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  • What Do Surveyors Look for in a Building Survey?

    13th October 2017

    What Do Surveyors Look for in a Building Survey?

    Let’s start with what the survey will provide:

    • A detailed inspection of the property
    • A detailed report from the inspection findings – your surveyor may follow their own template rather than the RICS template unlike the HomeBuyer report. This is to allow more flexibility to report in detail on the property and any specifics the surveyor wishes to cover.

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    Why get a Level 3 Building Survey?

    • Ensure you’re fully informed about a property before buying a house by knowing its true condition of the property
    • Identify potential and hidden defects
    • Understand the cause of defects or issues
    • Where agreed, provide cost estimates for repairs


    What does the surveyor look for?

    Your chartered surveyor will look for all major and minor defects evident throughout the property (including the roof space) and any permanent outbuildings. Remember, your surveyor can only inspect what is accessible to them and visible. They will usually state any limitations to their inspection so you know what they were unable to inspect.

    Generally, a survey is unobtrusive meaning they will not lift floor coverings (e.g. carpets, floorboards), drill into walls or move heavy furniture. Where there is access to hidden areas (such as under floorboards) they will inspect this if there are loose floorboards or hatches that can be lifted. The surveyor doesn’t want to cause unnecessary damage to the property you are looking to buy.

    Your surveyor will inspect all the visible elements of the:

    • Roof structure
    • Ceilings
    • Internal walls
    • Floors
    • Joinery (e.g. staircases)
    • Fireplace and chimney breasts
    • Roof and chimneys
    • External walls
    • Windows
    • Rainwater pipes/gutters
    • Garage
    • Outbuildings
    • Grounds

    Whilst your surveyor may not be able to access some areas (e.g under floor coverings), they can use visible clues and their expertise to establish the likelihood of hidden or potential defects around the property and advise accordingly.


    What equipment does my surveyor use?

    • Damp meter – test for any moisture readings around the property
    • Binoculars – to help get a better view of elevated areas of the property (e.g. roof/chimney)
    • Torch – to see into awkward spaces
    • Ladder – access roofs and internal hatches up to 3m from the ground


    Limitations to a survey

    Services (e.g. gas, electrics etc) – These are often hidden within the walls and floors. Your surveyor can inspect the visual parts advising on the condition they appear to be in. Remember, your surveyor is like a GP – they can provide a general idea of the condition of these services from what they can see but they are not specialists and so will not conduct specialist tests or establish the efficiency of any services.


    Outside the property – Boundary walls or fences will be checked. This is important from a safety and maintenance perspective but also from a legal perspective. Unclear boundaries can cause issues at a later date. They will also look at permanent outbuildings and common areas that you may have to contribute funds to and/or require access through.

    A swimming pool counts as a permanent outbuilding but as with the services mentioned above, they are not specialists in this area and so cannot report on pool equipment and machinery.


    Flats – Communal areas such as stairs and hallways will be inspected as well as outside surfaces where accessible. Drains, alarms and lifts will also be checked for everyday operation but similar to services mentioned earlier, no specialist tests will be conducted.

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    For a full breakdown including terms of engagement see:

    RICS description of a building survey and terms of engagement


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