, that's when it starts to affect the value of the property, isn't it? And that's why people would then want to extend that lease.


Yes. And also was getting to with the ground rents, if you've got a dodgy ground rent, you can use the same mechanism to get rid of the ground rent, even if let's


talk about ground rents than what our ground rents. There are


some that gets paid to the freeholder, there's a lot of whether they deserve it or not, but it tends to keep the freeholder interested and involved in the property. But a lot of them are fairly normal 60 pounds, 100 pounds, and that's fine. It's when you get higher ones, mortgage lenders don't know what's actually


what's actually full. What do they is it just nothing and additionally, any rent or tax?


Yeah, it's a rent in the same way that you know, a commercial lease would have purchase price for the lease and a rent but it's just a quite a small rent, it's in contract law, you need to have some consideration, and that I think that's part of it, where it probably came from, because it was it's always been sort of fairly nominal, really, it's only in more recent times that developers have realized they can actually put something a bit more


hefty in. Yeah, and this is where it has started to go wrong over the past 20 years, or whatever is as developers have built new properties, they've added in these ground rents, escalating ground rents that right?


Yes, it's the they don't, they tend to start off quite fine. Because people just look at what they're going to pay now. And they go well, that sort of relates to how they escalate, how much they go up by and how quickly that's causing the problem. So rather


then paying 100 pound every year, it's 100 pound then 200 pounds and 300 pounds, it's that until it gets to a point where you're, you know, number of years and your property, the lease is going down, and you've got really expensive ground rents to pay. And on top of that, you know, you get your ground rent, your lease that you have, and then you've got service charges as well. Haven't you for flats, for maintenance and different things. So anybody you know, coming outside the industry to buy a flat, you know, just think, is this not a ripoff? So I was working, working around it. If you know, how do we negotiate it? Well, it's obviously been made very complex. But you know, you just think it's just the way it's been done. But it's a ripoff. So what's the government's done? So this all came to a head a couple of years ago, didn't it with just some really extreme ground rents? And the lenders I think then decided, actually, we're not. It's not viable. We're not going to lend on some of these and, and I think lenders have a massive impact on properties and whether they're suitable or not, because honestly, it's their money that they're, they're shelling out at the end of the day. So thinking about marketability, and can it be sold in the future, this all came to a head and then the government made some changes didn't like,


It has been a recent law that came into force at the end of last month before now into June. So you can't have any new ground rents. Keeping the old ones doesn't help anybody who's already stuck in it. Some of the developers have agreed to revise those ground rents and that's helped some people but there are others that are just stuck with it, but you can't have new ground rents, nothing new at all. Nothing Not Not anything.


If I went to buy a new flat today, I'd have to lease my service charges, but that's it. There shouldn't be any ground rent, if


it's got a brand new lease, and that goes with any lease extension. It still is anyway that's duct tape, you go the statutory route, there's no ground rent that used to be able to do it for malls where you could get a slightly lower premium and agree or ground rent, which if it's low enough, it's not a problem to anyone that you say it's these escalating ones. Yeah, I


I guess it's not a problem, which is an added complication, isn't it just something else that's quite confusing for a consumer to get their house buyers to get their flat buyers to get their head around? It is.


But for those getting lease extensions, it was one way of making it cheaper. Less, these have lots of the option. That is the law of random.


So how did it make it cheaper?


Because the freeholder would get a bit of money every year with the ground rent, therefore, they wouldn't be looking for quite so much upfront, right? I see. And it's like the pension funds have these ground rents.


So yes, from the freeholders point of view, this is an investment, isn't it? You just said, you know, the pensions funds, different institutions who are then investing, buying these and they work out their money as to, you know, the little bits of groundwork that come in, and then when they think the lease will be renewed budget for that work all of that out. But yeah, you're right. I guess that that will then change. Yeah, yes,


that's changed.


Did they? Did they not just get rid of these holds? Can I just get rid of this Hold on,


I'm looking at common holds, but that has its own issues. Lenders aren't very keen on it, because it's new, and nobody really knows it. You've got issues over who will actually look after the building, though, it's not straightforward. But it's something that the government is pushing for now. But yeah, you'll end up with them be like the condominiums in Australia or America, based on the same sort of ownership,


I just find it you can probably tell, just find it mind blowing. I guess a couple of things, how complex we make it for people. And, you know, it's okay, that going forward, things can be changed, simplified, and it needs government intervention to do that. And they only ever do that when there's a crisis or something that's, you know, that's happened. But also, you mentioned people who are actually stuck with these ground rents that are escalating, and that then affects how they sell a property because they'd need to do something about that, or extend the lease or, or whatever, you know, so just make it more marketable in terms of terms of price, and effectively that they've got I don't like the term but they've become mortgage prisoners. You know, they're stuck, can't get a new mortgage, can't sell. Do we know how many of those there are, roughly, in the UK? Imagine there's quite a light


on that. No, but I do know, I help these people that come to me, and they say, they've been offered a new deal from the freeholder because of all this. So they've got something like 250 pounds that doubles every 10 years, which soon becomes ridiculous. And then they're offered something else by the freeholder should they take it, and I could calculate the various options. And often it's worth taking it, but then immediately, statutorily extending, because what the freeholders offer isn't marketable, either. But it then makes it cheaper.


I guess it's sort of weighing the pros and cons and the deal overall, isn't it? When, when you calculate these, then yeah, it's not something I ever got involved with when I was doing resi. But when I think about valuing a property, for a mortgage, or for say, we don't know all of this information, you know, we go and inspect it for the bank, or, you know, if it's a home buyer with a valuation, and we don't always know all of this information. And back in the day, before we had right move, SCT and, you know, all the details stuff, I guess, we have now, you would literally, you know, have a bit of a phone, round estate agents print off a report from your office, you know, find a couple of flats that looks similar, and, you know, highlight them, and you know, whether they're in a range, and you'd pop them down. And obviously, that's why we got lots of claims in the last recession, but you don't always know everything that's going on. And so I'm just wondering, you know, even with the data that we might have these days, you know, that that's quite significant to know if someone's extended their lease or not, whether they've got high ground rents or not. So I guess that's sort of quite hard, then for valuers then to look at how they value property? And to get all of that information?


Yes, it can be hard to get that I have to get it for mine, because it is what I do. But obviously mortgage value as they have to make some assumptions. I know the mortgage lenders say you can assume this and that but it's down to the lender


minimum number of years on the lease and that and that kind of thing. They wouldn't


even know if the comparables they're using have got sensible ground rates or you can usually find the lease length, but you're right. It's previously without their CT and stuff like that access to the item registry online. You wouldn't but people valuers are not going to get the leverage and extract for every single comp they look at. So that's where you know, you look at it and you think actually that doesn't fit. Maybe there's something else there.


I guess. I mean, you mentioned the land registry. So I know that, you know, there's more more data and things out there now, but I guess this is where really having a good conversation with your local agents, getting to know your local patch, local surveyors, you know, hearing about local conveyances even getting to hearing about, you know, because obviously, use your particular block, that's a challenge, you know, but just being able to know all of that means that you can give a much better, more accurate valuation, but also be just more more informed. Or I guess, you know, if you don't know that six case of you know, you, you've got to put the brakes on until you do know, you know, because it can make a massive difference. And I guess that's the pressure that mortgage valuers are under, when they're asked to do the jobs and turn them around quickly, you can only do that if you make assumptions, and you've got the right comparables, and hence I guess there's an element of risk. But I guess with your work, you've got more time. It's talking to different people being able to gather the information, you know, from the different parties. So how do you actually calculate it, then? Is it like a particular formula? Are there comparable methods? You know, how does that work?


The way that the flat value uses a comparable method to get that, and that's just one part of it. But yes, we have spreadsheets for the various things we do. And then you have to apply the appropriate rates in the appropriate places. And it's knowing which rates to use. So what rates would they be, then you've got the capitalization rate on the ground rent. So you've got to choose what rate to use there. And the department might rate on the reversion, which is pretty much stuck with because of a tribunal decision. And the relativity, which is where you work out the mortgage value between the long and the short base value is a very simple, very, very simplistic way of putting it. But again, we've had some tribunal decisions that have made sense, right, you've got to use these graphs, if you don't have long leases, short lease evidence. So if you've got sales of short leases, and sales of long leases in the same block, you can create your own relativity but if you can't, you have to use a particular graph. Alright, so


there's a prescribed model, I guess you need to look at if you haven't got the information you need.


Yeah. And the government is looking at making it more and more prescribed. But the freeholders will find that quite heavily, I think,


investment, isn't it? Yes. Yeah, I will continue. My brain is mind blown. It is such a specialized valuation, I don't think I'd appreciated how specialized and complex it is. And yet as valuers we talk about leases and ground rents and things, but getting it to this level is more complex.


Like numbers. Yeah, which


I don't know what it is so you use them you know, you started to work with your dad, you got you know, lots of different experience before you then became qualified as a surveyor. So do you not need to be an RICS member to do this kind of work, then?


No, it's not a book. You don't actually need any qualifications. I chose to become chartered by finally actually did it during lockdown when I had two months of no work and lots of free CPD online. So it's like, oh, okay, let's just see if we get chartered. But you don't actually need to have qualifications, obviously, lots of experience, it's a very dangerous area to dabble in, because you really need to be on top of what's current, because it can make depending on the area you work in, it can be a lot of money, a lot of money for


that quite shocking, actually, that, you know, so with the RICS, and the Red Book, whatever we think of whatever the RICS have ever done for us, you know, there was that debate. But we do have the standards and the guidance, and the Red Book, which says what we should and shouldn't do. But importantly, it's independent. And, you know, the banks, different lending institutions, others, they all rely on it. And so there's a whole network and system relying on this, this framework and our RICS tends to that and make sure it's relevant and up to date. And yet, effectively, you're doing valuations or a version of evaluation, but not within that, under that banner, or that oh, that protection, I guess,


if there's a lot of statute case law instead, this is how it's done. And you've always got the Tribunal to fall back on if the other side is not being sensible.


So the rules rules, if you like that you follow are some prescribed models, if you haven't, haven't got the evidence and everything that you that you need, like defaults, if you like, then it's you've got really got to be up to date on all the case law then and what the understand that and the outcome. Is there a lease holds body that you're a member of


the association of lease, investment practitioners, they started 15 years ago about to celebrate their 15th anniversary. Yes, yes. I joined them quite early on. I thought they were a good idea and they were promoted, they helped the government with advice and all this. They've got valuer members, barrister members, solicitor members, you have to have a certain level of work, you can't just join up, you have to be experienced enough to join them and become a member. And they do a lot of conferences and webinars and things to keep you up to date. So there's


a central point, I guess that's letting you know. Yes, yeah. Not


straightaway, always, because these are any several times a year, but when something comes up, they do email out the members. Not so much on the cases, but more on the government side of things. And cases attempt to keep an eye on LinkedIn. Funnily enough, the barristers tend to post the latest things that they've been into the tribunals, with the more important ones because obviously, the lower level you don't go, they're not binding.


Yeah, and a lot of those chambers will produce useful guides that get sent out and unpack so you can just get the relevant bits that you need. So I guess it's quite open and open to interpretation. And like you said, it's not something that you would necessarily dabble in therefore, you need to have an element of confidence to go into doing that kind of work. So effectively, you have two parties, do they instruct you individually or as joint parties and then you work out? Or is that bridging


that originally when the ’93 Act came out? Apparently, it was supposed to be one valuer that just did an evaluation but obviously soon the larger landlords decided that that wasn't good enough, and they would do it to be more in their favour. So we ended up with one on each side. I actually buy seasonal freeholders so depending on who instructs me, I obviously have to check for conflicts of interest, but I will act if certain precautions are not acceptable. But yeah, they instruct me to do the evaluation. And then you negotiate with the other side.


And so it's sort of you know, you're correct your your report your advice in a negotiation, what is that like a meeting or a zoom call or an email back into and a bit of jiggery pokery


on the other side? I, because I'm paperless, I like to use the emails, even if I pick up the phone, I tend to back it up with an email sent. I've got the file. Yeah. You know, when you can have quite a long string of emails depending on how complicated or how hard someone who's fighting.


And so if they agree, that's fine, if they don't agree is that when it can then escalate to court or


tribunal? Can the size take it to tribunal? Normally, at


any any point. I'm just imagining these things can go on for years, could they


No, there are deadlines, you've got to make application within six months of the date of the counter notice, if not, it's what they call a deemed withdrawal and the less he loses, the process is dropped, they have to pay all the fees, and then they've got to wait a year before they can serve another notice. So solicitors needs to be well on top of it as well to make sure the deadlines


were lost while on top of it plenty of time not leaving into the last to the last minute. Do you hear of many sort of claims against valuers of surveyors like you in the


not the valuers? Now you do get some against the solicitors for missing deadlines. Not giving the right advice, but I don't know of any failure that's ever been sued.


How do you find it? Again, I'm just thinking about residential valuers here and we all worry about PII and getting PII insurance to do this kind of work. Is it the same kind of risk then or not?


Moreover my PII covers me to do normal valuations not lending. I don't do lending. I think that would probably send my pie through the roof. It did go up quite a bit this year. But it's not bad. It's not too bad. But yeah, I think that's mostly because I don't do the lending.


And so you mentioned then, you know, negotiating with the other party and it sounds like you've been on a journey. But you said that you started as a mortgage advisor so I guess it was a lot of customer facing work because of the services effectively. So how did you find, you know, going to that level and negotiating with other experts? Oh, yes, scary journey and it takes evidence.


When I was a mortgage advisor, my dad gave me a load of leaflets about leasehold reform. And I read them and I thought, no idea what this means. I just didn't understand it. And so I understand that if you don't do this work, nobody really understands it. When I started working with him, I didn't know what I was doing. So I showed him everything from inspecting. I'd write his reports. I do the filing, it would take me ages to do the filing because I would read everything as he did his negotiations because it was all pen and paper then and it was like oh, I have because I've just read and read and read. And then I would start to do my own inspections and then gradually start to do my own reports. And then he said right now it's time to start negotiating. And I was like, okay, and they phone up and up. Get in the office and I tell him, I'm not here. I'm not here. Don't do it. I can't do it by phone or contact by phone, they're going to have to write to me so that I could then spend the time looking at what they'd written and give a measured response. Now I'll pick up the phone and I'm like, Yes, stop talking rubbish. We both know that stupid. Come on, be sensible here. Let's get this sorted. And it's just a journey when this is 16 years later, and it's just experience and yeah.


You saying that reminded me about a couple of things, really, just the how much, you know, I did a lot of admin work before I then became, you know, started to hit with survey, we started that journey, and all of the skills that you learn, just being in an office talking to people, phones, all of that stuff, it really does stand you in good stead. Because the kinds of things you don't really learn as a surveyor If you go straight from school to uni, to working in an office, you know, you're concentrating on the surveying side, but not necessarily how a business works or how to interact with, with clients. So anything that anybody does, you know, in those formative years really does make a difference. But you just reminded me of, you know, actually how nervous we can be talking on the phone. And I remember when I used to work in a lot of, many, many jobs Allison, I used to work in a car parts mailorder car parks company called demon tweeks up in north Wales, I knew absolutely bugger all about cars. But I was quite confident on the phone and could do admin. And I remember, somebody phoning up and just being really horrible, really horrible on the phone and just having this sort of panic. You know, how do I negotiate with them? How did I sort this out with them? And I remember faking that I couldn't hear them on the phone. I sort of sorry, I couldn't hear you, I can't hear you and did like, hung up. And I felt so, so bad. But at that point, I hadn't really been given any training on how to use the phone, or how to deal with difficult customers. And I don't think surveyors have a lot of that, actually, you know, we might have on paper, you know, the tactics of how to negotiate, but actually talking to someone or even being in the room with someone totally different, isn't it?


Remember watching, listening to my dad, do it on the phone, you pick up? You? Do you pick up so much more? Being in the office space? Let's get the change moving forward. People are working from home.


Yeah, not gonna pick up.


I guess this is where, you know, we have a generation of a bit of a skills gap, if you like and on how they interact with clients, you know, I mean, you know, things change and technology can certainly help us but yeah, it's that confidence, isn't it, have been able to know your stuff, handle what's in front of you and manage it, or at least buy yourself time to live and breathe? And when it's ready that I've got that flashback? Remember it? Was that fear of


talking to someone on the phone? Yes. I think I've done something similar in the past. Yeah. I can't I can't think quickly enough at the moment. Just get myself out of this and come back to it later.


Sorry. It's a bad line. Bad line. Yeah. And then I had, you know, it wasn't didn't help because I then had to speak to them later anyway, you know, and they were like, my line was fine. Sorry. The problem doesn't go away when you cut someone off. Tell me about you know, I mean, it sounds like it was really nice working with your dad. He was obviously very knowledgeable. How did you find that? And I know, there's a lot of surveyors out there actually, who work with their parents or whatever, family businesses?


Yes, yeah, he was very good, but still, he's still working a bit. It's but he's a very good teacher, although he now phones me and says, I've got this case, because I'm just more on top of it. And he's only working part time. But yeah, he was very good and patient with me, I made a big cock up with some comparables on a case that he had to take to tribunal and he really did get berated in the tribunal made a fool of himself, but to my things I mean, so yeah, he had to take an element of responsibility and as much as he didn't check he assumes that I've got it right but he didn't seem to have a go at me at all. He was really kind about it because it was sort of fairly early for me. But no, he was just great he taught me so much permit the confidence to be able to go out on my own and deal with it or deal with people and not to take their rubbish at some of that's going to be age you know don't don't take rubbish from anyone


you get to a point in your life where you're just like putting up with that.


This drama just goes and give it somewhere else. You know, I'm not interested in


I'm always interested in failure, problems and claims and things like that. And a lot of surveyors really worry about things going wrong that must have been quiet about how your dad was handling it. You know, when you made this mistake on comps. I think having that mistake early on in your career can really shape your attitude to the way that you work and some People are very, okay, this is what I need to do to get it right, in a positive way, whereas others can be absolutely terrified. And you know, instead of getting three comparables, they get 26. And you know, they overthink it and worry, and I guess with a lot of surveyors, and that's where, you know, particularly the residential side, we talked about caveats in reports, you know, to get you out of a hole, just in case and you bung everything in to the point where actually it's not usable document for your client. How did you recover from that, so that was quite a tough thing to deal with.


Yeah, he just was, he was very good. And he showed me what I've done wrong. And I've just checked quite thoroughly, I am very thorough. I've worked in a few places now with a few different people. And some, some of them are definitely not as thorough as they should be. But I've often said, If I don't do this, I'll probably be a private investigator, because I go into quite a lot of detail. It doesn't look into the report, but I have to be really confident that what's there is right.


I think I think you're right, I think you're right there, there's that balance of being anxious of getting it wrong, but then trusting your gut instinct, to know, I have got the evidence I have enough information to make a decision, whether that's, you know, a valuation figure or ticking the box or to, you know, recommend a report, you know, whatever, it's, it's only have I got enough information? Do I feel confident enough to do that? Or is there something else that's worrying me in the background that sort of makes me hesitate. And often, that's nothing to do with your work could be because you're tired, it could because you're in a busy environment, you're not getting the support that you need, it sort of spirals sometimes into not trusting your your gut instinct, but it sounds like you've had quite a lot of support from your, your dad can ask you about how you train then. So he was sort of very, I guess, sort of self taught. Or at the top, you know, what he learned? Because it doesn't sound on it. Like there's a lot of structure to learning. There is becoming a specialist in this area. Where do people learn? How do they learn?


About me, I think everybody knows learn on the job by working with somebody alongside someone I get asked quite a lot of them sort of, you know, where do you Where can you go learn more about this, then apart from Alan, who do give webinars and talks and stuff, but they're, they're just giving out the information, there isn't anywhere that I know of, I'm actually going to start the training course myself, I've got quite a few people interested, we're looking at setting something up, so that we can give ongoing support. So it's not just gonna be, you know, here's the information, get on with it, because you need a lot more hand holding, because you haven't got someone in the office with you. I've got one chap on training at the moment, we've been out together a few times, and I work through the stuff with him and training him up. So looking at St doing these training courses. Early days, yeah, I've got anything on paper. I need to get that sort of deed. But clearly,


there's an opportunity there isn't now I guess, for teaching people learning how to do it. And I guess for a lot of surveyors, having a variety of work with their practices gives them a lot of resilience. You know, if the market dips or something happens, you know, it's having that nice balance of work you mentioned going out. So do you go and inspect the properties as I just assumed that you did on paper, but you go out and inspect.


The longer leases, the flat value doesn't matter so much it doesn't have such an effect. And so if it's got quite a longer lease than I can do a desktop, there are loads at the moment all the rights buyers from the 80s and 90s are coming up to levels that need looking at my doing lots of those on desktop remote valuations. As long as I've got a floor plan with measurements from Rightmove and Google Maps and that's sufficient, but the shorter the lease, or the higher value, I definitely need to go and see it and get the value right. The other isn't desktops, okay? A lot of the time because conditions are not relevant. So it doesn't matter where it's like on the inside, it could be a shell, or it could be a palatial palace, and it really doesn't matter, right?


Like that's for residential value, and that's quite triggering.


How do you, you know, so


you, you talked about your career and then sort of setting up by yourself? What motivated you to do that and have that confidence to say, Yeah, I'm gonna run. Allison Stone Surveyors. .


Yes, yes. And on that note, you might want to look at the initial switch. Once I've already registered with the company. You pointed out. You want to call yourself stone surveyors. People will remember me


and that friend of mine had the job title of a senior technical director. Oh, yeah. And I know in the past, different departments that I've worked in there, you know, the technical Department says it's a fine department that limits your professional services. But yeah, Marion Ellis professional services that sound like a Marine is a surveyor is all I want written.


I've been doing it for quite a long time. And I was hanging out during the commute. I wanted to be able to work for who I wanted to work for when I wanted to work with dogs, I wanted to be able to go. Do you know what? I'll take the dogs for a walk, and I'll come back later and work tonight or something. And because I've been doing it so long, I had a lot of contacts, I've moved from my father's company to another company. And a lot of them came with me, even the ones that I hadn't thought particularly with my clients, they found me through LinkedIn. I've had the same mobile number for decades. So we'll just find the same one. And even now I get ones that I haven't worked for for eight years, try me up with a job. So I've got quite a good number of connections


in the network. You said, you know about who you want to work with? And I think at the start, you sort of alluded to the clients that you don't want to work with. What's the deciding factor on that? Is the ethics is it just the type of property or client or


mostly it's their ethics is how they behave normally, not mutually lessees because you want to help them. My freeholder clients are ones that listen to me, they're not out to screw every penny they can, they just to get their investment realised. But some of them out there have spoken to a few over the years who've said, oh, you know, would you like we'd like to look at working together on that. No, thank you, because they won't listen to you. There's one in particular that they just say, No, I want this figure. That's not realistic. No, I want that figure, and they won't even let you negotiate. They just give you the figure they want. And we'll just use every trick in the book to make it as difficult as possible for the lessees to get the lease extension done.


So I think this is really important. And I think surveyors have a lot more impact than they realize, we get to choose who we work with. Now we get to choose who our clients are. And so I'm really pleased to hear that you do that in terms of, of, of ethics, because, you know, there's this, we think about property is people's lives at the end of the day. So yes, this is about, you know, a legal contract transaction that your valuation that you're doing, but it's somebody's home at the end of the day that they need to live in. And, you know, on the one hand, we can go a bit soft and very compassionate. On the other hand, it's the, you know, how nails and not negotiating versus not right, you know, it's proceeding, we've got to put people before profits. And a lot of people don't like that. But we need to, and there are ways that we can that we can do that, you know, I'm a big fan of Mary Porter and the kindness economy, you know, just to be able to get things negotiated, getting the deal done helping people along the way, it really doesn't take that much to do it, but where sometimes we're so stuck in a rut of the way that things should be done. And, you know, we don't, you know, for example, you know, we will complain about landlords, you know, and the quality of the housings that don't value don't lend for them, you know, there's a there's the due diligence that we do, but then there's also the, I guess it's a kind of, you know, corporate social responsibility, you know, we It's how our clients want to see how we're performing, what we're doing what we're interested in, but then that also means, you know, the knock on effect of any business that we associate ourselves with, you know, we don't have to we don't have to work with them. When I hear a lot from surveyors, you know, that if someone will pay them to do a survey or evaluation, they will, you know, provide it's within their PII, nothing more, nope, no, don't just take anything, do the stuff that's right for you that, you know, makes a difference. You know, rather than just just take anything you can, because sometimes I think we're feeding the problem. And if we think about the quality of housing or the way that people are treated, and we just don't have to, you know, and if we ever were working with businesses that, you know, make us run around doing 26 million jobs a day, and don't treat us like human beings. We don't have to work with them. There are plenty of other nice companies, nice people out there that make you feel good about the work that you do. Sorry, it was a bit of a rant there but


so if I hadn't, if I wasn't working for myself then I didn't have the option of saying I don't want to do this. But there was one they were the lessee rather than the freeholder, but they were a landlord. And this flat I went into, had several beds in every single room, including the kitchen. It was all disgusting. That shower room had broken tiles. I've never seen anything like it. You know, they really shouldn't have been living in those conditions. But I I didn't have the option of saying, You know what, I'm not doing this, you know, and find someone else. And I wanted that option. I wouldn't be able to say to people, I don't want to do this work.


I think you're right. You know, it sort of sticks morally, doesn't it the back of your throat? You know, the situations that you're sometimes put in, because you don't want to go into that kind of environment afterwards. Yeah. But then you've got to see that you can't unsee those things. And then you think about those people. I mean, in the past, you know, I've walked out of properties. I remember when I was auditing someone, thankfully, we were together, but we kept walking out and thought, do we need to call social services? And the NSPCC, you know, and you can't unsee some things. And one of the things I come across with with surveys is not just you know, that choosing who to work with or for and why, but not calling it out when it needs to be, you know, and I think if we see things with other members or other surveyors out there, whatever membership body you're part of, if you see something that's not ethical, that's not right, you have a duty to flag it up, you know, if you don't use your silence is complicit, almost, you know, it's that whole whistleblowing piece, I guess, which is totally get is difficult. But there's humans at the end of the day, and we get to choose who we work with, you know, what we say, take action, you know, and can you sleep at night. And I think that's where a lot of people worry about being paid, being able to pay their mortgage, ourselves, roof over our head, all of those things. And we can become quite jaded, I guess, with the work that we do when it's just a production line of doing rubbish stuff for rubbish people. Of course, it's a,


you know, having a slow week or so it can be tempting to take on something that really is not


the right fit. Yeah. And I guess that's where really then thinking about and being conscious about your business plan, effectively, you know, what your business is about what it stands for, you know, we talk about company values, but actually, when you work for yourself or a small businesses, personal values, you are your business often. And when we talk about values, you know, like corporate marketing fluff, really, you know, I once worked for a firm, they had their values internally and their values externally. So why do they even be a different thing, you know, is like, can we just be ourselves and everything, but they know what you're about and what you're there to do? Means you can work more with better consciousness, I guess, but also clients want to work with you because of that. Yeah. Yeah.


Get people saying, you know, they like they're not even really often able to verbalize it. But they usually say things like, Oh, I like your I like your website and what you say there, because they don't actually know what it is they like, they just feel it's a feeling,


isn't it? It's a feeling and we don't talk about feelings in business, how we feel about working with companies, how we feel about doing this kind of work. But that's all clients are really interested in its feelings, and if they don't feel it enough to have a conversation with you, and they just want to transact and just do it this number? Well, that just dehumanizes a lot of what we do, doesn't it?


Yeah, I tend to have to have conversations, because the people don't understand what it is they even need most of the time.


And this is where I find it challenging sometimes to get my head around when surveyors go out and do a survey and don't actually speak to the client, either before or after, you know, and you just think that's just me. You just think I just, I just can't get my head around that. Tell me about you know, working for yourself, you know, what have been some of the challenges, what have you? What have you learned? I mean, it sounds like you had a base of clients and some work, you know, sort of ready, you knew how to do what you do, but how was the entrepreneurial journey?


My dad's company was quite small. So there was a lot I learned there about what to do, and I would do a lot of his marketing wasn't marketing in the traditional sense, but networking is how to do the marketing. So I just carried on with that. I like that I don't see solicitors go out for coffee. I just put myself out there and you don't have to. I've got a couple of friends who have started their own businesses doing completely different things. Once a hypnotherapist the Netherlands doing websites I'm saying you have to get out there you've got to this is a preaching to the choir here on


my channel.


You've got to put yourself out there and I have had other surveyors say to me Oh yeah, I can see that you that's what you do. You put yourself out there, you go and talk to people at the conferences. I will go up and introduce myself. So you've got to have that level of confidence which developed over the years and I just knew that I be able to go and meet people and find people and get working by just talking to people be estate agents solicitors, those sorts of people like


they refer to a lot of work. Yeah, and it's all about building relationships, you know, and turning up at these events with a goal of well how can I help them you know, if I don't get business how can I help them because actually karma


you know, To build Oh, yes, no, I do quite a lot of my time. But invariably it comes back several fold. I helped a lady out a while ago, a valuer had valued the lease extension for her but didn't negotiate because he didn't. It's not his area. Right. So why have you done the valuation? Anyway, it was a very small job, and I got it agreed for her. Luckily, the guy on the other side for somebody I knew explained what had happened. And she kept saying to me, I'll pay you and I know, this has taken me an hour. I don't want you to pay me. You should never have had to go to somebody else. It should have been dealt with with your original value. But I spoke to her solicitor, and then the solicitor referred work to me. Everyone's happy, she was really happy. So just do a Google review. That's my fallback. When I've given people advice, and the advice actually doesn't do anything. I just say, well, just do a Google review.


That's the thing, you know, people don't ask for it. You know, I asked for Google reviews. Or if I spend a bit of time with someone, I just say, you know, buy me a coffee on the website, buy me a coffee.com. You know, but it's just a token thing. It's not, you know, there's so much that we do, but we don't always ask for that. And it's an exchange of value, isn't it? You know, a bit of help versus a review, you know, doesn't have to be, you know, let's invoice you and everything just about relationships. And, and I think we people forget, we can do that we will worry about what's going to be in writing, we've got other contractor case, you get sued, you know, you sort of missed the point of we're just human, and we're just chatting, you know, we're just helping each other out. And that's okay. Sometimes it's no boundary, isn't it? No, I


don't do things like that. I do put in an email, I have not done an evaluation, but based on what you've told me. And the previous evaluation, I cannot see that being any value in doing another one. Because, yeah, that sort of thing. And whatever, just a little bit of our scoring.


And that's the thing, you know, when you're speaking to people, it's either, you know, they'll either be working or you can, they can go away happy that you've helped them. And I used to think about this, when I dealt with complaints and claims was, you know, they can be dissatisfied with the outcome of that complaint, but they can be satisfied with how you've handled it or what you did, you know, and there was still okay, you know, all this went wrong. I'm not happy about that. But you know, what they did really well. And yeah, and you get referrals, and you get comments and feedback from that as well. And that just lets you know, you're in the right direction. And honestly, it's been lovely to talk to you. I feel less nervous now about leasehold extensions and unfranchisements and all of that business. But it's good to know that the subject of speech has to learn how to spell it. But thanks ever so much, Ben, good to talk to you.


Lovely. Thank you.

About the Podcast

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The Surveyor Hub Podcast
For surveyors who love surveying

About your host

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Marion Ellis

As a chartered surveyor with a background in defect and valuation claims, Marion has first-hand experience of why we make mistakes and what we need to do to support ourselves to prevent them. A Fellow member of the RICS and qualified customer experience professional, Marion is passionate about empowering people. At Love Surveying, she provides the support, coaching and networking surveyors and property professionals need to handle career challenges confidently and navigate the right business journey for them. Founder of The Surveyor Hub podcast and community Marion also supports surveyors in business through her coaching and mentoring programmes. Marion is an Ambassador for Lionheart.