residential house survey

What does a surveyor do and what do they look for in a house survey?

If you’re a homeowner or someone thinking of entering the property market, the skills and services of a RICS Chartered Surveyor can be invaluable. But what do these professionals actually do and how can they help you? Let’s find out more…

What does a surveyor do?

A surveyor is someone who can check a property for defects, issues and potential future problems. They can also accurately value a property.

What is a Chartered Surveyor?

While anyone can technically call themselves a surveyor, when you employ the services of a Chartered Surveyor, you are guaranteed a high level of quality and professionalism. That is because in order to become ‘chartered’ they must have:

  • Completed a degree accredited by the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors)
  • Gained extensive experience
  • Passed their Assessment of Professional Competence

As a RICS Chartered Surveyor, they will also be held to account by their governing body, adhere to a strict code of conduct and complete annual training to keep their skills up to date.

What does a surveyor look for in a house survey?

So, what does a Chartered Surveyor do when they carry out a survey? The answer depends a little on what level of house survey you decide, but they will visit a property and use their training and experience to look for current or potential issues. They will then write a report in plain English for you to digest and use to make important property decisions.

Let’s look at different surveys and what they cover.

Level 1 Survey (RICS Home Condition Report)

Level 1 survey is the most basic house survey and offers a basic evaluation of the property’s overall state and the condition of visible features.

It includes a non-intrusive property examination, focusing on visible areas only. It identifies any obvious defects and potential problems that are easily noticeable without the need for extensive investigation. It provides an overview of the condition of the main structural elements, such as walls, roof, floors, ceilings, windows, and doors.

A Level 1 survey is non-intrusive. The surveyor will not lift floorboards, move furniture, or access difficult-to-reach areas.

Find out more about the Level 1 Survey here.

Level 2 Survey (RICS Homebuyer Report)

A Level 2 survey provides a more detailed inspection and report than a Level 1 survey. It is suitable for most properties and includes a thorough assessment of their condition.

It typically includes a comprehensive visual examination of accessible parts of the property, both externally and internally.

The inspection covers major elements such as roofs, walls, floors, ceilings, windows, and doors, as well as fixed fittings like bathrooms and kitchens.

  • It provides a basic assessment of services such as electrical, gas/oil, water, heating, and drainage installations based on visual inspection. It doesn’t include testing of services but notes visible issues and recommends further investigation if needed.
  • Identifies signs of structural movement such as subsidence, heave, or settlement and notes any cracks or other indicators of potential structural issues.
  • Highlights areas where damp might be an issue and recommends further investigation if necessary.
  • Inspects for signs of timber decay or woodworm infestation.
  • Assesses the adequacy of insulation in loft spaces and other accessible areas.
  • Provides an overview of the property’s energy efficiency based on visual inspection.
  • Includes a market valuation of the property and an estimate of the rebuilding cost for insurance purposes.

Find out more about the Level 2 Survey here.

Level 3 Building Survey

A Level 3 building survey is the most comprehensive type of property survey. It provides an in-depth analysis of a property’s condition and is typically used for older, larger, or more complex properties or for those in poor condition.

It includes:

  • A thorough examination of all accessible areas of the property, including the structure, exterior, and interior, using equipment like ladders and torches to inspect hard-to-reach areas.
  • A detailed assessment of the property’s structural integrity, including walls, floors, roof, foundations, and any visible defects or potential issues and examination of any signs of subsidence, dampness, or structural movement.
  • A comprehensive review of roofs, walls, windows, doors, ceilings, floors, and staircases, and an examination of fixed services like heating, plumbing, electrical systems, and drainage (though not a full test of these services).
  • An in-depth identification and description of defects, including their cause, significance, and potential consequences. and an assessment of both minor and major issues that could affect the property’s value or usability.
  • Detailed advice on necessary repairs, maintenance, and potential remedial work with prioritisation of issues that need immediate attention versus those that can be monitored or addressed over time.

A Building Survey uses photographs to make it easy to understand the report’s findings.  It doesn’t include a market valuation of your property as standard, but we can carry out a valuation as an additional service.

Find out more about the Level 3 Survey here.

Does the surveyor check the roof?

Yes, surveyors do check the roof during a property survey. The extent and method of the roof inspection can vary depending on the type of survey being conducted.

Do surveyors look in cupboards?

Yes, surveyors typically do look in cupboards during property surveys, but their inspection is usually limited to checking for issues that could affect the property’s overall condition such as mould, pests and ventilation. They don’t typically look though your cupboards and wardrobe.

Do surveyors go in the loft during a property survey?

Yes, surveyors typically inspect the loft during a property survey, especially in more detailed surveys such as Level 2 (Homebuyer Report) and Level 3 (Full Structural Survey or Building Survey).

Do surveyors check for damp?

Yes, surveyors check for damp during property surveys. Identifying damp issues is a key part of assessing a property’s condition. If you think the property you are buying has damp issues, it’s best to arrange a Level 2 or Level 3 survey.

Does a surveyor check for subsidence?

Yes, surveyors check for subsidence during property surveys. Identifying signs of subsidence is crucial as it can lead to structural damage and impact the safety and value of a property. It you are concerned about subsidence, it is advisable to get a Level 3 Building survey.

Your Chartered Surveyor is able to:

  • Offer a summary of the property, including its overall condition.
  • Research and provide property statistics, including the property type; approximate date it was built; the approximate date of any extensions and/or conversions, the number of rooms; the energy efficiency rating; environmental impact rating; whether gas, electricity, water and drainage services are present; the type of heating; information about the location e.g. grounds and local environment.
  • Inside, they will assess the roof, ceilings, walls, partitions, uncovered floors, fireplaces, chimney breasts and flues, staircases, woodwork and bathroom fittings.
  • Outside, they will look at the roof, chimney stacks, guttering, main walls, windows, doors, joinery and other finishes/features.
  • Check services, i.e. water, heating, electricity, gas, oil, drainage and common services (although this will be a visual inspection only – the surveyor will not conduct formal tests but will advise if they recommend further specialist testing or action based upon their initial findings).
  • Inspect the grounds, assessing boundary walls, fences, decking, outbuildings and any common areas.
  • Take note of any legal issues for the attention of your solicitor.
  • Make an impartial valuation (if instructed to as an additional service).

Do I need a Chartered Surveyor for a house survey?

If you’re in need of a surveyor we would always strongly recommend the services of a RICS Chartered Surveyor. Whether a relatively small limited defect survey to inspect a single crack in the wall; a snagging survey for a new build; or an in-depth, full structural survey, they will be able to provide the best advice in the industry.

Find out more

If you’re in need of more information or would like help choosing the best survey for your property, please get in touch. Our experienced, approachable team will be happy to answer all your questions and a report from our Chartered Surveyors will put your mind at ease.