Key Roles of Professionals in the Housing Delivery Value Chain-The Estate Surveyors & Valuers Perspective

A paper delivered at the NIESV National Housing Summit, October 6th, 2016

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WHO IS A PROFESSIONAL? – The Oxford dictionary describes a professional as “a person who does a job that needs a special training and a high level of education” There is emphasis on two key aspects in this definition. One is the requirement of “special training” and the other is the requirement of “high level of education” hence it is possible that your job requires a special training, like that of artisans, but does not require a high level of education. You will not be qualified to be called a professional. You may also have a high level of education but do not have special training. You may also not be qualified to be called a professional. Examples are friends who graduated from higher institutions like we did but read single subjects. They cannot be called professionals until they proceed further to specialise in some kind of profession.

Who are the professionals in the housing industry? The following can easily be named.

  1. Estate Surveyors & Valuers
  2. Architects
  3. Engineers ( Civil, structural, mechanical)
  4. Quantity Surveyors
  5. Builders
  6. Land Surveyors
  7. Town planners.
  8. Lawyers


Estate surveyors & Valuers: – The estate surveyor & valuer is the beginning and end of the housing delivery chain! His work begins with the search for suitable land for building the houses. He may also be called to carry out the valuation of the land and for guide on the appropriate price to pay when the developer has identified the land. If it is for investment he is called to carry out feasibility/ viability study of the developments. Failure to do this has led many housing projects to be abandoned or be completed at a great loss.

The estate surveyor and valuer should be the project manager when a building project commences. In the past, this used to be the exclusive area of the estate surveyor & valuer and this is how it should be. But nowadays, many developers appoint the architect or the engineer as project manager, forgetting these are not neutral parties to the project.

Perhaps this trend occurs because the first point of call of many people when they want to build a house is the architect. However, the architect is always part of the construction team. He is to take the builders through the drawings and provide detailed drawings as and when necessary. He can therefore not be the arbiter in case of delay caused on site by his own lapse. Therefore a neutral person who is not involved in the works directly, but understand construction work should be the project manager, and that person is the Estate Surveyors and valuer! All the other professionals like the engineer and Quantity Surveyor are equally involved directly in the site works.

While work is in progress, it is the duty of the Estate Surveyor & valuer to advertise and sell the properties if they are for sale. He is also responsible for allocation to those who make payments. If they are not for sale; the management of the property is still the responsibility of the Estate Surveyor & Valuer who will have to carry out all the routine management functions of:

  • Selection of suitable tenants.
  • Collection of rent as and when due.
  • Re -letting and renewal of leases.
  • Attending to tenant’s complaints.
  • Ensuring that both the landlord and the tenants carry out all their necessary maintenance obligations.
  • Ensuring that all bills are paid as and when due.
  • Carry out periodic inspection to make sure that the property is always in good and tenantable condition.
  • Ensuring that facilities and equipment like lifts, generators, borehole e.t.c are serviced regularly and well maintained.
  • Advise on improvements and modernization as required.
  • Advise on redevelopment or disposal.

There is much that the estate surveyor and valuer offers to the industry but let us go to the roles of the other professionals.

The Land surveyor; – The land surveyor is involved in carrying out cadastral surveys in order to determine the physical characteristics of land such as size, relief, location, etc. His role in the housing delivery chain starts after the estate surveyor has identified the suitable land. He is called in to determine the size of a plot, which will form the basis for determining the value / price to be paid for the land. He is also involved in the subdivision of large tract of land into plots. He will also determine the topography of the land to enable the engineers know the right type of foundation and the amount of filling or cutting that will be necessary, if any. The land surveyor is the one that prepares the survey plan, which will be used to prepare the title for the properties. You can see from the above that unlike the Estate Surveyor & Valuer whose functions lasts throughout the entire life of a property, the Land Surveyor’s roles are mainly at the beginning of the cycle. This however does not suggest that he is less important. Far from it, in fact without him, we cannot do much as the size of the land is necessary to prepare the layout and drawings.

The Architect:- The architect is perhaps the most famous when people talk of housing! This is so because he is the one most people think about first when contemplating building a house. We shouldn’t be surprised about this. Architecture is one of the oldest professions on earth. Secondly, his works are easily feasible; everyone can see a building and admire its magnificence and beauty. The same cannot be said of a survey plan or valuation report!

As I said earlier, the architect will translate the dream of the developer or client, into a drawing which will form the basis of all subsequent activities. Be it a small 2 or 3 bedroom bungalow to multi- storey block of flats or a big estate of several housing units, it is the architect that translates the ideas or dreams of the developer to a design. I must commend Nigerian Architects for their imaginative design over the years. They design houses that look like a plane for air force officers, like a ship for naval officers and like an armoured car for army generals! Such is their creative abilities!

The work of the architect does not stop at the design stage alone; He is to provide the working drawings and be available on site constantly to explain the drawings to the builders. He has to ensure that what is being built is exactly what he has designed.

The Engineer: – After architect’s design, the drawings are given to the Engineer to do their own design based on the architectural drawings. For a small bungalow built on solid ground, the work of the engineers may be limited to electrical and mechanical works only but for all other buildings, the structural engineer is perhaps the most important.

The structural soundness of the building will depend on his design. A lot of buildings are collapsing today because most developers either do not use a qualified structural engineer or refuse to adhere to the engineer’s drawings and instructions. The electrical and mechanical engineers provide electrical, plumbing and other works that may be necessary like elevators, air conditioners, sewage and so on. Every profession in the chain is very important but one cannot overemphasize the role of the engineers because the stability of the houses depends squarely on their work. They must not only design but they must supervise the builders to make sure that the houses are built in accordance with their designs. Correct size and number of reinforcement must be used. The quality of such iron rods must also be confirmed before use. Most buildings collapse because qualified engineers are not engaged or the engineers shack in their duties.

The Quantity Surveyor: – Unlike the land surveyor and Estate Surveyors, the Quantity Surveyor’s job is to ESTIMATE the cost of a proposed building prior to its construction. He is also responsible for estimating the cost of repairs or renovation of an existing building.

The drawings from both the architects and Engineers are forwarded to the Quantity Surveyor to do a take off and estimate the quantity of materials that will be needed to build a property. How many bags of cement, number of iron rods, planks, woods, roofing sheets, glasses for windows, etc. He then goes on to obtain the prices of the  materials in order to arrive at the total construction costs of the property. The Quantity Surveyor also issues stage payment certificates to the contractors before payment is made for work done.

The Builder: One of the latest developments in the list of professionals in the housing delivery chain is the formation of the Institute of Builders! In the past builders were regarded as craftsmen or middle level jobs. But building has now become a profession with many Universities all over the world offering degree courses in building. The Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB) was established in 1989.

After the Architect and the Engineers have completed their drawings, and the Quantity Surveyor has estimated the costs, the documents are then handed over to the builder who will now put the physical structure on the ground. He is the one who will assemble and combine all the materials listed by the Quantity Surveyor to make a living abode. The quality of the job done by the builder will determine the final product which is the house. A beautiful design can be marred by poor construction and poor finishes! The Builder must therefore have competent artisans in all the trades in order to produce quality work. Good bricklayers, carpenters, tillers, plumbers, electricians, glazers, etc. are necessary in translating the architect’s drawings to a beautiful structure that all can admire.

The Town planner: The role of the Town planner is twofold in the delivery process of housing. First the planner prepares the layout if it is an estate. He is the person who will arrange the houses and all amenities in a harmonious environment with provision for roads, open spaces, schools, health centers, recreation facilities and so on. Unfortunately, in this country, after the town planner has done a beautiful job, the powers that be will by a stroke of pen begin to decimate such layouts by converting open spaces to residential plots to allocate to their cronies.

The second role of the Town planner is to approve the building drawings of a proposed property development usually submitted by the architects. This is a very important role because no building project can commence without the approved building plan. The Town planners are to ensure that the architect’s drawings comply with all the statutory regulations in terms of road set back, size of rooms, car parking spaces and so on. Unfortunately, in performing this role, some delays usually occur which has been identified as one of the causes of housing shortage in this country???

The lawyer: I am sure that some people will wonder what a lawyer has to do with the provision of houses for the masses! Don’t forget that any property without a title is like a vehicle without registration particulars. In the process of acquisition of the land for housing, the lawyer will be called to carry out a search on the title before payment is effected. On the conclusion of the purchase of the land, the lawyer will also come in to prepare the- deed of assignment.

For multiple properties or development built for sale, the lawyer has to prepare another deed of assignment between the developer and the individual home owners. If it is for letting, a tenancy or lease agreement will have to be prepared. It is the lawyer who has the duty to do this. You can now see that the lawyer has key roles to play in the housing delivery chain, like the other professionals earlier mentioned.

The success of the 10,000 units of houses to be provided in each state of the Federation as proposed by the Federal Government, will depend on how each of these professionals carry out their functions. Any delay caused by any professional will definitely affect the overall success of the project! Honesty and integrity is demanded by all, in the discharge of their respective functions. Competency and efficiency are also germane. If any of the professionals is not competent and thorough in the discharge of his / her function, the result can be disastrous. Take the builder for example; the obvious result of incompetence will be building collapse which may result in loss of lives! A design done by an incompetent engineer Quantity can also result into building collapse. A bill of quantity prepared by an incompetent Surveyor can result in either under or over pricing of the project which could lead to abandonment of the project or an expensive project which may affect the disposal. Too expensive houses can remain unsold for very long time. Similar effects will result if the Estate Surveyor, lawyer or the Town Planner is incompetent or dishonest in discharge of their respective duties. I therefore charge all professionals to acquire the requisite knowledge and experience before putting themselves forward to offer professional services.

For the success of the proposed 10,000 housing units in each state of the Federation, I will request the Federal government to please let each professional carry out his/ her own duties as enumerated above for the success of the scheme.

The last time we witnessed this kind of scheme was during the Alhaji Shehu Shagari government. Laudable as the scheme was, it was marred by incompetent contractors who were merely politicians with no knowledge of construction. Many of the houses are yet to be completed and occupied even as at today, almost 30years after. Most of those occupied had to be completed by the allottees themselves.

In conclusion, I appeal to all the professionals that will be involved in this project to please maintain professional integrity and honesty in discharging their duties so that the scheme can be a successful one that will reduce the housing problems of Nigerians.

Thank you.



Vice president, African Region ,

International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI)



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