Choosing the right survey
Whether you are thinking of buying a property or wish to have advice on your existing home, it is important to make sure that
you commission the most appropriate type of survey not only for the type and age of building but also to reflect your future
plans for the property.
You may be planning to have a mortgage to assist with the purchase and the lenders are likely to commission a valuation to ensure
the property is suitable for the loan you require. However, it is not advisable to rely solely on this valuation in deciding whether
to proceed as it is not a survey and in some cases, the valuer may be asked to provide an opinion to the lender without even
visiting the property.
We offer two levels of survey product:
Level 2 Home Survey (equivalent to the RICS Home Buyer Report) and
Level 3 Building Survey (equivalent to the RICS Building Survey).
Please note that we do not offer Level 1 Surveys as these do not include the provision of remedies or advice for any issues that
are discovered during the inspection thus leaving a prospective buyer or current owner, in our view, without clear guidance on
their next steps.
All our services are provided within the strict regulatory framework of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and for this
particular area of activity, the RICS Home Survey Standard is the recognised benchmark. A full copy of this can be found here.
The ultimate aim of both levels of service is to provide you with an assessment of the property (including any relevant aspects
of its setting and location) so that you can make an informed decision about a purchase and/or prioritise future repairs and
upgrades. In addition, we act as the ‘eyes and ears’ of your legal advisers to prompt them to pursue enquiries on any critical
issues that we discover as part of our desktop research and inspection.
The differences between the levels is really a matter of extent, both with the inspection and the final report. It may be the
property type or condition, or your current concerns about a particular issue or indeed your future plans that warrant a greater
depth of inspection and research. For instance, with a more complex or historic property there comes a need for a more detailed
inspection and as a consequence, a more detailed report offering more description, explanation and risk assessment.
Following all inspections, we can provide initial verbal feedback to ‘set the scene’ for the full report and of course, can discuss
any concerns you may have once you have had time to digest its contents.
Both levels of report include a ‘traffic-light’ system (green-amber-red) to indicate the relative importance and/or urgency of any
specific issues, particularly those that may pose a risk to personal safety, so as to help you understand the priorities of any
In addition, they include an Overall Opinion and Summary of the Ratings from which you can acquire a balanced understanding of both the positive and negative aspects of the property.
What is Level 2?
This level is suitable for conventional properties built since say 1850, using common materials and in reasonable condition. Some examples of properties suitable for Level 2 are shown in these photos:
The extent of inspection covers the main elements of the building and site including permanent outbuildings, where they are safely and readily accessible to a surveyor working alone. The inspection is visual only and no tests are carried out on the materials or services nor to any fitted appliances such as cookers, fridges etc. It is also described as being ‘non-invasive’ meaning that we do not take the building apart in any way, using only normal access panels that an occupier might open. So, for example, this would normally include lofts, drains, boiler cupboards and meter boxes.
It is inevitable that there will be restrictions on the extent of inspection (as posed for instance by floor coverings and furniture, loft insulation, screwed-down hatches or heavy-duty drain covers) but our knowledge and experience of common issues in such conventional properties can often make use of limited information to detect or suspect the presence of concealed issues. Any limitations to the normal extent of permissible inspection will be noted in the report. Unfortunately, there may still be instances where a problem is completely undetectable or has been concealed, perhaps intentionally, by the owner.
We make use of appropriate inspection equipment including for example, an electronic moisture meter, drain lifting keys, meter box keys, extending camera stick and portable ladders (to reach roof surfaces and access hatches up to 3m above the surface).
The report will be as concise as practicable and property-specific i.e. not weighed down with generalised standard warning clauses. As well as the contents mentioned in the introduction above, recommendations will be provided on action to remedy a noted issue or to arrange further investigations where we are unable to be certain about the extent of a problem. In addition, further advice and photographs will be inserted as necessary to ensure clear understanding. However, these recommendations will not include detailed specification for the works.
Further details are provided in:
RICS Home Survey Standard - Appendix A Definition of levels; Appendix B: Benchmarking the levels of inspection.
What is Level 3?
This level should be chosen if the property is more historic, complex in nature or requires substantial repairs and adaptation. Some examples of properties suitable for Level 3 are shown in these photos:
As a result of the increased complexity and age of properties suitable for this service, the level of inspection will necessitate a greater attention to detail than Level 2 although it still remains visual in nature and ‘non-invasive’ in principle. However, this does not preclude unscrewing access panels or drain chambers, clearing light debris or stored items, asking the property owner to move larger items or requesting access to neighbouring property in order to better facilitate inspection.
A sample of the services will be observed in normal operation but not formally tested, if considered safe and practicable and subject to being switched on and/or with the consent of the owner. For example, observing water flow from wc’s through drain chambers, checking hot water is delivered at sample of taps, checking operation of a sample of lights. However, unless these services have the appropriate safety certification, it is likely that a referral to an appropriately qualified contractor will be recommended in most cases. As with Level 2, any unusual limitations on the normal extent of permissible inspection will be reported.
Additional equipment may be required to satisfy the increased demands of this level of service (such as 5m camera pole, inclinometer, metal detector and so on).
The report for this level of service will generally be more detailed than Level 2 in terms of the history of development of the property, the descriptions of the elements, the noted issues and associated risks and the recommended remedies. In particular, an overall aim will be to reduce the number of referrals for further investigation by following the trail of suspicion on noted defects as far as practicable on site within the parameters of permitted access. The report will also include advice within the elemental sections in respect of potentially cost-effective upgrading of energy efficiency (for example, insulation of walls, replacement of heating boiler and so on) particularly where it can be combined with recommended remedial works.
Where appropriate, advice on layout alterations will be included to improve any limitations of the existing accommodation perhaps as part of any planned upgrades you may already have in mind. Finally, with a Level 3 Service, we can provide additional services such as arranging for the testing of services by separate contractors or the provision of guidance on the costs of remedial works but these will incur additional charges.
Further details on the service are provided in:
RICS Home Survey Standard - Appendix A Definition of levels; Appendix B: Benchmarking the levels of inspection.
Other Issues (for all levels of service):
You may also be seeking advice on value perhaps as a guide to the advisability of a sale or purchase in the light of the issues raised as a result of the survey inspection.
The basis upon which this opinion is provided is the internationally agreed definition of Market Value:
“The estimated amount for which an asset or liability should exchange on the valuation date between a willing buyer and a willing seller in an arm’s length transaction, after proper marketing and where the parties had each acted knowledgeably, prudently and without compulsion.”
We are able to provide this service (for an additional charge) as our surveyors are RICS Registered Valuers governed by the standards set out in the RICS ‘Red Book’ Global and UK versions. Copies are available on request.
Certain assumptions will be made to cover issues which lie outside the scope of our remit and these will be set out in any formal terms and conditions of engagement.
Rebuilding Cost Assessment for Insurance Purposes
It is essential to insure a building for an amount which would cover replacement in the event of a total loss. This is a technical calculation based on floor areas and specific site attributes. It is not linked to the property price and in some cases this might exceed the market value - for example where the property is of an unusual or historic construction.
A lender usually commissions a rebuilding cost assessment as part of a valuation for mortgage so this may be provided for you. However, where there is no such figure available, we can provide an assessment (for an additional charge) using the RICS Building Cost Information Online Subscription Service.
With regard to flats, whether converted or purpose-built, an important issue to note is that owning a lease not only grants you the right to occupy the flat itself and the associated communal areas and facilities but also burdens you with a share of the liability for the maintenance and repair of the building and grounds in which the property is located.
So this means that the inspection will include the main elements of block in which the flat is located where they are safely and readily accessible, including the roof space if the access is located within the flat. Communal services and external wall cladding systems are excluded but if we have specific concerns about these items, these will be reported in such detail as is appropriate to the relevant level of service.
Contamination and dangerous materials
It is important to note that we do not carry out any investigations regarding land contamination or other environmental dangers or check whether harmful or dangerous materials have been used in the construction. In particular, none of these services include an asbestos inspection within the terms of the Control of Asbestos Regulations Act 2012.
However, if our desktop research and/or inspection leads us to suspect that such an issue may exist, this will be reported in such detail as is appropriate to the relevant level of service.