Tapas & Tantrums

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The author of this article is David Elstob, Chartered Arts and Antiques Surveyor and RICS Registered Valuer at Thomas Watson Auctioneers in Darlington, UK.


RICS qualification can be exasperating

Eight months have passed since I qualified and only now have I time to write this brief account of my APC experience. Well perhaps I’m being overly dramatic, but it was quite a ride! I realised it would be difficult and would add to my already weighty workload but I didn’t think it would be as exasperating as it was. I remember asking a friend how they managed to get a good degree when it seemed like all he did at university was party, his response “I just shat out a piece of work at the end”. Those of you who, like my friend, are good at the academic stuff, will find the APC much easier than someone like me who, although knows the job inside out, could never be described as a natural academic. Hard work is my way, hard drinking was my friend’s way. I qualified through the professional experience route as I held a Masters degree in antiques, although not RICS accredited, and had a number of years of post-graduate experience.


I work for a firm in which there are no RICS members which is a major disadvantage so I had no one to turn to for guidance but, fear not, I was presented with a list of APC doctors who I could turn to for advice. Unfortunately, of the 286 members on the list not one was in the specialism of Arts and Antiques – onwards and upwards!


What Londoners see when hearing your Geordie accent

My next stop was to attend an RICS workshop in London, which was designed to give us an overview of the APC and case study. It was very good and certainly helped me understand what was required. It was worth attending just to witness the response I got when I announced to the group, in what my wife calls a soft Geordie accent, that I had travelled from the north east. There was that audible intake of breath that suggested they thought the north-east a distant land that can only be reached via plane, train and automobile. Funnily enough, we got rid of the carrier pigeons years ago.


I would encourage anyone sitting the APC to speak to their regional training adviser. Mine was excellent and put me in touch with some great people who, although not in my specialism, provided invaluable tips and warned of potential pitfalls. I also reached out to a couple of fellow auctioneers who were RICS members when I was wavering over whether it was all worth it. They could relate to my exasperation but assured me that it was worth it. Don’t be scared to reach out to fellow professionals who, more often than not, will only be too happy to help but they will not come looking for you so make the first move.


When I enrolled, the final assessment seemed an age away and something I didn’t need to worry about, wrong. My advice would be to start early, even if it is just some planning get some things down on paper and just keep adding bits and pieces. I didn’t leave mine to the last minute but I certainly wish I had started a little earlier. I had to wait quite a while for the date of my assessment, I think it was probably because I was the only Arts and Antiques candidate. My interview was at RICS HQ at Great George Street, London, on a Monday lunchtime and, as advised, I travelled down the day before (well it does take a while by stagecoach). I am all for giving yourself plenty of time and reducing stress but what was to come was the most horrendous 24 hours. I had worked hard for weeks leading up to the interview and had done a mock presentation on the Saturday which went well so I had no reason to worry. But all I did in that time on my own on the train and in my hotel room was go over and over and over everything and whip myself into a frenzy.


Presentation Jitters

When the day came, I headed to RICS HQ and waited to be summoned. The panel were very welcoming and I felt as though my presentation went well. Next up the barrage of questions. I felt they gave me the opportunity to answer their questions fully although it did feel as though I had to dig deep to find answers rather than them being on the tip of my tongue, which I put down to going over things again and again to the point that the information became stale. I left the building convinced that I had not made the grade. All I could think of were those few questions that I didn’t answer as well as I would have liked and asked myself ‘can I go through this again’.


A friend had tipped me off about a great wine bar in which I had planned to enjoy a glass of something red and tapas before heading home, but any enthusiasm I had left me somewhere on the Victoria line. Instead I settled for a luke warm cup of Virgin Trains East Coast coffee and a questionable BLT sandwich.


Two months before sitting the final assessment I learnt that I was to become a father for the first time which was amazing news but a bit of a game changer. I knew that if I didn’t pass this time then finding time in what was already a very fine work/life balance would be difficult.


The next day I woke up feeling more positive and tried to focus on all the things which I knew I had done well and I had an auction to occupy mind which was just the tonic I needed. After I put the gavel down on the last lot of 2016 I switched my phone on and there it was:


Dear Mr Elstob


Congratulations on qualifying as a chartered surveyor

It is our great pleasure to congratulate you on passing your Assessment of Professional Competence, and to welcome you to the profession as a chartered surveyor – the world’s leading professional qualification in land, property, construction and infrastructure.

You are now entitled to use the designation MRICS, an internationally recognised and respected mark of excellence and integrity. It brings with it many benefits and provides an opportunity for you to play your part in shaping the future of our profession.


I was surprised and delighted in equal measure but there was also an underlying sense of relief. I must say I was lucky to have a very supportive boss who put no pressure on me to qualify but realised that it was something that was important to me.


Was it worth it? Well, I’ve already picked up one big valuation contract since qualifying because the client wanted to use a registered valuer and the number of instructions has increased. You will improve as surveyor as you go through the process, you might not realise it but you will.


Nothing in life worth having comes easy.


You can read David’s previous article, Arts and Antiques Surveyor – Job Profile here.

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