What type of survey or advice do I need?

Get a survey on your home

An independent Chartered Surveyor will always be happy to discuss and explain which type of survey you need, and give you the advice and explanation of the options available to you. You will then be able to discuss the most appropriate course of action and make a fully considered decision.

The local and independent Chartered Surveyors on PropertySurveying.co.uk provide building surveys and other property surveying services throughout the UK, including England and Wales.These include full building surveys, structural surveys, homebuyers reports, house purchase surveys, party wall work, major defects reports, matrimonial valuations and building reinstatement valuations (for your home insurance cover).

For all your building survey or other surveying needs, find the contact details of your local independent Chartered Surveyor by phoning us on 0800 880 6264 or use our interactive map.

If you would like a property survey or advice, but need more information before contacting a Chartered Surveyor, here are some of the types of survey and advice an independent Chartered Surveyor can provide.

What type of survey do I need?

The most appropriate kind of inspection can be different for individual people, as well as for different properties and locations. For this reason, we advocate using a local independent Chartered Surveyor who is close to the subject property and familiar with the area.

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 survey advice sought by property purchasers are:

1. Mortgage Valuation

The Mortgage Valuation is often confused with a “survey” and has one purpose only – to satisfy the 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, 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, and there is no obligation to carry out anything more than a superficial inspection.

Although you, as the purchaser, are owed a “duty of care” and will often be required to pay the 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 little useful information to a prospective owner in respect of the condition and structure of the property.

2. Homebuyer Survey and Valuation

A new style Homebuyer Survey and Valuation report provides a prospective purchaser with basic information in standard 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. Any “recommendations for action” are 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 the inspection of boundaries and outbuildings, and an overall visual inspection of services. It does not include examination of inaccessible parts or testing of services.

If key defects are found they 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.

3. Building Survey

The Building Survey involves a 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 the Chartered Surveyor to proceed and will be confirmed in the Conditions of Engagement. This will include such matters as specialist reports (e.g. focus on services, environmental aspects, etc). Guidance and detailed comment will be given on individual defects, sometimes on 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, buildings with Listed status, and those which have been extended, or are used commercially. It is also suitable for flats and other premises with leasehold title or as a preliminary to preparation of a Schedule of Condition.

4. Major Defects Report

A Major Defect Report is similar in some respects to a building survey or an older style homebuyer survey. The level of inspection is usually between the two or close to the level of a building survey. However, the report itself includes less detail than a full building survey and concentrates on 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.

5. Onsite Acquisition Advice

To provide Onsite Acquisition Advice, the surveyor may well spend a day at the property, with the client meeting the surveyor at the property towards the end of the survey. A tour of all the most important considerations to be taken into account when purchasing the property can be explained to the client on site and in front of the item needing consideration.

Onsite Acquisition Advice can make it clearer for the buyer to understand more about the property they intend to purchase or to provide a second opinion. The level of inspection is typically at the same level as  building survey advice, 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 the difference in administration involved in producing a written report.

6. Photographic Inspection Advice

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 provide the client with photographs of everything that he or she would report on in a typical survey. A written index is provided if required with a brief explanation of the feature and / or issue concerned.

The photograph enables a telephone conversation to take place to clarify the surveyor’s thoughts about the property, including with special reference to specific issues.

A surveyor knows what issues are important to look at, and understand that clients are often not experienced property purchasers and can feel constrained when viewing a property under escort by a vendor or agent. The Chartered Surveyor can take as long as it takes and is expected to be nosey!

This service does not usually come with a formal written report, although one can be supplied by arrangement. It has obviously become very popular since the age of digital photography. The last few inspections carried out by the author have typically created a portfolio of in excess of 250 photographs. When we inspected most properties using an old 35mm camera, we typically took only 36 shots for the record!

7. Buildings Replacement Insurance Valuation

This is an “as it says on the tin” valuation – 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 survey advice inspections described herein, 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 five years.

After five years, any difference results in inadequate insurance cover.

Insurance companies do not usually pay 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 have been known to inappropriately attempt to indicate the building costs of a property to their client. In the 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, dependent 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 when it has been identified that a property has one particular fault or problem. This may or may not be before or after 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.

And finally…

There are a number of other types of building assessment possible. To select the most appropriate service, we advise clients to speak to the Chartered Surveyor who knows the area well and can discuss individual requirements.

If the Chartered Surveyor in the location required is out on a site visit at the time of your call, as can often be the case, they will contact you as soon as they are able if you leave a telephone or email message.

Please remember that Chartered Surveyors are regularly on site and therefore not always immediately contactable. If you phone and get an answerphone, please leave a message or send an email, and the surveyor really will call you back as soon as is possible.