Choosing a survey: Does it really matter what your survey report is called?

When choosing a survey, the name of the survey report does not really matter.  The most important thing is to check what your report will cover and make sure it will provide the information you are looking for. 

What type of survey should we have?  This is a question many house buyers ask when choosing a survey, puzzled at the assortment of terms, including Building Survey, Homebuyer Report, Condition Report, and more.

Putting terminology aside, what do most buyers want from a survey?  A typical house buyer would want to be aware of any repairs needed, the urgency of any repairs and have an idea of costs involved.

Some buyers choose a property knowing that works will be required and the survey will help them plan the works and obtain estimates from contractors.  After all, there is little point going ahead with fitting out a new kitchen or decorating when more disruptive works such as rewiring need to be attended to first. On the other hand, some buyers seek a property which needs as little work as possible (although, inevitably it is likely that some work will be necessary).

Whatever the name of the survey, it is important to check what will be included.  Most pre-purchase surveys have a similar level of inspection, but the information within the report can vary from one surveyor to another.  This can be due to the level of knowledge and experience of the surveyor and the amount of time spent carrying out the survey and preparing the report.  Some firms place high demands on their surveyors and expect two (and sometimes more!) surveys to be carried out in a day, whereas other firms allow more time for each survey and are more likely to produce a more thorough and detailed report (which may be reflected in the cost).

In a nutshell, when choosing a survey, the name of the survey report does not really matter.  The most important thing is to check what your report will cover and make sure it will provide the information you are looking for.  And most importantly, make sure you choose the right surveyor, ideally someone who has been recommended to you and is familiar with the local area.

 

buying and selling a house

 

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Why do surveyors ask for further investigations?

An experienced surveyor will be able to use his or her knowledge and experience to assess whether there are likely to be any hidden defects which require further investigations.  

Some buyers may wonder why their surveyor has asked for further investigations or a report from a specialist.  Firstly, it is important to remember what the surveyor was instructed to do.  Typically, a surveyor would carry out a single inspection.  The property may be occupied, furnished, have floor coverings and in some cases there may be many stored items which hamper the inspection.   In most cases a surveyor would not carry out any opening up to inspect hidden areas such as floor timbers, wall ties, etc (unless previously agreed and with the permission of the vendor).

Most properties will have some restrictions to the inspection including:

  1. Roof spaces without access hatches or with unsafe access, for instance where a roof hatch is positioned above a stairwell.
  2. Floor voids without access and floor timbers generally.
  3. Areas covered by furniture and/or floor coverings.
  4. Areas at high level, such as behind parapets, stacks, or simply not visible due to the roof configuration or height.
  5. Flat roofs to upper storeys, including bay roofs.
  6. Wall ties within cavities.
  7. Underground drainage runs.

Even though not all parts of a building may be visible, an experienced surveyor will be able to use his or her knowledge and experience to assess whether there are likely to be any hidden defects which require further investigations.

For instance, a surveyor will recognise the distinctive pattern of cracking associated with wall tie corrosion and may recommend that a sample of ties is checked using a borescope (instrument to view within a cavity).

Similarly, if movement is noted and there is a possibility of defective drains which may affect the property, the surveyor may recommend a CCTV survey to confirm the route and condition of the hidden drains.

Also, a surveyor may suspect rot and/or woodworm to a timber floor even without an inspection, particularly if there is springiness, dampness and/or a lack of ventilation.  Further investigations may be recommended in the form of opening up, to establish the extent of defects and repairs needed.

In addition to further investigations, a surveyor may ask for one or more specialist reports, such as from an electrician, Gas Safe contractor or HETAS engineer.  This is simply because these are specialist matters which need input from the appropriately trained and qualified specialist.

After reading your survey report, don’t feel inconvenienced if any further investigations or specialist reports are recommended.  This is simply part of the process of finding out the true condition of the property you are thinking of buying so that you can proceed with the purchase in full knowledge of the condition.

buying and selling a house

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