The change from the older Full Structural Survey to the Building Survey has caused a little chaos and confusion among industry professionals and homeowners alike, but the change is actually pretty simple. As your local specialists in all things property related, here’s Property Typing’s guide to the Building Survey (and when you need to use it)
So, what is the Building Survey?
A Building Survey is a holistic inspection of a property. As a property specialist, be prepared for many homebuyers (and some conscientious sellers) to use the older terminology, Structural Survey, when they really want this particular document. It’s a fully comprehensive survey- the most comprehensive available for residential properties, in fact- and thus provides the most detailed evaluation possible of the property they are purchasing. They need you, of course, to give them a step-by-step evaluation of the elements of the home, let them know what defects you encounter, how you believe they occurred, how desperately the issue needs to be addressed and, if possible, an estimate of the repair prices so they have a ballpark to work on while making their decisions.
This in-depth study of the property is the most extensive and intensive you can possibly undertake, which is why this is typically the most expensive survey they can request too. It can play a critical part in their decision on whether to continue with the purchase and what sort of ‘investment’ (be it as a home or true investment property) they can expect from that buy.
Who is qualified to do a Building Survey?
Building Surveys can only be conducted by Chartered Surveyors approved and registered by the RICS, so if you fall in this category you may also be referred this form of work from others in the property industry who do not have the necessary qualifications. It’s common to undertake this form of survey for almost all properties, especially if the buyer is savvy and wants to be sure they properly understand the building they are considering, but there are a couple of cases where it’s particularly recommended:
- Listed and Historical buildings: These buildings can be expensive to maintain, especially as owners are very hampered by what they can do, so a comprehensive idea of what they are in for is always called for.
- Old and Unusual properties: Properties that were built a long time ago, especially over 50 years ago (when building standards were notoriously laxer), as well as buildings that are unusual in construction/material or design, can have many hidden faults a buyer wants to know about beforehand
- Buildings where renovation is planned: Renovation can bring a host of issues to the fore, or the potential buyer may have an unrealistic idea of what can be done with the property. Both deserve an in-depth look from a skilled professional.
- Buildings that have been renovated: Likewise, people do not always undertake safe, structurally sound improvements to their homes. It’s best for the potential buyer to go in with eyes wide open.
What is involved in a full Building Survey report?
There are three distinct phases to the full Building Survey report:
- The building inspection
- The completed survey report
- A tentative property value. This must first be requested
As the surveyor, your role is to inspect everything accessible within the building- walls and floors, roofs, windows and doors, chimneys and cellars (if present) and even outbuildings. It’s your legal responsibility to disclose anything you find in this process, so be very proactive here to avoid issues later. Open cupboards, lift manholes, inspect connections… the diligence will be worth it. You are not obliged, however, to attempt to access concealed or inaccessible areas of the building. The potential buyer may also request very specific areas, areas they are potentially concerned about, inspected.
Now I’ve done the work, what about compiling the report?
Firstly, there’s some good news on the paperwork front. Unlike the RICS HomeBuyer Report, there is no fixed format you have to adhere to when creating a Building Survey. The buyer can, as mentioned, modify it to their needs, and can even request for you to include a valuation. If you have the approval of their mortgage authority, this may even stand in place of their mortgage valuation for the property.
This freedom, however, can just seem like a tedious admin task when you’d be rather moving on to the next job- and that’s where Property typing can help. Let us handle the formal typing, while you get on with what you love to do. We’ll make sure all reports include the basics, such as:
- Defects listed by their importance and urgency
- Damage noted to roofs, masonry, timbers etc
- Evidence of insect damage, woodworm or dry rot
- The results of your damp and subsidence tests
- Mention of any alterations to load-bearing walls
- Renovations made without (or with) planning permission
- Hazardous materials (asbestos) noted
- Large or problematic trees noted
- The conditions of items like damp courses, insulation and drainage
- Information on the property construction and materials
- Any recommendations you wish to make
- Any information from referred specialists requested by the client (heating, electrical etc)
In short, they will be left aware of major or minor defects, issues affecting structural integrity, whether further investigation is warranted, and the recommendations you make based on your findings.
You are always free to tailor and design the reports to match with documents originating from your office, and the final design and approval will always rest with you. Your client will receive the very best, perfectly crafted Building Survey that’s worthy of carrying your name- and you skip out on a messy admin task.
You’ve already spent a day on-site making sure you can present the client with everything they need to know before making their purchase- why let the matter take up more of your time. With our swift turnaround times, we’ll help you stand out from the ‘two weeks later’ crowd, and deliver a swift, professional report that allows your expert knowledge to speak for itself.