Residential building surveys advice

My name is Vicki Lawson I am 57 and a Chartered Surveyor. I work 4 days a week for a large Corporate Company carrying out residential building surveys and valuations.

Most of you will have had either your property or a property you may wish to buy surveyed at some stage and given it very little thought.

Mortgage valuations are carried out for the lender. You may receive a copy but the surveyor is acting for the lender who is giving the loan even though you are paying for it. This is a basic inspection where the general elements of the property are looked at and any substantial defects noted. The valuation is prepared using comparable evidence of similar transactions. There are very stringent rules for this and the evidence is all documented and analysed. In my case this is all done on line and once entered cannot be changed. This is same for any rental valuations also carried out. The lender will then be alerted to any defects that are substantial and any other factors that may affect value or resale. Such factors include properties on Local Authority Estates or if by a railway line etc. or if there is damp or subsidence.

Surveys are not done on the back of an envelope anymore and there are many safeguards in place to ensure they the property is valued correctly. If your property has been down valued and you feel that this is wrong you have a right of appeal. But please remember the surveyor has done a large amount of homework before arriving at the valuation figure. Valuations by an estate Agent are very different. The agent will give you a figure that he/she thinks may be achievable with an asking price above this. This is an opinion and one that is hoped will give the Agent the instruction to sell/rent.

Homebuyers reports are very common now. They are midway between a full structural survey and a basic valuation. They are mainly suited to flats where the main structural elements can be inspected. Often it is not possible to see the rear elevation or parts or all of the roof covering. Any furnishings will also restrict the inspection. Modern houses are also suitable. You will receive a comprehensive document outlining any defects and recommendations. Much of this report will point you in the next direction to take.

If there are no recent testing documents for the electrical or gas/central heating system you will be advised to have tests carried out. This is very important and you should not ignore this. If the property is a converted flat or house you will also be advised to have a drains test done. Even if the manhole cover is lifted and the drain appears to be clear there is a large section of drain that cannot be seen. Better to be safe than sorry. You do not want to decorate your new home only to find that there is a cracked drain or a blockage that has been building up.

Finally a Building Survey or full Structural survey as they are also known should be used on a period house however large or small. The cost is higher but there is more to investigate especially if there is a loft and basement. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.

When a property is occupied and fully furnished the inspection is restricted especially when testing for damp. There may be none visible, however when the property is empty some may become apparent. Your surveyor should always advise you,of this.

Finally your surveyor should always be available to answer any questions you may have and help you resolve any concerns.