A building survey report? What’s the point

image of clay tiles on a house roofA Chartered Surveyor acts for the buyer of a property and gives an honest professional opinion on the condition of the property. It is not the job of a Chartered Surveyor to provide a glowing building survey report that will encourage you to buy a property, nor is it their mission to ruin a property purchase by causing alarm or despondency.

A Chartered Surveyor must ensure that the buyer is fully aware of any potential issues before purchasing the building. That means using their professional expertise to examine the building in detail. Any areas which are of concern will be flagged so that you can further investigate any potential issues.

Sometimes a report might contain a detail as seemingly innocuous as a small crack but if it turns out that the chimney stack needs rebuilding or the walls require re-rendering, this small detail could save you thousands of pounds.

An experienced Chartered Surveyor will have seen plenty of attempts by home sellers to pull the wool over the eyes of an unsuspecting home buyer, and knows what to look for. The Chartered Surveyor needs to be able to discern what is characterful or typical from what might be a potentially expensive disaster. If you’ve ever stripped ‘fashionable’ wallpaper from a wall or removed a disagreeable carpet, you may well have found something nasty lurking beneath.

The Chartered Surveyor’s report cannot contain every possible fault within a building but the more detailed the survey, the more explanation there will be of whether any issues are serious. In a less detailed building survey, some of the issues may show little detail but this is to be expected  if the report fails to highlight a crucial problem then the surveyor can be held responsible.

Until 6th August 2019, the dispute resolution organisation, Ombudsman Services, deals with complaints about Chartered Surveyors. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors is responsible for the regulation and conduct of its members. The RICS has no powers to compel its members to compensate a claimant or involve itself in litigation against a member firm. However, it has its own resolution advice and complaints handling procedure which should be followed before taking the matter to an ombudsman service.

So, why bother with a survey?

A Chartered Surveyor will check several hundred different aspects of a building. This will generally include the roof, loft, walls, floors, chimneys, windows, fireplaces, garden walls, knotweed and even cladding. Visual checks are likely to be made on electrics, plumbing and such things unless you have requested that these are looked at in more detail, but you may need to have a specialist report.

The Chartered Surveyor will use his knowledge of similar types of property to assess whether any particular issue is something you should be concerned about. For instance, an older property in an established residential street might well have some signs of damp – but this may be typical of the type of property and the Chartered Surveyor will know what solutions are available, if any, and be able to check that adequate measures have been taken.

A Which? survey found that over 40% of properties were found at fault in the building survey but identifying these issues at the outset can often save you money. You may even be able to seek a price reduction and renegotiate the amount you pay for the property to reflect the cost of making good.

Of course, if the building survey report does cause you sufficient concern that you decide not to go ahead with a house purchase, you are likely to be grateful. Imagine finding out that your new property in the countryside had subsidence or had a major problem with a gable wall.

In essence, the more detailed the survey, the more likely you will be protected from unexpected problems. And remember, you must ensure that you understand every aspect of the survey report you have commissioned. Failure to do so may mean that the scope of the report is insufficient to protect you, should anything go wrong.

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