What should you expect from your surveyor?
This is a simple question with a complicated answer!
All RICS Surveyors should provide a professional service. RICS Surveyors are regulated by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), and have to abide by the RICS rules which cover nearly all aspects of their activities including professional competence, honesty, and transparency, including conflicts of interest. They are prohibited from offering advice which they are not qualified to give; for example only RICS Registered Valuers (a surveyor that has completed the relevant RICS module) may provide valuations.
Consequently the scope of what to expect from your surveyor is determined by what sort of service he or she is being asked to provide: it can be safely presumed that if a surveyor is offering a service, they are qualified to deliver it in a professional manner. But this is also why not all surveyors provide all survey types, and notably many will not provide valuation surveys.
So what should you expect?
There are some standard survey types, such as the RICS HomeBuyer Report and Building Survey, that have a set scope, and it is important that you check if these are suitable for your needs - see our article "Which home survey do I need" for a brief overview of the key features, or download the RICS leaflet.
The report you receive should meet the requirements of these 'standard' reports, but if you have any specific questions you need answered in relation to the property, or the scope of the survey, you should discuss these with your prospective surveyor before giving them an instruction to carry out the survey. All should be happy to talk you through your survey pre-instruction.
You should be aware that there are limitations as to what the surveyor may include in his report:
- things which fall outside the set scope of the survey requested
- valuation - only included in some surveys as standard
- areas of the property where access is restricted, e.g. roof space, under flooring, built-in or full cupboards & etc. These limitations are not normally known about until the surveyor is on site.
- areas where the surveyor does not has specific expertise or necessary qualifications, e.g. electrics, heating systems, double glazing
You should check with the surveyor what will be included, and what may be excluded, or require a specialist examination.
Most surveyors will try and accommodate any special concerns you might have about the property, but "add-ons" will often sometimes incur an additional cost which you should agree before giving the instruction.
Timing and access to property
Your surveyor will normally arrange to visit the property as soon as practicable - this may be within a few days, but can be as much as a couple of weeks, depending upon their own workload and access to the property. For a survey to take place, they must have access to the property which does leave them a little at the mercy of the current home owner.
Most sellers use an estate agent, so usually the surveyor will be able to collect keys from them, but sometimes the home owner will insist on being present or have the agent present, particularly if the house is alarmed or there are pets in the home, which can lead to delays.
Which is why it is particularly important that if there are deadlines involved, you should always ensure that your chosen surveyor is aware of these, and confirm them in writing!
Payment and report
Different surveyors will have different policies relating to when you should pay - all will require payment before the report is released to you, and some will request payment with the booking, before undertaking the survey. It is a standard practice in the industry that survey reports are not released to you until paid for.
Depending upon the nature of the survey, it may take a few days after the survey for the report to be ready, particularly for Building Surveys which tend to be more comprehensive. Most surveyors will be able to provide an indication of the lead time from survey to report, and it's worth checking that before giving them the instruction, particularly if there are any deadlines relating to the property purchase.
You may wish to have a verbal report from your surveyor - most surveyors will not do this before the written report is delivered (or at least until paid for). This is partly because they may wish time to consider things before committing themselves (and a valuation neccessarily requires desk research), but also because it leaves them open to 'non-payment' problems where the client makes a decision based on the verbal feedback, and no longer sees the value of the written report. Sorry, but it happens.
Likewise, you might wish to accompany the surveyor during the survey. Most surveyors will not allow this, partly because it can greatly increase the time taken for the survey, but also for the reasons above, so don't be surprised or offended if your surveyor declines your request to attend or for verbal feedback, it is a standard practice for the industry.