Instructing a Surveyor when buying a house or flat

Reports are produced in different formats and have differing names including Structural Surveys, Building Surveys and HomeBuyer Reports. Ask for a sample report and the surveyor’s term of engagement to make sure the service you choose meets your needs.

Instructing a Surveyor when buying a house or flat

A survey will give you valuable information on the condition  of the property  you have chosen to buy.  A survey is not to be confused  with a mortgage  valuation as explained in Is a Mortgage Valuation the same as a Survey?  

Obtain quotations from Chartered Building Surveyors.  It is a good idea to ask friends, family or your solicitor for recommendations before instructing a surveyor.   Remember you do not have to have the survey carried out by the person who carries out the mortgage valuation.  You can also contact  www.ricsfirms.com to find a surveyor  in your area.

Reports are produced in different formats and have differing names including Structural Surveys, Building Surveys and HomeBuyer Reports.  See What type of survey do I need?  Ask for a sample report and the surveyor’s terms of engagement to make sure the service you choose meets your needs.  Some inspections will be visual only, while others may be more detailed and include lifting a sample of floorboards to inspect the floor structure where this is possible without causing damage.

If you plan to carry out any alterations then inform the surveyor prior to the date of the survey so that these can be considered.   For example,  if you plan to build an extension it is useful to know where the drain runs are located, also, if you plan to remove any walls you will need to know whether they are load bearing or not.

If you  have noted anything of concern then bring this to the attention of  the surveyor prior to the inspection.

Decide whether you require any additional services such as an insurance rebuilding cost or valuation, prior to instructing a surveyor.  There may be additional  costs if the surveyor has to return, for example to take measurements to calculate the rebuilding  cost.

If you are buying a buy to let property then inform the surveyor before the survey is carried out.  The surveyor can then advise on any relevant matters, particularly safety issues such as fire protection, lack of adequate balustrading/guard-rails, lack of safety glass to low level glazing, etc.  Also, it is important to have the electrical installation and any gas appliances checked regularly (and prior to a tenant moving in) to ensure they are in a safe working order.

Allow the surveyor to inspect the property without you.  This will enable the surveyor to give you the best advice.  Some house buyers like the idea of being at the property whilst the survey is being carried out so they can ask questions but it is far better to allow the surveyor to do their job uninterrupted.  You will be issued with a report after the survey has been completed and will have the opportunity to ask questions if needed.  You must remember that the house an any contents belong to someone else (even if the house is empty or forms part of a deceased estate) and you should not assume that you can be attend particularly if the owner is not present.

Forward a copy of the survey report to your solicitor as there are likely to be items which require input by your solicitor.  If you have a digital copy this can easily forwarded by email.  See Instructing a Solicitor.

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Questions to ask when buying a house

What questions should I ask the vendor when buying a house?

When you first view a property you may ask the vendor questions such as why they are moving, etc, as part of deciding whether this is the right house for you.  As the sale progresses it is inevitable that other questions will crop up but there are some things you may not think about until moving day arrives.  While some of the below may be obvious, others may be overlooked while trying to juggle moving house with work, family, and other aspects of your day to day life.

Before buying a house, remember to ask the vendor:

  1. Where the stop cock is.
  2. How to operate the central heating.
  3. Where all the manhole/inspection covers for the drains are located.
  4. How many keys there are for the doors, including the garage. Also, check there are keys for any window locks.
  5. Which gas and electricity companies currently supply the property.
  6. Which companies provide the landline and broadband.
  7. Which day the refuse and recycling boxes are collected.
  8. When any chimneys were last swept.
  9. Which company currently provides buildings insurance. This is particularly important if the building is a high risk, eg, has flooded previously or is in a high flood risk area.
  10. When any septic tank was last emptied and which company usually carries this out (for private drainage installations).

 

What documents should I obtain from the vendor when buying a house?

While some of these documents would typically be obtained by your solicitor, make sure you obtain copies of any:

  1. Service documents for the central heating.
  2. Service documents for any other gas appliances, eg, fires, cooker.
  3. Receipts/documentation for any recent works.
  4. Planning Approval and Building Control approval documents for any extensions to the property.
  5. Building Control documents for any recent works requiring Building Control approval such as any structural alterations, works to drainage installations, etc.
  6. FENSA certificates for any windows and/or doors replaced since April 2002.
  7. Documentation for any alterations to, or upgrading of, the electrical installation.
  8. Valid warranties for any other works, eg damp proofing, timber treatment.

Getting answers to the above at the right times should go some way towards a smooth move and help you settle into your new home as easily as possible.

See also Checking broadband speed and mobile phone coverage.

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