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What is a chartered surveyor?

Surveyors are highly-trained, property professionals who can offer expert advice on the value and condition of a building. Chartered is the mark that shows a surveyor has achieved the ‘gold standard’ of professional competence. In the UK, they are usually members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).    

Why do I need a property survey?

When you have found a property to buy, it is highly recommended you instruct a chartered surveyor to cast an expert eye over it. Your new home is likely to be the biggest purchase of your life, so it makes sense to get it checked over by a professional. Your mortgage provider will organise a valuation but this is not the same as a survey. It only tells the lender whether the property is worth the agreed price and provides sufficient security for the mortgage. Whereas, a survey is for your benefit and will highlight any serious problems, such as rot or subsidence, before contracts are exchanged. A survey gives reassurance and can save buyers thousands of pounds in the long run.  It may be used as a bargaining tool in price negotiations or to get the seller to pay for repairs.  Alternatively, after reading the list of defects, you may decide not to go-ahead. A survey helps buyers make a fully informed decision about whether to proceed and a reasonable price to pay.

You may also need a survey if you are planning to extend or remodel your home.

What does a surveyor do?

This will depend largely on the type of survey you commission. There are three basic types of survey: Condition report, Homebuyer Report and a full Building Survey (sometimes incorrectly referred to as a Structural Survey). The surveyor will carry out a visual inspection of all parts of the property that can be easily reached and seen. They are unlikely to lift floorboards to inspect heating pipes or remove electrical fittings or bath panels. However, if you choose a longer and more detailed inspection, the surveyor is likely to inspect the roof space and lift manholes.

How should I choose a surveyor?

Make sure the surveyor has professional qualifications, is accredited, experienced and insured. Most chartered surveyors are RICS registered which guarantees a high standard of service. If possible, choose a local surveyor with knowledge of the local area and the different types of properties within it. Similarly, if you are buying a listed property or one of unusual construction, for example a thatched cottage, it pays to find a surveyor who specialises in that type of building and is familiar with any problems associated with it. Ask surveyors what experience they have of the type of property you are looking to buy.

Price is a major consideration. Fees vary from company to company and by which region of the UK you live in as well by size of property and type of survey. You can obtain instant estimates for surveyors in your postcode and compare them by using this website . It is not always a good idea to choose the cheapest. Read any comments from customers and check out individual surveyor websites for more detail on quality of service provided.

Which survey should I choose?

Condition Report

This is the most basic and lowest-cost survey. The surveyor will describe the construction and condition of the property with a clear traffic light rating system -  green indicating no action required, amber for defects that require repair or replacement but are not urgent or serious and red for urgent and serious problems. The report should identify potential issues and defects before contracts are exchanged.

RICS recommends choosing this report for buying or selling a conventional, modern property built from common materials that is in reasonable condition. A condition report does not include a valuation but a surveyor may provide this for a separate fee.

Homebuyer Report

This includes everything that is in the condition report but is more extensive and costs more.  It lists the problems that the surveyor considers may affect the value of the property, helps to prepare a budget for any repairs and gives advice on future maintenance. It may include a market valuation and reinstatement cost for an extra fee.

RICS recommends choosing this survey if you would like more comprehensive information when buying and selling properties in reasonable condition.

Building Survey

Is the most thorough, detailed report and costs the most. It aims to describe how the property is built and materials used. It includes visible defects plus potential problems caused by hidden flaws. The report outlines repair options and the consequences of inaction. It details serious risks and dangerous conditions. It does not include an estimated market value but the surveyor may provide one for an extra fee.

This report is recommended for older or rundown properties or those that are unusual or have been altered or if the buyer is planning major renovations.

What doesn’t a surveyor do?

If the surveyor picks up on a potential problem, further investigation is usually recommended. For example, an electrical report to check the condition of wiring. Property surveyors are not electricians. Only a registered electrician can say if the electrics are safe or dangerous and need replacing. Similarly, a structural engineer may be needed to look at subsidence problems involving potential movement of the roof or walls. Other reports which a survey may recommend include a drainage report, asbestos report and arboricultural report for trees on the site.

If you are looking for a Surveyor, you may find some of these links useful: