How do homebuyers know which survey to have and how do you find the right surveyor?

For a home buyer it can be difficult to know where to start in the property market, and if you’re a first-time buyer it can be a minefield. Buying a new home is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make, yet one thing that isn’t always top of the agenda is making sure you get a house that’s worth the investment. Excitement can sometimes override realism, especially if you’re a first-time buyer, but even for those on their third of fourth step of the property ladder, mistakes can still be made.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) undertook some research that showed that as many as 80% of buyers do not have a survey and that 20% of them later uncovered faults that cost more than £5,750 on average. The research showed that 17% of new owners ended up paying more than £12,000 to make their homes habitable.

Collier Stevens regularly save their clients’ money through the surveys we provide. Practice principal, Steven Way, says that every survey identifies something that the vendor was unaware of. He also says that you need to remember that whilst you are looking at a home, a surveyor is looking at a house – very different things! Choosing the right survey, as well as the right surveyor, is vital.

How do I know which surveyor to choose?

When you choose a surveyor, choose a ‘chartered’ surveyor. Anyone can call themselves a surveyor because the title is not protected like architect, doctor, or solicitor. For example, a window company will send a ‘surveyor’ to measure up your windows, but he or she can’t advise on the structural faults of a window, or the wall it’s built within.

Chartered status means the surveyor has followed an approved training course of at least three years before undertaking a minimum of two years’ in work competence training. This is then followed by a professional entrance interview which, if passed, allows one to become a member of the RICS. It’s not easy (with only a 59% rate for chartered building surveyors) and requires a breadth and depth of knowledge and professionalism that is reflected in the service they provide.

So, when you choose a surveyor, make sure they are chartered and state that they are ‘Regulated by RICS‘. You can identify a Chartered Surveyor with the letters MRICS (Member) or FRICS (Fellow) after their names. More about the ‘Chartered Surveyor’ is in one of our previous articles.

RICS logo
Collier Stevens are Chartered Surveyors and member of RICS.

What are the different types of home survey?

One thing that confuses some homebuyers, in particular first-time buyers, is their mortgage provider’s reference to the valuation survey (sometimes called a level 1 survey). This is not a detailed survey to investigate potential problems with your new home. A valuation is simply an inspection carried out on behalf of your mortgage lender to determine the amount and terms of a mortgage offer and you will most likely never see the report.

The types of survey you really need to consider are:

When should a HomeSurvey or Homebuyer Report be carried out?

A level 2 Homebuyer Report, or Independent Surveyors and Valuers Association (ISVA) HomeSurvey report, is a service carried out to a standard format, designed for properties built after 1900, which are of conventional construction and in reasonable condition. It is a Level 2 Survey. Collier Stevens use a standard form of report provided and prepared by the ISVA. In a nutshell, it includes:

  • The property’s general condition;
  • Any significant defects, in accessible parts of the property, which may affect its value;
  • Urgent and significant matters that need assessing before entering into exchanging contracts;
  • The recommended reinstatement cost for insurance purposes;
  • The value of the property on the open market

This report is not a detailed survey of every aspect of the property and focuses only on significant and urgent matters. It’s not suitable for properties built before 1900, those in need of renovation or that you are planning to extend.

When should a full building survey be carried out?

A level 3 report, or full building survey is a detailed and comprehensive inspection suitable for all properties, especially ones like this one. It is especially recommended for:

  • All listed buildings;
  • Those built before 1900;
  • Any building constructed in an unusual way regardless of its age;
  • Properties which are in a dilapidated condition;
  • Properties with unusual features;
  • Properties you are planning to renovate or alter in any way;
  • Properties which have already had extensive alterations.

What does a full building survey include?

A building survey involves a detailed examination of all accessible parts of a property and can be tailor-made to suit your individual needs and concerns. It includes the following:

  • Major and minor faults;
  • The implications of any defects and possible cost of repairs;
  • Results of testing walls for dampness and timbers for damage including woodworm or rot;
  • Comments on the existence and condition of damp-proofing, insulation and drainage (although the latter will not be tested);
  • Extensive technical information on the construction of the property and details about construction materials;
  • Information on location;
  • Recommendations for any further specialist inspections.

Surveyors will comment on all parts of a property that are readily accessible. They are not obliged to inspect areas that are difficult to access. They won’t lift carpets, shift furniture, use a ladder to inspect the roof if it is more than one storey up, or move items stored in the loft.

Most surveyors are not experts in electrics or plumbing, so won’t test the wiring and water supply. However, they may comment on their condition. Where necessary, surveyors will recommend that an expert examination be carried out.

Collier Stevens surveys are always conducted by Chartered Surveyors with many years appropriate experience. You can of course choose a surveyor who is not Chartered but is experienced. You may wish to use your mate the builder, or you might decide not to bother. But this could be a costly mistake. We know that you and your property investment are best protected by a proper survey, by a proper Chartered Building Surveyor.

Very often you can also shave the cost of the house price with the right survey – see our article about how we saved on buyer £1000s.

This video by RICS may also help you to decide which survey you need.

Take a look at some examples of our building surveys or contact us today for more advice on building surveys in London and Kent.