What type of Survey
What type of Advice do I Need ?
Many people do not wish to read long explanations. In which case telephone the Chartered Surveyor where you need a survey or advice and he or she will be happy to discuss and explain the options to you. For those that wish to read a general summary of the most common types of Survey and Advice, read on.
This article is for those that are unfamiliar with obtaining property surveys or advice who would like a greater general understanding before they telephone or contact the appropriate Chartered Surveyor closest to the subject property. You will then be able to discuss the most appropriate course of action and then make a fully considered decision.
Sometimes the most appropriate kind of inspection can be different for different people as well as for different properties.
Virtually all Chartered Surveyors will adapt and carry out an individual building inspection to suit your individual needs. A bespoke service or an extra to a typical survey format should enable all the requirements of a client to be addressed.
The most common types of Advice sought by property purchasers are:
1. Mortgage Valuation
Often confused with a "survey". A mortgage valuation has one
purpose only - to satisfy a "Lender" that the house you want
to buy with a loan is a sufficiently valuable asset that can be sold to
repay the loan should you, the borrower, be unable to keep up repayments
in the future.
The Valuer’s job is to take account of the condition of the building.
There is no obligation to carry out more than a superficial inspection.
Although you, as purchaser, are owed a "duty of care" and will
pay all costs of the "valuation", the report is designed specifically
for the needs of a Lender. It is presented as a brief proforma that provides
you with little useful information as a prospective owner in respect of
condition and structure.
Survey and Valuation
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has designed the Homebuyer
Survey and Valuation report to provide a prospective purchaser with basic
information in a standardised format. It includes details of:
General condition and form of construction.
Significant factors which might influence or affect value.
Valuation for insurance.
Information is provided in a simple, straightforward form, easy to read
and understand. It has recommendations for ‘action’ clearly
Inspection is limited to those parts of the building that can be reached
safely and easily using a 3m (10 ft) ladder. It includes inspection of
boundaries, outbuildings and overall visual inspection of services. It
does not include examination of inaccessible parts or testing of services.
Key defects will be identified. It is important to appreciate that the
surveyor is not required to provide advice on repair or to comment in
Although the Homebuyer Report and Valuation is suitable for many dwellings
built after 1920, its simple format is not usually satisfactory for large
houses or those that are unusual by virtue of design or construction.
It is also not suitable for those that have been converted, extended,
altered significantly or are Listed Buildings.
A major Defect Report is similar in some respects to a building survey and a homebuyer survey. The level of inspection is usually between the two or close to the level of a building survey. However, the report itself is in less detail than a full building survey and concentrates on those more important and larger building issues.
A Major Defects Report is often useful where a homebuyer report should not be carried out due to the age or type of property or if the property is listed.
4. Building Survey
Building surveys involve more detailed inspection of buildings, and preparation
of a report that is designed to address the specific needs and interests
of the client.
The extent of inspection and the method of reporting will be agreed when
the client instructs a surveyor to proceed and will be confirmed in the
Conditions of Engagement; including such matters as specialist reports
(e.g. focus on services; environmental aspects etc). Guidance and detailed
comment will be given on individual defects, cost of repair and any other
aspects of concern.
Although a Building Survey is relevant for all types of modern buildings,
it is particularly useful and informative for older structures, "Listed
Buildings", and those which have been extended, or are used commercially;
for flats and other premises with leasehold title or as a preliminary
to preparation of a Schedule of Condition.
5. Onsite Acquisition
This is where a surveyor may well spend a day at the property, with the client meeting the surveyor at the property in the afternoon. A tour of all the most important considerations when purchasing the property can be explained to the client onsite and in front of the item needing consideration.
This can be clearer and easier to understand fully for most persons who like to understand about the property they intend to purchase or have a second opinion. The level of inspection is typically at the same level as a building survey, however not necessarily all matters are discussed onsite if there is nothing specific to report.
This is a verbal report with no written record. The costs of this service are usually very competitive compared to a similar inspection where one is reporting in writing, due to extra administration involved in producing a written report.
6. Photographic Inspection
This is similar to normal Acquisition Advice, however, the client may or may not meet the surveyor at the property at the end of the inspection. The surveyor would take a photograph of everything that he or she would report on in a typical survey and provide the client with a disc of photographs. A written index is provided if required with a brief explanation of the feature and / or issue concerned.
The presence of a photograph
enables a telephone conversation to take place to clarify the surveyor's
thoughts about the property, including with special reference to specific
A surveyor knows what sections are important to look at, whereas most clients are less experienced and are often constrained by having to look around a property with a vendor or agent. The Surveyor can be as long as it takes and is expected to be nosey!
This service does not usually come with a formal written report, although this can be supplied by arrangement and has obviously become very popular over the last few years with the advent of digital photography. The last few inspections carried out by the author have typically been in excess of 250 photographs. With the old 35 mm cameras we used to inspect a property and take 36 shots for the whole of most properties!
7. Buildings Replacement
This is "as it says on
the tin", namely the cost of rebuilding a property irrespective of
the condition the building or site may be left in following a disaster.
It is not the same as the market price of the property or the cost of
building the property.
At the time of carrying out
most building and advice inspections herein described it is typical for
the surveyor to provide a building replacement valuation that will be
required for a purchaser's buildings insurance.
This should be updated regularly depending upon the terms and conditions of the policy provider. Many policies are typically indexed linked and assume that the Buildings Replacement Valuation is acceptable as a basis for insurance for 5 years. After 5 years any difference results in inadequate insurance cover.
Insurance companies do not usually pay up the pro rata differential of even a small claim and any claimant would need to find this amount. Different policies have different terms and conditions and it is recommended that these be read carefully.
Some insurance brokers and companies sometimes inappropriately try to indicate to their clients the Building Costs of properties. In their small print you will usually find that they are not insured and that it is the responsibility of the owner to be certain that the figure they provide is correct.
It is the owner's duty to make
sure that the property is adequately insured. If there is a mortgage on
the property it is often a legal obligation to keep this valuation updated.
There are also legal ramifications where adjoining properties may be affected.
A Buildings Replacement Valuation on its own is not usually expensive, depending upon a number of factors. It is invariably incorporated into the typical services provided by a Chartered Surveyor subject to client agreement, whether an Acquisition inspection is required or more detailed building inspection is undertaken.
8. Single Fault Assessment
A single fault assessment is an option where there is one particular fault or problem with a property. This may or may not be before or after a purchase and is most often required when a property has been in the same occupation for many years.
The fault or problem is analysed and the cause, or probable cause, identified. A proposed course of action is then suggested in order to address the problem itself.
Sometimes it is appropriate for a letter analysis or report to be prepared for a possible insurance claim.
There are a number of other types of building assessment possible. To select the most appropriate service, we are of the opinion that the most appropriate course of action is to speak to the Chartered Surveyor who knows the area well and can discuss your individual requirements.
If the Chartered Surveyors in the location required are onsite at the time of your call, as can often be the case, if you leave a telephone or e mail message they will contact you as soon as they are able.
Please remember that Chartered Surveyors are often onsite and therefore uncontactable even with mobile phones. If you telephone and get an answerphone, please leave a message, or e mail the surveyor, and he or she really will call you back as soon as is possible.
More Useful Property Advice articles will be added here in due course.
If you have any questions on property matters or proposals for advice articles, do not hesitate to write to us via the Contact Us page.