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How to Choose a Surveyor and a Guide to Surveys

Phi Spencer

By Phil Spencer

If you’re buying a house, you’re going to need a survey. This can be uncharted territory for many. Worry not, help is at hand. Here’s how to choose a surveyor along with a guide to the type of surveys they offer.

 

 

 

Why do you need a survey?

So, what does a surveyor do?

While the house you’re buying may look solid, there can be issues you can’t see which a surveyor may pick up on. A property survey can come at a time when you feel an additional expense is the last thing you need; however, it’s something you should definitely consider. It could save you money in the long run.

Surveys are useful if:

  • The property you are looking to buy is old or unique
  • It has an unusual frame or features
  • It’s listed
  • You can’t determine what condition it is in

Benefits of a survey:

  • They can help avoid expensive surprises further down the line i.e. the roof might be in a poor condition
  • They can reassure you the house is secure and structurally sound
  • It might cause you to reconsider your offer (and save money in the long run) if it picks up on large issues. You can always ask to have that expense knocked off the asking price i.e. if the roof needs fixing for £15,000, your offer could reflect that cost.

Is the survey by my mortgage provider enough?

Your mortgage provider will carry out a ‘survey’ or valuation visit but this only really looks at the property in the context of checking it’s worth the amount you’re paying for it. Consider getting a Royal Chartered Institute of Surveying (RICS) qualified surveyor to visit the house to carry out a survey on your behalf.

How to choose a surveyor

Buying a house can be a nerve-wracking experience. It’s probably the biggest investment you will ever make and you want to be certain you’re making the right choice. It’s always a wise move to get a survey of some sort carried out on the property you’re buying (unless it’s a new build covered by the NHBC guarantee). If you’re wondering how to choose a surveyor, we can help.

Type of property you’re buying

The type of property you’re buying will affect which surveying company you employ.

Different surveyors are better for different types of properties, so always ensure the surveyor you instruct is suitable for your property; one who has previous experience with similar style/age properties.

Questions to ask

You’ll want to ask your surveyor a few vital questions before employing their services. These include:

  • Has the surveyor worked in your local area with other similar properties?
  • Do they know what to look for and what issues may arise?
  • What other problems have they encountered in the area?

Your budget

Your budget will have an effect on the surveyor you choose. Surveyor costs can vary a lot. Ideally, you shouldn’t go for the cheapest. Having said that, the most expensive might be irrelevant to your needs. Talk to them before deciding who to go with and make sure you get several quotes. Also, be sure to actually understand what each quote covers.

Credentials and references

You want a surveyor with good credentials and references. If you can, ask around and find someone who comes recommended to you. At the very least, use a peer-reviewed third party website to see what others think about the surveyor you’re thinking of using.

Ask for estate agent recommendations

Ask the estate agent for recommendations. Most estate agents/solicitors can recommend surveyors they’ve worked with before and trust. You never know, they might be able to get you a discount for their referral.

Seek advice and guidance

Like anything, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll want someone who can offer you advice and guidance, not someone who will just prepare a report and send it over to you.

You want a surveyor who will talk to you freely and offer advice about what they find. The more you talk to your surveyor, the more information you can glean about the property. This should help you in your negotiations on price.

Find potential issues early

If you have a rough idea of what the survey will find, it should help you determine what type of surveyor you require and what services you need from them.

  • It’s always helpful to look out for potential issues before a survey is conducted
  • Point out potential issues and discuss them with your appointed surveyor

Different types of property survey

Property surveys come in several different categories. Surveyors use different names to refer to the types of property survey. In essence, these are the main types:

A condition report

This is the most basic level of inspection. It’s fast and cost effective and will alert you to any obvious issues with the property you’re buying. It’s best suited to a modern house or one which is obviously in good condition. The surveyor will simply highlight any areas of concern but not offer advice on any necessary remedial action.

A homebuyer’s survey

This is a much more standard survey and is suitable for the majority of houses. It will mention any issues such as damp, subsidence or roof problems. The surveyor won’t look under floorboards or in walls with this type of survey.

A full structural survey

This is a far more detailed report and used for older properties or those with obvious issues. This will include detailed advice and sometimes approximate costings for the necessary repairs.

The surveyor won’t usually be able to access all areas of the property, but this report will include the surveyor’s opinion as to all potential issues with the property and give you a full picture of the condition of the house.

It will cost more but in cases where there is a good deal of work required it can often be worth its weight in gold.

If there’s something specific you’d like the surveyor to look at, or advise on, it will help to contact them in advance.

Interpreting your survey report

It’s worth remembering surveys are only there to highlight faults or issues, so they do often read negatively. Try to take a robust view when reading these surveys and be sure to talk the report through with the surveyor, as things often read far worse on paper than they actually are.

In extreme cases it may mean you choose not to proceed with your purchase. Be sure to think this through carefully though. Remember most issues are repairable, this isn’t a problem as long as the purchase price reflects it.

Need a surveyor?

Getting the right advice on which survey you need is important and although it may feel like a painful initial outlay, it could save you thousands of pounds in the long-run. 

Tell us what you need assistance with and a member of the approved panel will get in touch with you.

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