How to choose a home surveyor
Buying a new house can be a time of genuine worry and uncertainty for anyone. The fear of the unknown can really come into play, and it doesn’t help that the house-moving process usually takes several months.
Instructing a surveyor to inspect a property before finalising the purchase is one of the best ways to reduce your stress levels. A reliable, experienced home surveyor will be able to spot any potential problems, allowing you to re-evaluate (if necessary).
In the UK, around 70,000 chartered surveyors work across the country. That doesn’t include the many individuals operating under the ‘surveyor’ job title.
So, with all these home surveyors out there, how can you choose someone right for you? Here, we’ll run through some quick checks you can do to ensure the surveyor you instruct is well-trained, experienced, trustworthy and insured.
Why is a home survey important?
A home survey is a vital part of home buying and is finally catching on with the British public. Recent times (within the past 15 or 20 years) have seen an increase in the number of buyers requesting a home survey, as people realise the benefits they provide.
You don’t need one by law, although that doesn’t mean they aren’t a good idea. All home surveys are priced individually but don’t generally cost more than a few hundred pounds. Compared to the average cost of a house these days, it’s a very low expense.
In return, you’ll receive a detailed report on the property you’re interested in buying. This report means you’ll know the exact condition of the building, leading to reduced future repair costs, less stress and more reassurance before the purchase goes through.
When surveying homes, some of the most common issues we find are roof problems, damp, and subsidence. These all carry significant repair costs, so knowing about them in advance might influence your offer or your decision to follow through with buying the house.
What does a home surveyor do?
A home surveyor heads out to a home to inspect its value and condition. They are almost always instructed by potential buyers as part of the due diligence process. However, occasionally sellers like to have a survey done as a sign of good faith.
As a buyer, you’d get in touch with a surveyor after putting an offer in on a house. You’re under no legal obligation to buy at this point, regardless of whether the seller accepts it. Your initial offer is more of a registration of your interest.
When you book a home survey, the surveyor will organise a date and time convenient for the current occupier, usually within seven days. They’ll go to the property and conduct the inspection at the agreed-upon time. This inspection might vary depending on what type you asked for. During it, they’ll look out for any signs of common (and uncommon) problems, including damp, rot, drainage issues, roof problems, Japanese Knotweed or woodworm.
After they finish, they’ll write up a report for you. You’ll receive this within a couple of weeks (although at GB Home Surveys, we always strive to have it to you within seven days).
You can then use this report to influence your decisions going forward. For example, if you’ve ordered a RICS Home Survey Level 2 and the surveyor has found evidence of roof problems, you’ll know there’s potentially a high cost in store for you further down the line. You can use this to either reduce your offer or withdraw from the purchase.
What is RICS?
RICS is the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. It’s the professional governing body for all chartered surveyors in the UK and has a prominent presence worldwide.The organisation was brought to life to hold surveyors to high standards and ensure buildings, land and infrastructure are constructed and maintained safely and efficiently.
All qualified, experienced RICS surveyors are legally known as chartered surveyors. It’s a protected term. A surveyor who isn’t registered with RICS cannot call themselves chartered.
It was founded in June 1868 after experienced surveyors saw the need for regulation after the rapidly expanding infrastructure in the Industrial Revolution.
As a group of experienced surveyors, they had seen the rapidly expanding infrastructure that the new world demanded. They could see that standards were often low, inconsistent and, in some cases, dangerous.
Over the past 230 years, RICS has been through several names. It received a Royal Charter in 1881, becoming known as The Surveyors’ Institution. Just after the Second World War, King George VI allowed it to become the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors – the name it carries today.
Should a home surveyor be registered with RICS?
Home surveyors don’t necessarily have to register with RICS, but most choose to. RICS membership brings reassurance to both the customer and the chartered surveyor in the following ways:
- Qualifications – to become a registered member, all chartered surveyors must have completed specific degrees tailored to the industry and approved by RICS.
- Experience – a RICS home surveyor must have completed at least two years of carefully assisted work before becoming chartered.
- Professional competence – all chartered surveyors have to complete regular training updates.
- Ethics standards – RICS expects members to rigidly abide by strict ethical standards on top of their surveying skills.
- Professional indemnity insurance – RICS provides all its members with insurance, protecting both them and the customers they work for.
- Simplified survey types – RICS home surveys are broken down into simple categories, making them easier to understand for customers. At GB Home Surveys, we conduct RICS Level 2 Home Surveys and Level 3 Home Surveys, as well as valuations.
- Standardised reports – a chartered surveyor always fills out a RICS home survey inspection report according to the template framework. Follow the link for an example of a Home Survey Level 3 report. This means you’ll always know where to find any information.
A home surveyor who isn’t registered with RICS (they may well be registered with an alternative governing body) might also do a fantastic job, paying close attention to detail and producing an excellent, well-rounded report. However, that’s the risk. They might not.
With RICS, you have the reassurance that the chartered surveyor you’ve instructed is competent, skilled, qualified and experienced. In the unlikely situation that anything goes wrong, you also have a professional body to which you could complain or claim compensation. A standard surveyor (not a RICS member) may be unable to provide any of this.
Of course, you could do some background checks into a standard home surveyor. You might well find that they have evidence for all the above. However, being registered with RICS means all this has already been done for you, saving you time.
What should I look for in a home surveyor?
Whether they’re RICS members or not, a home surveyor should, of course, be professionally competent. Look for reviews and testimonials endorsing the surveyor. These would also be evidence of their experience.
Similarly, conduct as many background checks as you can. You’ll want to ensure that the business or individual you’re hiring is legitimate and worth the fee.
Don’t be afraid to ask to see evidence of their qualifications and experience. Remember, anyone can legally go by the title ‘surveyor’ – even if they have no education or work history whatsoever. A hard-working, knowledgeable surveyor will always be happy to submit this information in one form or another.
Try to focus on surveyors with experience in the immediate region of your prospective new home. They’ll have a superior understanding of the local market. Therefore, you can expect their valuations and cost estimates to be that bit more accurate.
Finally, we’d suggest asking for as much information as you can before paying the fee and instructing the surveyor. For example, how quickly can you expect the report and in what format? What problems will they look for? Will the report feature repair cost estimates?
Getting a RICS home surveyor means you can skip all these steps. The professional body accepts only reliable, trustworthy members with relevant qualifications and experience in the field.
How can GB Home Surveys help you?
Here at GB Home Surveys, we’re a team of many RICS chartered surveyors based in offices across England (South-West and West Midlands) and South Wales. Our rapidly-expanding team is highly skilled, with home surveys being carried out in many locations every day.
Our England offices cover the areas of Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Bristol, Bath, the Cotswolds, Taunton, North Somerset and the West Midlands. If you’re thinking of moving to – or within – one of these areas, we’d love to hear from you.
All our chats are entirely informal and obligation-free. Our friendly staff will be more than happy to help you settle on what level of RICS home survey you need. You can expect one of our skilled chartered surveyors to head out to the property to do the inspection. The report will be back with you, in PDF format, within seven days, and our surveyor will be glad to talk through their observations with you.
Could a RICS home survey benefit you? We believe it certainly could. For a commitment-free conversation, why not drop us an email at email@example.com or phone us on 03333 600 685. We look forward to hearing from you and helping you on your homebuying journey.