Matthew Cumber is managing director of Countrywide Surveying Services

Maintaining a successful balance between service, energy efficiency and innovation is a tough ask in any given field and especially so within an area as hectic and dynamic as the mortgage market.

There is a constant pressure to push boundaries. Now this is a pressure we also place on ourselves as a business but as important is not to take our eye off the ball and undervalue the importance of continuing to do our day job.

And by this I mean turning around mortgage valuations within service level agreements (SLAs) and delivering the highest level of service standards. A consistent delivery of these service standards is arguably the least sexy side of this balancing act.

So, for the purpose of this article, let’s focus on how we, as of the largest surveyors in the UK, are in the fortunate position to be able to develop innovative new products to meet the ever-evolving needs of our lender partners and customers.

This developmental process far outdates the COVID-ravaged past 18 months but it’s fair to say that this challenging period has certainly accelerated some plans and really affirmed the positive implementation of others. All businesses have had to adapt during this time and this is no different across the mortgage market.

The result being a rise in the prominence of, and reliance on, a range of online tools, systems and solutions. As such, we’ve seen huge strides made when it comes to a more responsive uptake in AVMs and desktop valuations.

Although the challenges of collating and correctly interpreting all the relevant information while assessing properties remotely have been all too evident.

The need for remote valuations has been growing over the past few years, even before the lockdowns were in place. Remote valuations allow improvements in service and application to offer times but it’s important that speed of service does not increase risk or reduce accuracy.

The aim of collating as much property-related information remotely as possible and enabling customers to make more informed decisions is vital in moving forward. As such there is a constant appetite to explore how to deliver a faster, more accurate and low risk remote valuation model.

In October 2021, we completed the roll out of PropertyFact. The biggest impact has been for our people. Remote valuations were challenging, often involving a lot of online research, visiting numerous websites to pull all the relevant information together, only to spend this time and find the last piece of information would result in the need to upgrade the service to a physical valuation.

By automatically screening the instruction, bringing all the data together the valuer can very quickly assess suitability. The interpretation and sharing of this valuable information means we are now working even closer with our lending partners and this joined-up approach helps combat risk, improve efficiency and propels the surveying and valuation sector into the modern age.

As an industry, there is also a pressing need to support people in making their homes more energy efficient. This simple statement was behind the implementation of EnergyFact back in March.

Essentially, this is an online report designed to help homeowners assess and identify potential improvements to enhance energy efficiency. It alerts consumers to the possible impact that climate change could have on their home by providing facts, figures, lifestyle options and home improvements rated by the cost and ease with which they can be achieved.

In addition, we’ve also implemented widespread enhancements to IONA – our business to business communication and query management system – to complete an innovation hat-trick in 2021, of which we are incredibly proud.

The speed of change across the housing and mortgage markets is relentless. Meaning that leading players in their sector need to embrace technology to keep pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo throughout the industry. And that certainly remains our aim for 2022.