Jessica Van Rensburg embarked on her residential surveying career in September 2013, when she joined e.surv’s Graduate Programme. This followed the completion of a Building Surveying degree at Birmingham City University earlier that year.
Since then, her career has gone from strength to strength. She achieved her AssocRICS qualification shortly after joining e.surv and her MRICS in May 2019, after completing e.surv’s APC programme.
Jess has recently become one of the faces of e.surv, so we spent some time chatting to her about what inspired her to become a residential surveyor, her experience of both e.surv’s Graduate and APC Programmes, her views on women in surveying, and more.
Why did you want to be a residential surveyor?
“I’ve always had an interest in residential property – far more than commercial or any other area I’d covered at university.
“When you work in residential property, every day is different. I particularly loved the idea of being able to see different property types every day. In the area I work in, I see everything from 1600s black and white thatched houses to properties built using modern methods of construction.
“I also liked the idea of delivering a personal service to people, and there’s a great mix of being out in the field and home-based work.
“There isn’t time to get bored. Houses and construction types are always changing, as are building regulations, so it keeps things fresh and interesting. You’re constantly learning.”
Why did you choose e.surv’s Graduate Programme?
“It seemed to be the most comprehensive programme available and comes with a lot of support. I was also interested in the mentoring available. I loved the idea of being able to learn and apply my knowledge at the same time.”
Tell us about your experience of e.surv’s Graduate Programme.
“I shadowed three qualified surveyors in my local area – accompanying them on their inspections, watching them complete their reports and constantly talking about what they were doing and why.
“e.surv has a really great support network.
“This work with my Mentors was absolutely invaluable and allowed me to gain experience across a large area and I saw a vast number of property types. There’s nothing better than being on-site and seeing things for yourself!
“However, it wasn’t all on-the-job training. This was balanced with information, seminars, workshops, and study days where we could focus on specific elements. This also provided an opportunity to get together with the other graduates on the programme to chat about the properties we’d seen and what we’d learnt.
“This diverse learning made the programme enjoyable and I felt supported throughout the process by my Mentors, colleagues, Area Manager, and the Learning and Development Team.
“It was hard work but really worthwhile. It inspired me to join the APC programme too!”
So, when you qualified as AssocRICS, how did it feel to go out on your own for the first time?
“The fact that I had been shadowing my Mentors for so long served me well. I had inspected so many properties with them, I felt I had a thorough understanding by this point.
“Obviously, it felt a little strange to be on my own, but I had the confidence I needed, and I knew that my Mentors and Manager were at the end of the phone if I needed them.”
How did e.surv’s APC Programme differ from the Graduate Programme?
“Again, the support during the APC programme was amazing. Similar to the Graduate Programme, we had Counsellors and Mentors to help us throughout the process. Plus, the Learning and Development Team was good at making sure we got extra help where needed.
“The APC was a little more intense than the AssocRICS programme because I was working full-time as well as studying, and I was pregnant too. I don’t do things by halves!
“However, I think this makes me extra proud of achieving my MRICS. I’ve worked really hard for it!”
Residential surveying is still very male-dominated. Were you put off by this?
“Definitely not. When I was doing my Building Surveying degree, there were only 4 women on the course!
“I knew that the surveying industry was very male-dominated, but I do think that this is slowly changing. Having said that, it’s amusing sometimes when I go to an appointment and the customer exclaims: “Oh, I thought you were going to be a man!” – which proves that there is still some work to do to change perception.
“Mostly, though, people are pleasantly surprised and want to chat about how I got into surveying. So, I guess, I’m doing my bit to promote residential surveying as a career for all!”
What qualities do you think are most important for a residential surveyor?
“You must be personable and customer-focused. You meet different people every day and, when you knock on that door, you are the face of the company. So, you have to be friendly and upbeat, and a smile definitely goes a long way!
“With this in mind, you have to be respectful of people’s homes and you have to put people at ease by explaining what you’re there to do. Not everybody feels comfortable letting a stranger into their home.
“Also, I’d say you have to be disciplined and confident in your abilities because you spend a lot of the day working on your own.
“Finally, an inherent interest in property is obviously vital and you have to enjoy variety and learning new things. The phrase “every day is a school day” is very true – no two houses or home-owners are the same!”
You’ve had a busy few years. Next stop, FRICS?
“Possibly, we’ll see!”