What happens during a house survey? From SAM Conveyancing
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What happens during a house survey

5 min read

A property survey is a key stage during the the conveyancing process for any buyer. 

The results help you decide whether you should proceed with the purchase at the current asking price, negotiate with the seller due to defects or even pull out from the whole deal all together. 

If you do have to negotiate on price due to a defect the property has, then you should click to read this article - How to successfully negotiate with the seller

This article runs through what a RICS surveyor does during their survey and what they don't do (applicable to RICS HomeBuyer Reports and Building Surveys).

So what happens on the day of the property survey?

Collection of Keys

On instruction we arrange access with the estate agents and the owner of the property. This will either be:
  • Key collection from the estate agent; or
  • Vendor access
The surveyor will get the sales particulars and EPC for the property from the estate agent. 

The sales particulars should include a floor plan which the surveyor will use during their inspection of the property - notes will be made against this including defects, location of boiler, drains and electricity meter reading.

What happens during a house survey?

Both the Building Survey and HomeBuyer Report are non-intrusive surveys - The seller of the property is unlikely to allow you to drill holes, pull up carpets or even lift floor boards whilst you have yet to exchange contracts and can pull out at any stage.

This is why all surveys conducted by a RICS surveyor are non-intrusive unless there has been prior written acceptance from the seller for an intrusive survey to be undertaken.

This is an extract from the standard terms from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors:

What happens during a house survey:
"The surveyor does not force or open up the fabric without owner consent, or if there is a risk of causing personal injury or damage. 

This includes taking up fitted carpets, fitted floor coverings or floorboards, moving heavy furniture, removing the contents of cupboards, roof spaces, etc., removing secured panels and/or hatches or undoing electrical fittings. 

The under-floor areas are inspected where there is safe access."

If there is an agreed intrusive survey the RICS surveyor will normally request that a builder be at the property to effect the intrusive survey as the repairs for any intrusive assessment will be borne by the seller, not by the buyer or their surveyor.

All of the surveys undertaken by RICS SAM Surveyors are non-intrusive, unless otherwise agreed in writing with the seller and confirmed as included within the scope of work.

Survey includes all accessible areas

During the inspection the surveyor will need access to all areas of the property and outbuildings including basements, cellars, garages and barns. It s the seller's obligation to provide this access to the surveyor.

What if the client hides a property defect?

A seller who knows of a defect may not be forth coming about allowing access to an area where that defect can be found. 

This is why it is imperative the estate agent allows the surveyor access to all areas.

If access is not granted, then this will be reported in the surveyors report and we strongly advise a revisit is instructed by you so that a thorough assessment of the property can be made.

What does the surveyor inspect?

  • Signs of subsidence
  • Report on dangerous materials such as signs of asbestos
  • Reports on signs of infestations such as rats and bats
  • Checks drains
  • Checks utilities including boiler and electric meter
  • Inspects loft space
  • Inspects roof
  • Looks for signs of damp
  • Market valuation (HomeBuyer Report only)
  • Reinstatement value (HomeBuyer Report only)

The house survey does NOT include:

  • Testing electrics or gas. The surveyor assesses the condition by turning on lights and heating, however they aren't qualified electricians of gas engineers and as such cannot test the gas or electrics.
  • Report on removal of load bearing walls.
  • Advice on planning applications for a not yet built extension (this is a different piece of work and not part of a Building Survey or HomeBuyer Report). You can read more about planning applications for extensions here
  • Guaranteed assessments of subsidence (only a structural engineer can provide give definitive clarification of subsidence/movement following an intrusive survey to review the footings of the property)

Call on the day

As part of our unique service we will call you on the day of your house survey to run through any major issues found during the inspection. 

Not all surveyors do this which can often leave you waiting for your formal report before you know whether there are any defects that could stop you proceeding with the purchase.

You will receive a call from your surveyor after the survey has taken place and once the surveyor has arrived back into the office between 4pm and 6pm. 

In some circumstances the surveyor may call you the following morning after the day of the survey.

Frequently Asked Questions

Most surveyors prefer that they are left alone to conduct the inspection of the property as it can be distracting having someone interrupting their survey. 

As a rule we do not allow buyers to attend the survey, however please confirm if you wish to attend and we will see if we can help.
There are 2 types of house survey a buyer can choose for their property:

  • Level 2: HomeBuyer Report for bungalows, flats and standard construction property under 70 years old; and
  • Level 3: Building Survey for large, run down, developed or unique properties

After the survey, if any defects are uncovered, you may need to negotiate on the transaction. 

Often where required works are discovered, the buyers solicitor will approach the sellers solicitor, requesting to reduce the purchase price to rebalance the unforeseen cost of rectifying the issue(s).

Once negotiations have been settled, it is time to exchange contracts.
The survey looks for any defects which may reduce the value or safety of your home. Read our guide on house survey problems for list of common defects which may be found.
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