AFTER many years of carrying out expert witness valuations for international courts, I’ve applied to be appointed to the President of RICS’s panel of Expert Witnesses.
The training involves a new section, entitled ‘Professional Ethics for RICS Members’. It was a thought provoking course.
“Professional ethics, that should be a doddle as I’ve been dealing with such decisions all my working life,” I thought to myself.
However, after the online training, in my first question-and-answer test, I didn’t achieve the required 75% pass rate!
So, I went through the questions again and studied the ideal answers, which were all to do with conflicts of interest and respect for RICS and the client above myself and my firm.
I read through the course again and sat a different test, being delighted with the pass now that I knew the type of answers expected.
I don’t necessarily agree that these answers are practical for real life, but it’s certainly made me think.
When somebody comes to Spain wanting to buy a property for the first time, or in an area where they haven’t built a social support system, how do they select the professionals they need to work with?
The sensible person chooses a reliable and knowledgeable estate agent local to the area in which they wish to purchase.
A lawyer too, who can speak your language, is independent of the estate agent, property owner and bank and has the professional conscience to find answers to questions that you do not know to ask.
While the lawyer will ensure that the paperwork is correct, an independent building surveyor is essential to ensure, through measurements and description, that the property matches that paperwork and also point out any significant defects in the building structure and condition.
Their fee can be saved many times over by presenting their report to the seller for a reduction in the price equivalent to the cost of making the property good, both physically and in the permissions required for any alterations that have not been licensed or registered.
We’ve ‘saved the life’ of a number of solicitors who would have approved the property for their client if we hadn’t pointed out that the paperwork was not accurately describing the property that we inspected.
But how does one find these paragons of virtue?
Referrals from a trusted person are the best and sometimes, yes, the selling agent may know an independent lawyer who knows that his/her duty of care is 100% to their client.
But most times, it’s safer to appoint a lawyer not involved with the seller or the selling agent. Probably someone from a different town, but practising within the same province or certainly autonomous community so they are familiar with the local laws, which can differ throughout Spain.
A RICS surveyor knows what ethics are and that they have a very consumer orientated, international organisation regulating them and Professional Indemnity Insurance.
You should always check that all the professionals have PII as that indicates that they have their client’s interest at heart.
The biggest problems that buyers will encounter will be their own arrogance with regard to the laws and regulations of Spain and overconfidence that they ‘know it all’.
Take advice as there are always questions that need answers.