Types of Surveys

Virtually all Chartered Surveyors will adapt and carry out an individual building inspection to suit your 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 service offered by Chartered Surveyors include:

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 it can be sold to repay the loan should you be unable to keep up repayments.

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 pro forma that provides you with little useful information as a prospective owner in respect of condition and structure.

Too many property purchasers rely on such a report as if it were a full survey and move into a property with hidden defects that cost them thousands. It is the advice of all experienced Chartered Surveyors to commission a survey, of whatever level of detail, in addition to the mortgage valuation.

2. Homebuyer 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.
  • Market value.
  • Valuation for insurance.

Information is provided in a simple, straightforward form, easy to read and understand. It has recommendations for ‘action’ clearly stated.

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 detail.

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.

It should also be noted that, although most defects will be highlighted, the cost of the report does not typically include investigations into these defects and advice on rectifying them. Therefore, in many cases, further expense is required to obtain solutions to the issues found. In more detailed surveys, advice and costings are included.

3. Major Elements Survey / House Purchase Survey Report

A Major Elements Survey covers all of the structural elements of the property, allowing the surveyor to identify and investigate defects without spending time, and thus charging for time, looking at matters like decorative state, joinery and so on which can be viewed by the client themselves.

This saves the client money and provides a concise and focused report on the main points.

The House Purchase Survey Report is a similar survey, but does include matters like decorative state, joinery etc. As such, it provides a concise but extensive report on the whole property, which incorporates a handy list of items that need addressing and an indication of urgency.

Such a report is often viewed as that providing greatest value for money and is suitable for properties of all type and age.

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 Advice

This is where a surveyor will spend a few hours at the property alone, familiarising themselves with the structure and defects present, and will meet the client 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, providing excellent context and understanding.

This can be clearer and easier to understand for most persons who don’t like wading through a 40 page report. The level of inspection is typically at the same level as a House Purchase Survey Report (detailed above) , 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 fees for this service are extremely competitive compared to a similar inspection where one is reporting in writing, due to the extra administration involved in producing a written report. Although no report is created, the client is welcome to bring along a pen and pad and make their own notes.

6. Photographic Inspection Advice

This is similar to normal Acquisition Advice, however, the client may not want or be able to 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 photographs.

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 property!

7. Buildings Reinstatement Insurance Valuation

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 from scratch.

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 Reinstatement 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.

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 Reinstatement Valuation on its own is not usually expensive, depending upon a number of factors.

8. Single Fault/Element Assessment

A single fault assessment is an option where there is one particular fault or problem with a property.

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, the most appropriate course of action is to speak to the Chartered Surveyor who knows the area well and can discuss your individual requirements.

An experienced and independent Chartered Surveyor in your area can be found here:


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