Types of Surveys

How do I know which Survey is right for me?

The following gives a very brief overview of the different surveys available. When considering the possible purchase of the property the choices are as follows:

Full Building Survey

A full Building Survey on an average house will cost the order of £300 to £600. It will usually be carried out by a Chartered Surveyor who is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). The Surveyor will normally look at the complete property and give a detailed opinion regarding the state of the building. This is probably now the most popular type of report. It is particularly suitable for older properties or properties which have had major alterations over the years or properties which appear to have problems that need further investigation.

Homebuyer Report or RICS Condition Report (previously called a 'Homebuyer Survey and Valuation')

A Homebuyer Report on an average house will cost in the order of £200 to £400. It will be carried out by a Chartered Surveyor who is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and is licensed to do this work. The Surveyor will normally look at the complete property and give an opinion as to whether or not the house is value for money to the purchaser. A Homebuyer Report is usually suitable if the house is of modern straight forward construction and has not had any major alterations carried out.

The old 'Homebuyer Survey and Valuation' report used to be very popular until the RICS informed their members that they could no longer carry it out. This has lead to a lot of confusion. It should be noted that a lot of Surveyors will carry out a report in the style of the old 'Homebuyer Survey and Valuation' report usually without the valuation. Talking to your chosen Surveyor about the different options is very much recommended.

Valuations

A Valuation only survey on an average house will cost the order of £150 to £300. It will usually be carried out by a Chartered General Practice Surveyor. This type of survey is usually done for the benefit of the mortgage lender.

A Probate Valuation will usually be of a similar cost and will be performed in a similar way. It will be commissioned by an executor who wishes to value the property of an estate with reference to his or her obligations to the beneficiaries and any liability for inheritance tax.

Valuation in the situation of a divorce, or a sale within a family, will also be carried out in a similar way.

General Structural Inspection

A General Structural Inspection on an average house will cost the order of £300 to £600. This will normally be performed by a Chartered Engineerwho is a member of the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) or the Institution of Civil Engineers (MICE). Some Chartered Surveyors also carry out these inspections. The inspection will concentrate only on the structural aspects of the building (foundations, walls and roof). It is often useful if the prospective purchaser is intending to carry out a total refurbishment and hence will be replacing the interior decoration and all the services (plumbing, electrics etc).

Specific Structural Inspection

A  Specific Structural Inspection is sometimes called for when you have already had some sort of survey and the surveyor has identified a potential structural problem and recommends further investigation. It should be noted that if a Structural Engineer is requested to look at a specific crack in a building then he will not necessarily look at any other part of the building.

Home Condition Survey and RICS Condition Report

Home Condition Survey has some similarity to a Homebuyer Report but it does not address the question of value.  These are carried out by Home Inspectors with the Dip HI qualification who are members of an accreditation scheme operated either by SAVA or the BRE.  The RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) have also introduced an equivalent survey called a RICS Condition Report which is carried out by licenced Chartered Surveyor.

Other Reports

In some cases the Surveyor will recommend that further investigations should be considered. In some cases these would be highly recommended while in other cases they may be just noted and hence bought to your attention. Some of these possible extra investigations could include:

Electrical Report  to check the state of the wiring, which if very old could be dangerous.

Drainage Report  to check the drains, which if partly blocked may be causing subsidence.

Asbestos Report  to check for asbestos content and make recommendations.

Arboricultural Report  to make recommendations regarding any trees on the site.

General Tips

It can be useful if the homebuyer can be present while the Surveyor is performing the survey. Some Surveyors are positive towards meeting the homebuyer at the property but some Surveyors are not (understandably the presence of the homebuyer can often be a distraction). A useful compromise that many Surveyors recommend is for the homebuyer to meet the Surveyor at the property towards the end of his inspection. The Surveyor can then point out any particular observations on the spot, in advance of the production of the report. The homebuyer may also have questions along the lines of what are the possible costs for any remedial work that may be required etc.

If you are not able to meet the Surveyor at the site then of course the next best alternative would be to speak to the Surveyor on the telephone as soon as possible after the Survey. It should be remembered that Surveyors can survey a large number of houses in a week and it is not realistic to expect the Surveyor to give an off the cuff verbal report weeks later.

Before placing an order with a Surveyor you should always ask them to confirm that they have adequate qualifications, accreditation, experience and insurance to perform the work.