Friday 26th March 2021
My foray into surveying and consequently affordable housing was more by luck than judgement. Having grown up in the countryside in Sussex with an enduring love of horses and all things outdoorsy, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in country houses. Whilst studying for my degree in Anthropology from Durham University, I started to think about my future and the most prominent firms in the country house market. To this end, I naively applied to a Summer Scheme, but was disappointed to receive a rejection. When I asked for some feedback on my application, they said that strong preference was given to candidates studying for a RICS accredited degree. Eh? A swift Google search ensued, the penny dropped and I applied for a Real Estate Masters. Until this point, surveying had been somewhat of a hidden industry to me, however my eyes were quickly opened as I started to research this new-found career path.
I undertook my Master’s degree at the Royal Agricultural University, spending my final term as an intern at Jones Lang Wootton in Kuala Lumpur. During this time I got my first taste of the residential development market, being taken to see sites ranging from palm oil plantations earmarked for huge out-of-town developments, to large inner city tower blocks with roof-top swimming pools and state-of-the-art spa facilities. By this point, I had secured a place on the Savills Graduate Programme. However, I quickly forgot about my grand ideas of country homes as I was immersed in the buying, selling and valuing of residential development sites across the South East of England.
Whilst the residential development sector is where I spent the majority of my training, this is not to forget my short stint in the Commercial Valuations team. I recall that on my first day as a qualified surveyor, I accompanied a director on a portfolio inspection in Redhill. By lunchtime, we had inspected and measured a Wetherspoons pub, a Bet Fair and a KFC. Despite being treated to a Zinger meal, I decided that the residential development market was where my interest truly lay.
My curiosity in affordable housing specifically stemmed from always having to ask a member of that team to run their cashflow model on the affordable element of the development I was valuing. A number was magically handed back to me each time, however I was curious to find out how the models worked so I wouldn’t have to rely on others in future. By serendipitous luck, an internal job arose within that team, which I took without hesitation. I liked the idea of being involved in a niche market, developing specialist valuation skills and contributing to a sector that has a tangible social impact. To this day, I get immense satisfaction from RP clients telling me that affordable schemes have almost sold out, or that their bid for a development site has been successful.
Since starting out as a graduate seven years ago, I have already seen a positive shift in the industry’s visibility to school-age students and undergraduates, and indeed have returned to Durham to deliver a career talk myself. There now seems to be a heightened visibility of the industry, even within this short space of time. Coming from a family of medics, the perception of my career was initially somewhat mixed and often met with bemusement. Until a few years ago, I was often asked how many properties I had sold within any given week (“I’m not an estate agent Mum”), with my grandmother also asking when I was going to find a more ‘lady-like’ career. She had not appreciated a selfie I sent to her wearing full PPE whilst on a building site!
Despite some misconceptions, by and large I find that people are very curious to hear about how the affordable housing sector ‘works’, from landowners asking me how different tenures are valued, to friends enquiring about the fundamentals of purchasing a shared ownership property. As for assumptions that the sector may be somewhat less alluring than the private market, during my first week at JLL, I found myself teetering on the 75th floor roof terrace of Europe’s tallest residential building – Landmark Pinnacle.
From a personal viewpoint, I take pride in the knowledge that our work at JLL is contributing to easing the housing crisis and potentially putting a roof over those who may otherwise be priced out of the market. I would also add that the sector comprises a relatively tight-knit and extremely supportive community, and one in which I have found a high proportion of senior-level females, who have also been great mentors. Indeed, both my previous and current managers have high profiles within the industry, having been advising clients for 20+ years each. I can only hope that their success and longevity rubs off on me!
Get in touch
Victoria Eden, Associate – Affordable Housing
T +44 (0)207 3187826
M +44 (0)7933 388346