There are several important factors to consider before you instruct a Surveyor to inspect a property on your behalf:
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is recognised as the leading UK regulatory body for Surveyors. Only RICS members can use the designation "Chartered Surveyor"although there are other levels of membership, notably AssocRICS, that do not confer the Chartered status. With effect from 1st June 2020 all RICS members, whether Chartered or not, offering residential surveying serives MUST ensure that their service is clearly ‘benchmarked’ against one of the Levels defined in the RICS Home Survey Standard and any RICS member providing valuation advice on residential or commercial property must also be an RICS Registered Valuer.
RICS members must have a minimum of £250,000 professional indemnity insurance cover, but the amount of cover required is dependent on the firm's turnover, and a formal Complaints Handling Procedure.
If you think it's expensive to hire a professional, just wait until you try an amateur.
Remember that the bigger practices may have "junior" surveyors and many also use part time/"zero hours" outside consultants. If the practice has cut its fee to secure your instruction, will the job be passed down the line to a less-experienced Surveyor? Why not ask who will carry out your survey and whether you can speak to the appointed Surveyor about any concerns you may have BEFORE you decide to proceed? If you've ended up speaking to a "call centre" you may find it difficult to speak to a Surveyor at all let alone the one who may inspect the property for you!
"When seeking professional advice always ensure the Chartered Surveyor you appoint has the right experience, qualifications and resources to deliver what you need - and remember don’t buy the price, buy the expertise; this is not the place to cut corners".
Edwards Genesis is an independent practice and the Directors and Associates have over 75 years' combined experience of valuation and survey work in the North West of England. All our professional work is undertaken by The Directors - we do not employ "junior" Surveyors or part-time/outside consultants and we do not have any surveyors on "zero hours" contracts.
Why not ask your Solicitor/Conveyancer, or even the estate agent selling the property, for the names of one or two local Surveyors who have a good reputation?
Ask to see a copy example of whatever type of survey report you may be offered! They are not all the same - most Surveyors will use standardised forms of report template but a tempalte is just an empty box and some Surveyors will put much more in the box than others! You can find anonymised genuine copy examples of our various types of report at https://www.edwardsgenesis.co.uk/page/our-services or we are happy to send you copies by e-mail with fee quotes.
If you are thinking of instructing a Surveyor to inspect a property on your behalf, check whether our competitors can offer the following added value:
A wise Surveyor once said "much of the value of a survey is in the Surveyor's curiosity"! A Surveyor should develop a sixth sense to help him or her suspect where there may be problems with a building and then to be curious enough to want to find out more, follow the trail and dig a bit deeper to find out may be going on. Make sure you pay enough for your Surveyor to exercise his or her "curiosity"!
A good survey inspection and report certainly should do! Houses can have dozens of health and safety issues, some obvious but many less so and some potentially hidden away. The list is extensive but have you thought about trip and fall hazards, dangerous stairs, large retaining walls, how you can get out of the house if there's a fire, safety glazing, asbestos, vermin infestation (we often find mice and even rat droppings in roof voids or under floors), possible contamination of stored water supplies etc?
A good survey inspection and report can be invaluable to your legal adviser (conveyancer) when you are buying a house. He or she will not usually visit the property but will be following the "paper trail" of documents relating to a multitude of matters - ownership, legal title, planning proposals, highways, legal charges, environmental matters etc. A survey report should outline any issues the Surveyor sees, hears or finds out about (a Surveyor should ask questions of the property owner/vendor where possible!) both whilst visiting the house and as part of the associated desktop research - the Surveyor may identify alterations to the house that do not show up in any paperwork and so may be unauthorised and non-compliant with Building Regulations (such as a DIY loft conversion or a self-installed multi-fuel stove), or possible disputes over boundaries or access rights, or works that should have certification under a Competent Person scheme (https://www.competentperson.co.uk/) such as a new boiler, a replacement roof covering or electrical alterations. Buying a house is like putting together a jigsaw and the older a house is the more likely it is that it will have a history of extensions and alterations - so there will more pieces to the jigsaw but also more chance that some may be difficult to find or even missing. A good survey report and your legal adviser's enquiries will find as many of the pieces as possible.
This is especially important (and is an RICS requirement!) as Surveyors travelling a long way outside their normal geographical area may not know of problems specific to the locality or the type of property being inspected, and may not be aware of factors that could affect the value and saleability of the property. How "local" will your Surveyor be? Be wary of the "networking" groups - they may give the impression of being "local" but often work on the basis of securing your instruction and then finding a Surveyor who is available to do the job, but that Surveyor may be based miles away from the property and may not receive all of the fee you pay - the rest goes in administration costs and "commission". Some of these organisations are NOT run, or in some cases even owned, by Chartered Surveyors and they may not be covered by RICS Regulation.
Don't be taken in by what seems to be a cheap fee! As John Ruskin once pertinently said:
There is hardly anything in the world that someone cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price alone are that person’s lawful prey. It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money -- that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot -- it can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.
With effect from 1st June 2020 RICS members MUST ensure their service is clearly ‘benchmarked’ against one of the Levels defined in the RICS Home Survey Standard. Check what Level you are being offered and compare it with what other local Surveyors may charge for the same service. For example - on a Level 2 Home Buyer Survey - will the Surveyor lift manhole covers, climb on a flat roof or go under a wooden floor? Ask to see an example of the Surveyor's report format (ideally an anonymised completed report not just a blank template) - it should be possible to e-mail you a copy! Is it written in plain and understandable language with good spelling, grammar and punctuation? If not, perhaps you should question how much care went into its preparation! Also be cautious of "instant" quotes that have clearly been auto-gereated as they may not adequately reflect the amount of time that will be required to complete the job to a high standard; this needs assessment by a human not an algorithm! By all means look for good "value for money" but remember it is probably not worth worrying about saving, say, £50-100 on the price of a survey on a house that may be costing you hundreds of thousands of pounds. Whether you are commissioning a property survey or buying any other professional service, if you are only looking to deal with the cheapest provider you are probably undervaluing the job if no other supplier is prepared to do the job at that price!
Please visit the Our Services page for examples of the various types of report we can provide.
This may not be critical to you but it certainly could be if you are facing competition from other buyers for the house you want to purchase or if you are under pressure to move quickly so that you don't lose the sale of your own house.
In any event, you won't want to wait forever to get your report. Be realistic, though - if you ask for a Building Survey on a 6 bedroom Victorian mansion at a fee of several hundred pounds it's unlikely that a Surveyor could (or even ought to try to!) inspect the property and prepare a multi-page report within a couple of days! The Surveyor will need several hours on site, and about the same time to dictate the report, which will then have to be typed, checked and assembled.
A realistic "average" turn round time for a Home Buyer report is perhaps 3-5 working days, depending on the size and age of the house. Building Survey reports are likely to take at least a week to prepare after the inspection. Remember that the Surveyor quoting cheap fees may have more work than others and your instruction may end up at the bottom of a long list of other jobs to be dealt with! Be wary of Surveyors offering "same or next day" turnaraound - a Surveyor should never clock watch when carrying out a survey inspection, it takes as long as it takes, and a requirement of the RICS is that the Surveyor should then give his findings on site "mature reflection" before producing the final report. A cheap fee and a 24 hour turnaround time probably means an inspection where corners are cut and a report that contains little useful information. Think of it this way; a company offers three levels of service - fast, good and cheap - and you can combine any of the two, So if you want "fast and cheap" it probably won't be good!
Factors likely to influence reporting times include the state of the market (Surveyors are much in demand during busy periods, especially if they undertake mortgage valuation work), the time of year (Surveyors have reduced working hours in the Winter when it goes dark earlier!) and the ease of access to the house - some vendors can be remarkably awkward when it comes to providing access to Surveyors!
This can be a problem area! Surveyors haven't used the term "structural survey" for many years but it's still out there! There is also no such thing as a "full" survey - it is impossible to take a building to pieces and there will always be parts that the surveyor simply cannot inspect. What is really implied by the term "full survey" is a detailed inpection followed by a comprehensive written report. We prefer the term "Building Survey" but there is no generally accepted definition of a "Building Survey" - it's another term often used without any thought as to what it means! A Structural Engineer's "structural survey" will probably cover just the load bearing structure and will NOT include areas such as dampness, timber decay and general disrepair. Is this what you want or need? If you think you should have a "Building Survey" make sure you speak to a locally-based and experienced Surveyor to discuss your concerns and what the survey will cover AND make sure you see a copy example of what you are likely to get before you commit to a fee of several hundred pounds. IGNORE WHAT THE REPORT IS CALLED ON THE FRONT PAGE, take a look inside and see what it covers and whether that will suit your needs - anybody can call anything a "Building Survey"! You should certainly be expecting a Building Survey to include photographs.
Do you want it to? Some don't! This is usually because they are not prepared by Chartered Surveyors, and/or because the Surveyor doesn't have the local market knowledge to be able to offer valuation advice. Chartered Surveyors providing valuation advice including that given as part of any Level of Survey Report, MUST be registered with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' Valuer Registration Schems (VRS).
Edwards Genesis is a VAT registered Company and our serices are subject to VAT. We will, however, always confirm the full fee, including VAT, at the time we are instructed.
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It may be useful to discuss the property and your concerns with a Surveyor, particularly one who knows the area. The Surveyor will then be aware of items that worry you and will be better able to advise on the right type of report and any additional advice that you may require from other professionals. If you are unsure what service you may require, why not speak to one of our Chartered Surveyors and discuss your requirements? This preliminary advice is free and without obligation.
We are happy to discuss the content of our reports with clients by telephone, e-mail or "face to face". We will also forward a copy of our report onto your legal adviser if appropriate at no extra charge.
Edwards Genesis have a formal Complaints Handling Procedure in accordance with the Regulations of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
Copy available on request.