Acumentis State Director - Brisbane, Geoff Duffield shares a day in the life of a valuer in a family law setting. Yes, there are beautiful properties and destinations to experience but it is all under very trying circumstances…
A day on the job of a valuer can be so varied – interesting properties, new destinations but most importantly it’s the paths we cross with people in different stages of their lives. These stages of their lives could be exciting ones like that of assisting someone in buying their first home or their dream home, being a part of a growth journey for a property investor but sadly also we are part of people’s lives when they are most grief-stricken while undergoing a divorce, a family dispute.
Geoff Duffield is one of the most highly regarded Family Law Specialist and Prestige Residential valuers in the industry today. There is not a residential property type that he has not valued. And yes, his conduct has been impeccable over the 22 years of his career which has been based on being fair, and neutral to both parties, and is backed up by data, research, and experience when delivering a family law valuation.
Today we get the opportunity to speak with him to unveil the personal and softer side of him – his thoughts, and his encounters with people undergoing difficult times. A side of him that many of us don’t get to see.
We speak with Geoff about one of his recent days where he encountered some difficult moments conducting family law valuations and his coping mechanism tips.
Geoff, could you set the scene about how you started the day which turned out to be one of the more trying days of your valuation career?
It was a normal 4 am start of me taking on the glorified taxi driver duties and dropping my son off for his rowing lessons on the Brisbane River. Don’t get me wrong- I love my role as a father but 4 am starts are getting a bit rough for this not-so-green anymore individual.
I have always been a health junkie. I cannot stress the importance of a healthy mind and body, especially for us valuers who are always driving long distances, eating on the run and performing under high-stress levels of turnaround times, and getting our work right knowing it affects people’s lives. So, I have a routine which like every other day I followed. Post the drop-off, I got home, showered, had my protein shake, and arrived at work bright and early. I spent time with the team, discussing jobs, clients, and staffing issues, and shared a few laughs. It was a regular normal start to the day.
What happened next Geoff?
My day almost always includes being a valuer which I love. My run sheet included 2 inspections which were two very important jobs allocated to me for Family Law. One was an Adversarial appointment and the other a single expert joint appointment. I was scheduled for the Adversarial job first and drove off to the property.
I arrived at a beautiful riverfront property with an original Pre-war character home and was met with a somewhat disgruntled owner who was not the instructing party. Being fully aware that we operate in an extremely emotionally driven industry at a very difficult time for our clients, I stayed calm and explained that I was there as an unbiased expert to assess an accurate market value even though I was engaged by her partner and not her. Under all circumstances, we as valuers have to remain neutral and professional, even when confronted with an understandably difficult situation. It was a large and complex property of high worth, it needed my time and attention. Towards the latter half of the inspection, I could feel the owner’s body language change towards me. I felt she started to see the in-depth detail that we have to go through to get the valuation correct to ensure we are fair as I know my work affects lives. By the time I finished my work there, she wished me well and came around to be a completely different person. I know at difficult times our defenses are up and the world seems a harsher place. But I always say – if you can turn around a person’s behavior towards you through your work, diligence, and conduct- there is no better flattery for your professionalism than that.
“Under all circumstances, we as valuers have to remain neutral and professional, even when confronted with an understandably difficult situation.”
Onto the next property for family law valuation then?
Yes, working under pressures like this is emotionally demanding but I have learnt to dust it off at the end of every job because the next client deserves a fresh start and that’s exactly what I did.
The next property was a joint appointment for a couple undergoing a traumatic divorce. This time however the lady greeted me cordially, but I could see the sadness in her. Again – you are struck with conflicting emotions here. A part of me wanted to tell her it is all going to be ok but then I am bound by my professional duties and conduct to keep the conversation polite and limited. I go about doing the valuation while I could sense the sadness of the client and her worries about not being able to afford her own home which she desperately wanted to keep once the assets get divided. As I finished the valuation and thank her for her patience and time under trying circumstances, she breaks into tears expressing how anxious and worried she is about what was to come. Under normal circumstances, I would want to console the individual and at least be a good listener. It was hard for me to stay professional and drag myself out of the situation and feel somewhat helpless at times. I walk out and see her children drive up into the driveway and breathe a sigh of relief. I walked up to them and said their mother needed them and walked away feeling a bit better knowing she was surrounded by her loved ones.
What was next?
I then had to dash back to the office to collect Ernest van Zyl from Advisory who had organized a presentation lunch with a local family law team. Luckily, we had already worked through the presentation as we were cutting it fine. We all had a lighthearted lunch learning about our client’s wants and needs, sharing the current property market insights, and showcasing what Acumentis are doing to stay at the forefront of the Family Law Valuation Industry.
That was a wrap and headed to my home office to complete the reports for the valuation jobs I undertook earlier in the day, to be sent off to clients.
A big day then Geoff?
Yes, a big day not just in terms of the complexity of the property I was valuing or the trying circumstances that I was operating in but the extra pressure that I must get every detail of the job right to ensure that my clients get a fair outcome which I know will play a significant role in their lives.
I feel we valuers underestimate the importance of our jobs and the vital role it plays in people’s lives. I tell all my trainees who are aspiring family law specialists – you must have the “hand on heart” philosophy- where if we are required in court to defend our work, we can confidently put our hand on our heart and can reinforce the fact that every rock was overturned before the final figure was written on that valuation report.
So going back to your health and well-being when you operate under stressful conditions, what do you do after a day like this one?
Well, as I said I am a health junkie – so once home like every other day, after completing my valuation reports, I hit the home gym for about half an hour. Post my workout every evening, I enjoy some down time while cooking – noodles are my thing right now, so I am experimenting with churning out different kinds of noodles with of course a good glass of wine in hand. I eat my dinner in my beautiful courtyard, taking in the surroundings and being grateful for the life I have and feeling content and grateful that my work assists people in a small way in their lives. Then onto some beauty sleep!
Would you do the job of a valuer again in another life?
I am fundamentally a property nut and very much focused on residential homes and enjoy combining the streams of keeping up with market movements and the economic and social drivers of the market to help predict where the market is heading, seeing some beautiful homes, and meeting new people even though the circumstances sometimes may not be ideal. So yes, I have my dream job and I will most certainly do it again in another life.