A number of people have asked me to write a note about how the Local Surveyors Direct website came about and how it has progressed on to be what it is now. I hope the following will give a good overview.
The internet as we know it started to get going in the early 1990s. Those of us who are older than a certain age can well remember what life was like pre the internet and those of us of an even older vintage can also remember what life was like before we even had computers. Back in those days everything worked ok but it all worked a little more slowly.
When it came to computers I must admit that initially I was a very slow learner. However by the early 1990s when the internet got going I could see that this was clearly going to bring about major changes in the way business was conducted. I realized that I was going to have to make the effort to learn more about it. The easiest way was to just plough in and make a website. My first website was however nothing to do with surveying. A great interest of mine was family history so I thought why not build a family history website. I had a lot of information on my various obscure ancestors so I started putting it on line and in effect sharing it with anyone else out in the world who had a common interest. The result was www.jjhc.info which is still going and still gives me a lot of satisfaction. The number of visitors to this website is of course very small but it generates an enquiry of some sort once a week and has given me a lot of pleasure.
My vocational background was in the Electronics industry where I held various roles in a number of companies mainly in a Sales & Marketing capacity. In about 2001 I started working for myself as a Sales & Marketing consultant carrying out a variety of specialized projects for various electronics companies. Around this time a friend of mine who I had known for quite a few years asked if I could help him out with his surveying company. He had been placing adverts in the Yellow Pages covering most of the country and customers were asked to phone a central telephone number where they could discuss their requirement and then place an order. The company was in effect a middle man providing a comprehensive managed service of matching customers up with suppliers and then managing the project through to completion. This had worked well for quite a few years but things were about to change.
The Eureka moment came in 2004 when I was speaking to a customer on the phone. He wanted to find a Surveyor and he had spent the previous hour going through the Yellow Pages and phoning up various surveyors but without success. In the end he phoned my friend’s Surveying company and he said something along the following lines: “Nice company, nice website and it is great being able to speak to someone on the phone but its not what I want. I don’t want to deal with a middle man who then appoints a Surveyor who probably then travels a great distance to survey a house in an area that he is not overly familiar with. I want a website where I just put in my property details and then get half a dozen estimates from Surveyors who cover the area and who are hopefully relatively local, familiar with the area, quick to deal with and reasonably priced. I don’t want the process slowed down by an expensive middle man.” Of course he was right and I agreed with him completely but at that time there was no such website. It was later in the day that I realized that this was an opportunity just waiting for someone to address it. The more I thought about it the more blindingly obvious it was that this was going to be the way forward. We needed to produce a website along these lines and we needed to get it up and running as quickly as possible. From here it was a case of putting together a business plan covering what, where, when, how, why, who, etc.
The resulting website went live in March 2005. Initially it was a very simple homebuilt website just providing sets of estimates for Building Surveys. This was the easy part but the website would not be of any use to anyone unless it was populated with a wide network of Surveyors able to provide local coverage. From here on it was a long slow slog contacting Surveyors and asking if they would like to be listed on our website, initially on a no obligation basis but later on moving to a paying basis. Most Surveyors had already been contacted frequently from so called internet companies offering them everything for the future as long as they parted with their money now. In many cases the unfortunate Surveyor had handed the money over only to find that the money was never to be seen again. Local Surveyors Direct was going to be different but it was not easy to convince everyone. Luckily over time Surveyors joined, learned how it worked, won orders and thankfully further down the line were happy to pay for a proven service from us.
Over time the website has grown by the addition of new services. At first we concentrated on the range of services typically provided by Chartered Building Surveyors and so we added Homebuyer Surveys, Valuations, Schedules of Condition, Boundary Disputes, Party Wall Awards, Rent Reviews and Lease Renewals. Some of the Surveyors asked if we could also add Architectural Design as quite a few of them were often involved in small building projects, in particular house extensions. This proved to be quite popular but some customers with larger projects really required the services of a more experienced Chartered Architect. Over time Architects started joining and we also added Planning Permission Applications, Historic Buildings and Building Regulations.
Customers with subsidence or cracking problems often approached Building Surveyors for advice but for the more serious cases a Chartered Structural Engineer was often needed and so Structural Inspections was added as a new service.
Electrical wiring is often an issue in older houses, the main question being “Is it safe?”. Electrical Inspections and Reports were added to the website as a new service and also a more general service Find an Electrician.
The infamous HIP (Home Information Pack) came and went, leaving the EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) which fulfils a European requirement.
New services presently being added include a price comparison of the fees that Estate Agents charge. This is a very new service and will help home sellers get a good feel for the costs of selling a property. A service for Conveyancing is also now being added to complete the picture.
In six years we have made a lot of progress with this project which has been very satisfying for everyone involved. We hope to continue to add more services as we proceed into the future and of course add more and more suppliers making the service even more local.
I hope the above gives a good overview.
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