Types of Survey

Building Survey

The Building Survey is the general purpose survey suitable for almost any building of any age and type; it was once referred to as a structural survey. It is the most detailed survey normally prepared for a prospective purchaser and will comment on structural weakness, subsidence, woodworm and all the other defects that a survey should reveal. If possible, the roofspace will be examined, but it is obviously not practical to examine parts of the building which would require damage to be done to expose them to view, nor to make inspections which might involve risk to persons or property.

Surveyors vary in the approach to both the inspection and the report, which is not a "standardised" document. I tend to avoid too much descriptive matter or discussion of decorative finishes, preferring to prepare a concise report concentrating on structural matters. A Building Survey will not normally include tests or detailed examination of the services, but most surveyors, including myself, will make generalised comments on these and will try to guide as to whether further specialist advice is necessary. I normally illustrate reports with photographs, but this is still not universal practice. A Building Survey will not normally include a market valuation, but I will usually include a rebuilding cost figure for insurance purposes on residential properties. Estimates for costs of remedial works will not be included in the report but I would be pleased to discuss these with you on an informal basis subsequently. This service is broadly equivalent to RICS level 3 which is described on
their website at www.rics.org/homesurveys.

RICS HomeBuyer Report

This is a simplified report prepared within a format set down by the RICS; it will cover most of the same subject matter as the building survey, but in less depth and while any serious defects should be revealed, the report is less likely to extend to a discussion of significance and remedy. The surveyor is more likely to recommend further investigations than pursuing a particular problem within the report, which reflects the lower cost of the report and the correspondingly tighter time limits on the surveyor. The report does include a valuation as standard (although this may change soon), which will usually cost extra with a building survey (and should be specifically requested if required with this). In my opinion this form of report is ideal for the modern house where defects are unlikely, but should still be checked for; the building survey is much more suitable for the older or larger building, or one which is of unusual construction or has been significantly altered. Estimates for costs of remedial works will not be included in the report but I would be pleased to discuss these with you on an informal basis subsequently. The format of this report was extensively revised as from 1st July 2009 and is a RICS level  2 which is described on their website at www.rics.org/homesurveys .

RICS Condition Report

This is a simplified version of the above, intended to give warning of defects but not to enter into any extended discussion of them or advice as to remedy. No valuation or rebuilding cost figure is given and the restricted nature of the inspection is illustrated by the fact that the surveyor is instructed not to enter the roof, but only to inspect from the hatch, and not to lift drainage inspection chamber covers. In my view this service is no substitute for a Building Survey or HomeBuyer Report, but is better than having no report at all and could be helpful to someone buying a small, modern property. This report was introduced in early 2011 but because of lack of demand I am no longer offering them myself. This is a RICS level  1 which is described on their website at www.rics.org/homesurveys .

ISVA HomeSurvey Report

This has many similarities to the RICS HomeBuyer Report, but is in a more traditional format and has the option of not including a valuation, which should save on cost. This is equivalent to a RICS level  2 which is described on their website at www.rics.org/homesurveys .

Building Defect Report

There are times when a report is needed in respect of a specific problem, sometimes by a potential buyer but increasingly often by a vendor whose home has been the subject of an adverse survey or valuation report. A Building Defect Report will usually be strictly limited to a particular defect (and the fee charged will reflect this) and where several defects require further study it may be more sensible to commission a traditional Building Survey, as described above.

Mortgage Valuation Report

This is an inspection, perhaps taking upto half-an-hour, prepared by a qualified valuer in order to satisfy a lender that a loan will be adequately secured. In this time it is impossible to make a full survey, but it is a useful exercise in "risk limitation" for both the lender and buyer. The report will often be made available to the borrower, but this is not always the case. While a very few lending institutions may still allow the borrower to specify the surveyor to be used, almost all will insist on using an in-house or panel valuer, often one of the larger corporate firms of chartered surveyors. Savings can sometimes be made if the mortgage valuation and purchaser's private survey are undertaken by the same surveyor, but this is not necessarily so and many buyers prefer to have a survey confidential to themselves.

Very few institutions are now willing to accept and independent sole practitioner for such work, preferring to use larger organisations.

Specialist Service Inspections

Specialist examinations and tests of plumbing, heating, electrical and drainage installations can be arranged by experts in these fields; I would normally advise reading the surveyor's report before commissioning a specialist inspection, if time permits.

Structural Engineer Reports

Such a report is normally only needed if a major defect such as subsidence is suspected or is known to exist; there is a tendency for over-cautious mortgage valuers to specify such reports when a normal building survey might well cover the problem adequately. In the rare event of subsidence being suspected, the engineer will usually need a trial hole to be excavated to allow a view of the foundations and subsoil, before full advice can be given.

Home Condition Reports

In June 2007 Home Condition Reports were introduced, on a voluntary basis, prior to a residential property being placed on the market; these were to be prepared by Home Inspectors, not necessarily chartered surveyors. As it is no longer intended to make Home Condition Reports compulsory, it is unlikely that the average vendor will commission one, even if a Home Inspector can be found to undertake the work; take up on a voluntary basis proved extremely poor.

For a quotation without obligation call 07957 364334

Andrew N Carr BA FRICS (Chartered Surveyor)

7 Upper Isbury, Marlborough, Wiltshire SN8 4AY

Sample Survey

Sample HomeBuyer

Home Surveys Information Sheet