Competition among international property consultants in Hong Kong to lure experienced valuation staff has intensified, with Savills poaching a team of 36 senior valuation executives from Chesterton Petty (Hong Kong) this month. This move is rare among valuation professions because the turnover of senior valuation staff is relatively low compared with that of employees in the investment departments of property consultancies. The new valuation team, which provides services such as general valuations, feasibility studies, government lease modification, rating appeal and litigation valuation, is now headed by Charles Chan Chiu-kwok, a former managing director of Chesterton. About half of the staff poached will continue at Savills' China operation because most had handled the valuation of the initial public offering of China Construction Bank. Raymond Lee Wai-man, managing director and head of investment at Savills, said: 'We have paid a fat premium to entice them to work for us.' Knight Frank also plans to offer more attractive payment schemes to strengthen its valuation team. Anthony Lau Chun-kuen, an executive director of property valuation at Knight Frank, said the firm planned to add one or two people to its 10-member valuation team. 'There is an increase in demand for valuation services such as new projects in Macau and the mainland,' Mr Lau said. He added that high salaries needed to be offered to entice experienced valuation professionals. 'When the market went down a few years ago, many valuation professionals moved to other fields such as property management, therefore there is a significant reduction in experienced staff in the market,' he said. Mr Lee said the latest recruitment had increased the size of Savills' valuation team by 50 per cent. He hoped to double the income derived from valuation services to 10 per cent after strengthening the team. 'Sales from the agency business could be volatile because the property market is cyclical and depends on the economy,' Mr Lee said. He said the stronger team would help broaden the firm's recurring income. Chesterton Petty managing director John Chiu said the company 'would pay the market rate for hiring new staff'. Mr Chiu was promoted to managing director of Chesterton Petty after the firm lost its valuation team, which contributes 70 per cent of company turnover. He said the firm had already filled 14 of the vacancies out of a total of 18 in its Hong Kong valuation department. 'But we will need some more time to fill the vacancies in the mainland,' he said. A director of an international property consultant said most firms put only a minimum amount of resources into their valuation business because of thin profit margins. 'I don't expect many property consultants in the market to follow suit and beef up their valuation departments,' the consultant said. Despite some new business generated from the proposed listing of real estate investment trusts (reits) in Hong Kong, he said there was no genuine surge in demand for valuation services.