Before you fork out good money for a survey …… be sure to read our checklist!
* Make sure they’re a proper qualified chartered surveyor.
Anyone can call themselves a ‘surveyor’, a title sometimes adopted by double glazing salesmen! Only chartered surveyors are qualified members or fellows of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (MRICS or FRICS qualifications after their names).
This is why Rightsurvey displays the RICS logo:-
* Do they specialise in the type of service you want?
Usually Building Surveyors carry out RICS Homebuyer or more detailed Building Surveys, whereas General Practice surveyors are better qualified to do valuations. There is however some overlap. Period properties (Edwardian and older) and Listed buildings are also an area that needs specialist Building Surveyor knowledge and experience (things like thatch, lime, wattle & daub etc) .
Chartered surveyors as a profession cover a wide range of property skills including Party Wall awards, retail / office rent reviews, commercial property valuation & rating, property development, project management, architectural services, quantity surveying (QS) and agricultural land valuations. To help cut through this maze Rightsurvey channels survey requests to selected residential surveyors who are experienced in home survey inspections.
* Are they local to the area?
To do a proper job and advise clients professionally it’s essential that your surveyor has a good knowledge of the history, pitfalls and quirks of a locality – things like subsidence blackspots, quirky types of construction, planning issues, planned roads and developments, plus of course risks from flooding, radon and crime etc. Accurate property valuations also depend on knowing the local area – as required by RICS rules. But it’s not unknown for some corporate survey firms to deploy out-of-town surveyors from distant locations.
* Can they turnaround reports swiftly?
Some surveyors sign off completed survey reports within 24 hours of the inspection, whereas others can take a week or more! As long as access to the property is readily available, the whole process from booking the inspection appointment through to receiving the finished report should just take a few days.
* Are they independent or do they work for a large corporate firm?
This matters because small firms and local independent surveyors generally prioritise quality over quantity. Some big national firms of surveyors, who mainly carry out mortgage valuations for banks, set strict volume targets for employee surveyors who are under greater time pressure – as many as 6 inspections per day! Independent surveyors are also likely to have greater experience carrying out Homebuyer and Building surveys, as opposed to mortgage valuations.
* Is it OK to phone them afterwards to talk through things if required?
Most surveyors should be happy to discuss their report with you in plain English if you need to have them explain or expand on anything. Again, an experienced independent local professional will normally have more time to assist you and advise on possible renegotiation of the purchase price to cover the cost of any defects they’ve flagged up.
* Is it OK to ask the surveyor to check and comment on specific points of concern?
As the client you should be free to make special requests in advance, such as asking the surveyor to advise you on the potential for a loft or basement conversion or a home extension, or perhaps to pay special attention to a particular damp issue or cracking etc.
* Do you want to a valuation included in your survey report?
In most cases the price being paid for the property will already have been agreed by the time you book a survey. Mortgage lenders will require some form of basic valuation report for their own purposes (sometimes just a desktop calculation or a cursory drive-by external viewing). But with Homebuyer and Building Surveys you can ask the surveyor to include an opinion of the property’s market value – basically whether it’s worth the money or not in the light of any defects they’ve noted! They should also include a professional insurance reinstatement valuation figure.
* Can they give you a fixed price for the survey?
The quoted price should be confirmed when you initially contact the surveyor to book the inspection. Normally the price shouldn’t change unless the initial description was wildly inaccurate (based on the agreed price, location and size of property). One reason a quoted price might justifiably need to be changed is where a Homebuyer survey was requested (or a simple Condition Report) on an older period property because anything older than late Victorian will need a more extensive (and dearer) Building Survey. There may also be an additional fee if you request a valuation to be included (because insurers load surveyors’ professional indemnity premiums for this!)
* Do you need a structural engineer’s services ?
If the reason you want a survey is because you’ve noticed some severe cracking or structural movement in the property you’re buying, but you’re not too bothered about other minor issues, it can make sense to appoint a qualified structural engineer who can focus on any potentially serious movement that’s of concern.