Property: How to take off as a chartered surveyor

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The Independent Online
If chartered surveyors feel they need a more glamorous image, then Richard Allen is a Public Relations dream with a licence to fly. For the past four years the chartered surveyor and fellow of the RICS has been building his own plane. Now D-Day has arrived and it is about to start its trials. If all goes well, he will be zipping over the Channel for a quick survey of a French property in his single-engine plane with RICS emblazoned on the side, and back in time for tea.

"I started on it during the property recession and it has taken about 4,000 construction hours. As surveying work started to come back I got used to dealing with clients on the phone while up to the armpits in epoxy resin." He enthuses about the low-wing tail-dragger with its full-colour moving maps and cockpit panel of his own design. "The beauty of it is I can keep it in a garage, fill it up and take off anywhere. A local farmer near Epsom is going to let me use his field. I will have a range of about 600 nautical miles - almost the south of France. It is about time surveyors ventured across the Channel. We've been far too insular." Once he has cleared French customs there is no field too far. "Only trouble is the plane is a little tricky to land, but I'm going to be trained by a Red Arrows pilot."

Allen made the plane with the help of his son and friends and support from over the garden fence. "Its tail poked out the end of the workshop, so it caused some comment." But not as much as it's about to do, if the flying property doc. gets off the ground.

It has been proving a Herculean task for estate agents to persuade people to put their homes on the market at the same time as they start house- hunting. One manager of a Black Horse agency even drew up an informal list of potential sellers recently so that everyone could see what there would be for sale if only they were all brave enough to take the plunge. But it seems from their latest Home Report as though sellers are gradually becoming more confident of finding something to buy and are increasingly prepared to see their own places marketed immediately. This is also the finding of the National Association of Estate Agents, whose president, Andrew Jeffery, sees the Catch 22 situation resolving itself as more property comes on to the market.

According to Black Horse Agencies, the time it is taking for sales to be completed has speeded up to an average of 11 weeks, the fastest they have seen since the reports began in 1995. One home in 10 sells in a week or less and nearly half in six weeks or less. On average, homes are achieving 95 per cent of the asking price, a figure which has levelled out over the past year. The hot-spots are led by Alton in Hampshire - it has been at the top for the past three surveys - with an average selling time of two weeks, followed by Gorleston, Great Yarmouth and Jesmond, Newcastle - newcomers to the hot list - with three weeks.