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You should always have an independent survey done on your new home. A health check on your new property (even, and perhaps especially, if it's a new build) will flag up any major issues and enable you to make an informed decision about whether to proceed, and at what price. The survey will also give you peace of mind and enable you to budget for the future costs of ownership.
A Mortgage Valuation is not sufficient!
When buying your home an independent survey is always recommended. You should not simply rely on the mortgage valuation, for several reasons:
- the mortgage valuer is instructed by the lender, and is working for them, not you
- the valuation may not be carried out by a qualified Chartered Surveyor, and may be cursory at best, because...
- the mortgage valuation is simply for the mortgage lender to check that if you default on your payments there will be enough value in the house for them to sell it, and recover the outstanding amount of the loan, and not...
- to determine whether the property has defects that will require significant sums to rectify in the future
- or whether the purchase price is a fair open market price for the property
So, which survey do you need?
In 2020 the RICS launched a new 3 Level system of categorising the minimum levels of survey you can expect. This allows surveyors to add a degree of customisation to their standard reports or even create custom reports that meet the required level standard to suit local building conditions and materials. For example there can be significant differences between standard construction methods in urban brick built homes and stone built rural properties, and the new levels are intended to create a consistent minimum level that can be applied to surveys for the different types of property across the country.
This means that when comparing surveyors' offerings you do need to check what exactly you will be getting for your money, whether it's one of the RICS standard surveys, or whether it's a customised version. You would normally expect Level 1 and Level 2 surveys to adhere to the standard RICS format, but Level 3 Building Surveys can have a lot more variation, as they are by definition aimed at older and more diverse properties.
You will also need to check if a valuation is included in the fee - a valuation is not included in Level 1 surveys, Level 2 may or may not include a valuation, Level 3 will generally not include a valuation, and you will need to request this separately.
Valuations are not surveys, and will involve a visual inspection of the property and desk research to determine the open market value of the property, and should only be prepared by an RICS Registered Valuer.
RICS Level 1
The standard RICS Level 1 survey is the RICS Condition Report. This is a very basic level report which involves a visual inspection and offers very little beyond that. Consequently it is really only suited to modern new build properties. Very few of our surveyors offer this level of survey because of its limited scope.
RICS Level 2
The RICS standard Level 2 offering is the RICS HomeBuyer Report (HBR), formerly known as a HomeBuyer Survey. There are two forms for the HomeBuyer Report - survey only, and survey with valuation. This is a survey completed to a standard format set out by the RICS, and it’s most suitable for conventional properties built within the last 150 years, which are in reasonable condition.
It doesn’t detail every aspect of the property, and only focuses on urgent matters needing attention. It’s not usually suitable for properties that have been significantly altered, or are in need of renovation, or if you’re planning major alterations.
A standard HomeBuyers Report includes details of:
- The general condition of the property
- Any major faults in accessible parts of the building that may affect the value
- Any urgent problems that might need inspecting by a specialist before you sign a contract
- Results of tests for damp in the walls
- Damage to timbers – including woodworm or rot
- The condition of any damp-proofing, insulation and drainage (though drains aren’t tested)
- The estimated cost of rebuilding the property for insurance purposes
If you require a HomeBuyer Report with valuation, then an "open market valuation" will be provided, but you will need to check with your surveyor if this is included. Only surveyors who are also RICS Registered Valuers can provide a valuation, and there is usually a higher cost.
RICS Level 3
Level 3 covers Building Surveys (formerly known as a Full Structural Survey). There is a standard RICS Building Survey format, which many surveyors follow, particularly those operating in urban areas where properties tend to be of more consistent construction, but Buiilding Surveys are far more likely to vary between surveyors and regions.
Where surveyors cover a mix of rural, semi-rural and urban properties, they are more likely to have their own customised reporting formats, so you should be aware that although a Building Survey will meet the minimum standard of RICS Level 3, some Building Surveys may be more comprehensive than others, and you should take that into consideration when comparing fees. It is particularly important to discuss the scope of your required survey to ensure that it will cover everything you need it to.
A full Building Survey is suitable for all properties, but especially for:
- Listed buildings
- Older properties
- Buildings constructed in an unusual way, however old they are
- Properties you plan to renovate or alter in any way
- Properties that have had extensive alterations.
It examines all accessible parts of the property - and you can ask to have specific areas included, so it covers any particular concerns you have about the building. It is a product which can be tailored to your needs, as agreed between you and your surveyor.
A Building Survey will generally include details of:
- Major and minor defects and what they could mean
- The possible cost of repairs
- Results of damp testing on walls
- Damage to timbers – including woodworm and rot
- The condition of damp-proofing, insulation and drainage (though drains aren’t tested)
- Technical information on the construction of the property and the materials used
- The location
- Recommendations for any further special inspections.
A Building Survey usually doesn’t include a valuation, but your surveyor can provide this separately if you need one, but again any valuation has to be prepared by a RICS Registered Valuer, and there will be an additional charge.
We'd stress that when instructing a surveyor to carry out a Building Survey it is well worth a discussion to check what is to be included and anything that will be omitted.
General limitations on surveys
It is worth stressing that all standard survey types are 'non-destructive' - in other words they won't cover areas that cannot be easily accessed; surveyors aren't usually able to raise carpets or flooring, insulation in roof-spaces, or remove contents of cupboards to gain access for example.
Access may also be limited by the current home owner. If you have concerns about any specific aspect of the property where access might be restricted, it's worth speaking to your surveyor about the options available, including the possibility of improving access arrangements.
Surveyors will generally not be able to advise on remedial work in many specialist areas, such as plumbing, damp-proofing, heating, gas or electrical installations, as these are regulated professions where only licenced or registered professionals are allowed to work. Their report may highlight observable problems, but will not offer specific recommendations other than to recommend gaining the appropriate specialist advice.
How it Works
Our RICS Surveyors cover the whole of the UK. All of the surveyors or firms listed on our site are RICS Accredited and Regulated - either AssocRICS, MRICS, FRICS, or RICS Regulated Firms, so you can be sure that your survey will be carried out to the highest professional standards.
Getting an estimate for a standard home survey is as simple as 1, 2, 3...
1. Enter your property details
2. Enter your contact details, and
3. Press Search - what could be simpler?
You will receive estimates for your survey from up to five RICS Surveyors operating in your postcode. These estimates and the surveyor details will be displayed on screen, and also emailed to you for you to follow up. Your details will also be sent to the listed surveyors so they can contact you to discuss your requirements in more detail.
If you need something other than a standard survey for a home purchase, then simply click on one of the 'Survey Types' options from the main menu to find a relevant surveyor.
I didn't get 5 results/estimates, why is that?
The maximum number of estimates you will receive is 5, and in most urban areas, for the common survey types, you will receive a full complement. But in some areas the actual number may be fewer, depending upon the number of surveyors offering the specific service you require, as:
a) not all surveyors will offer all survey types in their chosen territories, and
b) some areas, particularly more rural areas, simply have fewer surveyors covering them!
Are your surveyors all local to my postcode?
Results will list surveying firms of a mixture of sizes and locations. Some are independent practitioners, and others may be larger firms covering wider areas. Smaller firms and independent surveyors tend to be highly localised - they don't like to waste hours 'on the road' travelling between surveys!
Larger regional or semi-national firms with main offices that are located out of your immediate locality usually employ surveyors local to the postcodes they appear in for the same reason, so you can expect that the surveyor carrying out your survey for any firm appearing in your search results will have a good knowledge of your local area. Just because the main office of a surveying firm is distant from your location does not mean the actual surveyor carrying out your survey is not local!
If you are in any doubt as to the local knowledge of the surveyors returned, we'd recommend you simply ask about their experience of your locality before you choose.
Why do you ask for the postcode and address of the property?
We need your postcode to find local surveyors actively operating in the area. The full address helps surveyors answer any questions you may have based on the specific property, and its location, for which you require the survey.
Why do you ask for my contact details?
We need these to email your estimates to you, and so the surveyors can contact you to discuss your exact requirements. If you choose to withold your contact information (by entering dummy information for example) you will still be able to view your search results on screen, but they will not be emailed to you. If you prefer not to be emailed but not called, simply enter 'please don't call me' in the telephone number field.
Can I withhold my contact details?
You can if you wish, but if you choose to withold your contact information (by entering dummy information for example) we will not be able to email your estimates to you, although you will still be able to view your search results on screen. If you want to receive confirmation of your estimates by email but prefer not to be called, simply enter 'please don't call me' in the telephone number field.
What do you do with my details?
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Are all your surveyors RICS surveyors?
Yes. All the surveyors or firms listed on our site are RICS accredited - either AssocRICS, MRICS, FRICS, or RICS Regulated Firms. Results may also return estimates for marketing networks such as Your Survey, that provide a centralised marketing and administration service for individual RICS Surveyors.
The Covid-19 pandemic is significantly affecting the property market. In May 2020, the Government allowed Estate Agents and other property related businesses involved in moving home to come out of lockdown and reopen.
At the same time, the Government also announced a Stamp Duty Holiday until the 31st March 2021 to help support the property market through the Covid crisis, and this was extended until the end of June 2021. This, along with pent up demand, resulted in a huge increase in the home moving market, and a very high demand for surveys.
With many experienced (i.e. older) surveyors falling into 'at risk' categories due to age and other underlying health issues, many independent surveyors had chosen not to carry out property inspections until the situation with Covid was more settled. Others were operating only limited or restricted services resulting a significant backlog of surveys, extended lead times for new instructions, and many surveyors continuing to limit their activities.
Those surveyors that have suspended services will not be returned in search results, which means that you will often receive fewer results than in normal times, but those returned should still be carrying out surveys.
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