Surveying's new faces
Paul McNeive - The Right Moves
AS a woman, Krystyna Rawicz is a rarity in the male dominated world of building surveying. The fast-moving changes in her business are a good indicator of trends in the property industry and the wider economy.
Having previously worked for large firms, Krystyna established her own business, Krystyna Rawicz & Associates, and employee numbers peaked in 2006 at 14. Much of the work then was new design and structural surveys. Those instructions came to a halt when the market collapsed and the firm found itself with just one employee by 2011.
However, the changed market is seeing new types of work emerging and Krystyna Rawicz & Associates is now back to six employees and growing.
With insolvency dominating the market, following a tragic drowning in a flooded basement many receivers now commission a health, safety and insurance compliance audit to identify risks associated with each property.
Krystyna handles at least two of these audits per week and reports on risks attached to flooding, waste materials, drug use on site, fire hazards etc and specifies remedial works required.
Banks and receivers of repossessed properties are anxious to know as much as possible about each building and a common job now is reporting on problems such as breaches of fire safety certification, planning and building control, advising on works required to rectify problems and monitoring that work for the client.
Due to pressure on finance for both landlords and tenants the issue of dilapidations has become a huge growth area.
Because lots of "break clauses" in leases are being exercised by tenants, this leads to disputes over whether or not the condition of the building meets with the tenants' repairing obligations. Most leases state that in order to exercise a "break" the tenant must be complying with all lease terms (including repairs.)
Landlords often try to deny the "break clause" by claiming the tenant has not maintained the building properly, so the stakes are high.
With tenants holding most of the cards in negotiations they are often securing a dilution of the standard repairing clauses in leases and most tenants will now instruct a surveyor to document the condition of the building at the start of the lease.
A new feature in the market is the "Pre-Disposal Survey", which is where the building surveyor prepares a report on the condition of a property that is about to be offered for sale.
The survey report is made available to all parties on a private website. The vendor pays the surveyors fee but the report is "assignable" to any purchaser and the surveyor is liable to the purchaser as well as the vendor. Receivers are increasingly commissioning this type of report.
With the investment market booming all sensible purchasers are securing "condition surveys" and Krystyna Rawicz & Associates are handling at least a dozen of these a month for purchasers of large commercial premises.
The increasing automation of banks is providing constant work and this entails acting as project manager for the installation of "self-service walls" into branches.
This work includes redesigning the branch layout, costing the same through a quantity surveyor, managing the supply chain for the new equipment and supervising the conversion of the branch over a weekend as the bank must reopen for business on Monday morning.
With tourism performing well, a favourite project of Krystyna's is ongoing improvement work at The Jameson Distillery, to provide for ever-increasing numbers of visitors and to improve the visitors' experience. Information on the diverse career of a chartered building surveyor is available from The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland.
WEST TO EAST
IT was a great pleasure to visit Sligo last Friday to speak at the Insurance Institute of Sligo annual dinner. The Institute President Neil Carew told me that insurance premiums for commercial premises in Ireland have increased by about 10pc this year, but there are larger increases for hotels, pubs and restaurants, due to the frequency of claims.
In a busy day today I will be acting as MC for chartered accountants Smith and Williamson as they present their annual Law Firms survey to a gathering of lawyers over breakfast in the Merrion Hotel, Dublin. This afternoon it will be a pleasure to speak to final year Property and Construction Economics students at DIT. Bolton Street. I will be telling them that "enthusiasm" is the most important when they move into jobs in a property industry that is crying out for graduates.