Why Do I Need a Property Surveyor?

By James Brook FRICS on and updated on

Buying a house is an expensive affair, but trying to save money by not having a qualified surveyor carry out the proper survey for your property can make it even more expensive. Surveyors play a crucial role in the house buying process, inspecting the property’s condition, making potential buyers aware of any issues and reporting on their findings so that all parties are clear on the results. In short, then, a surveyor can save you time, money and hassle, but what do they look for, how do you choose one and what happens if they find a severe problem?

What is the role of a surveyor?

After your offer has been accepted, you should appoint a surveyor to visit the property and assess its condition. The surveyor will be charged with taking a detailed and impartial look at the house to see if there are any structural issues or repairs that need to be addressed. They also provide a helpful commentary on the property, highlighting aspects such as what the property is constructed of, type of glazing, age and so on – all information you’ll need when you come to insure the property.

This will be delivered to you in a report highlighting issues and offering general advice on aspects of the property, such as future maintenance issues that may arise and items to confirm with your legal adviser, such as boundaries and drainage.

Most qualified surveyors will be members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), so be sure to check for this accreditation as it means they are properly insured. For more advice on what to look for when choosing a surveyor, read our blog.

What do surveyors look for during a house survey?

Precisely what is looked at during the inspection will depend on which level of survey you choose. Popular choices are the RICS HomeBuyer Report, suitable for houses built after 1970 and flats built after 1950, which are in a reasonable condition and worth less than £1,000,000, and the more comprehensive Building Survey.

As well as the more well-known things surveyors look out for, such as structural concerns and damp, they will also highlight other potential problems, such as signs of infestation, problems with the roof, dry rot, Japanese knotweed and much more. These are all things that could potentially cost you dearly if you buy a house without being aware of them.

What happens if your surveyor finds a problem?

While ideally, your surveyor will tell you that the property is in the condition you expected it to be, it may well be the case that there are potential areas for concern. If this does happen, it doesn’t have to mean the end of your home-buying dream. Many problems can be fixed relatively easily, and if not, they may provide an opportunity for you to renegotiate with the seller. The key thing with a survey is that it means you go into the purchase fully informed, giving you the power to decide if and how you want to proceed.

Now you’re clear on the reasons you need a surveyor; the next issue is finding one. It may be that your estate agent makes a suggestion here and recommends a firm they’ve worked with before. While it can be tempting to save yourself the hassle of doing more research and simply go with this option – it pays to think twice before doing so.

Impartiality is key if you are going to get all the information you need to make an informed decision. A surveyor chosen by your estate agent can’t offer this in the same way an independent surveyor can, especially if commission and future work are at stake. An independent surveyor will work just for you, offering a bespoke service tailored to your specific situation. So, if you have particular concerns that you’d like to be checked or if you’d like a follow up to clarify the detail of the report, you’ll be able to agree with your surveyor. Suddenly spending a bit of time researching options doesn’t seem like such a big deal!

What sort of survey should I get?

The next challenge is figuring out what type of survey best suits the property you’re planning on buying. There are several options depending on the building’s age, value and state, and your preferences and budget.

1. Building survey

Although the most expensive option, these surveys are the most comprehensive. They’ll identify hidden defects to give you a detailed insight into the property’s actual condition, as well as providing accurate repair cost estimates, so you know whether a property is best avoided or it’s worth renegotiating. Expect your Novello surveyor to turn up armed with a number of tools, including polecams, to access difficult areas.

2. RICS HomeBuyer survey

HomeBuyer surveys provide an inspection of those areas of a property that are easily accessible. They will be carried out by a RICS chartered surveyor who will highlight visible problems that are serious, dangerous, or that could affect the property value. The survey report follows a set format and is not tailored to individual cases.

3. HomeLevel Reports

Exclusive to Novello, this concise, economical, expert-level 2 survey report is equivalent to the RICS HomeBuyer Report and priced the same, but it offers a more comprehensive service. It is carried out by RICS chartered surveyors. The HomeLevel Report will examine at least 20 crucial interior and exterior elements of a property and will be delivered to you in just a few days, so you can get going with completing your purchase without any delays. Clarity is also key, so we use a traffic light system to highlight urgent repairs, less serious defects and general maintenance, making our reports genuinely actionable.

When do I not need to have a survey?

In pretty much every situation, a survey will be of value when buying a house. That is unless you’re buying a new build property. In this situation, a more cost-effective snagging survey is the best way forward as it will highlight both minor cosmetic issues and more serious defects before you move in and give you the evidence you need to convince your developer to rectify any issues, all for just a few hundred pounds.

Novello’s Snagging List service will inspect every aspect of your property as well as using tools such as socket testers, thermal imaging cameras to check underfloor heating and anemometers to ensure extraction fans can do their job. Find out more about the benefits of snagging lists in our blog.

Understanding your house survey

Once you’ve received your survey report, it can be tempting to check the headline points and just scan through the rest, but it’s worth taking the time to have a thorough read through and follow up with the surveyor if you’re unsure about anything – at Novello, we’ll always be on hand to help with this and to explain exactly what the report has found.

Depending on the size, age and condition of your property, the report can be a hefty document, so don’t be afraid to ask potential surveyors for examples of past reports so you can be sure what you’ll receive is clear and easy to understand.

As a rough guide, you can expect your report to be broken down into a number of key sections – Introduction, property summary, general description, exterior, interior, services, other matters and legal matters. This will help you to home in on areas that are important to you. Other things to look out for are clear signposting, strong headings and photos, as these will all help you to find the information you need.

It can also be a good idea to send a copy of your survey report to your solicitor – they’ll know what to look out for and can raise requests for relevant documentation and warranties based on the information it contains.

To get a better idea of what a survey report looks like, take a look at our sample Building Survey Report and HomeLevel Report.

The Novello Approach

At Novello, we value honesty, integrity and service, and our survey options help us to achieve that. Whether you require a comprehensive building survey or a snagging list, you can be sure that your Novello specialist will be experienced, knowledgeable and focused on your best interests.

Not only that, but with Novello, we don’t simply deliver your survey report and walk away like most firms. We’ll also guide you through the results and advise on any next steps once you have the report. This includes sharing our experience on how to negotiate if any defects are found and advising on the contractors or specialists you might need to get in touch with in order to proceed with confidence.

It’s our mission to ensure you receive the impartial advice you need to breeze through the buying process, and we’ll work to be trusted partners as you do so. Contact us to find out more.

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