What is a non-intrusive survey?

10/11/2015
When getting a RICS surveyor to inspect a home you’re looking to buy, you’ll note in the surveyor’s terms that a non-intrusive survey will be conducted. A non-intrusive survey means that the inspection will only consider that which is visible and accessible. For example, a surveyor may lift up a drain cover and put it down again or go into a loft which is designed for access. They will not drill into walls or pull up floorboards etc.

As a buyer, it’s understandable that you might desire a surveyor to ‘drill down’ (possibly even literally) to find evidence of any issues affecting the property but you have to consider the rights of the seller and further, their rights reasonably to refuse to allow activities which might end up devaluing the home they’re trying to sell. After all, at the stage that a buyer normally gets a survey, that buyer can still pull out, regardless of the results of that survey.

Non-intrusive protects the seller

All RICS home buyers surveys (including HomeBuyer Reports and Building Surveys) are non-intrusive. This protects the seller because the surveyor’s inspection will not cause any damage to their property and, if an accident occurs, the surveyor is indemnified so the seller will be financially compensated.

A surveyor might spot evidence of an issue which requires an invasive survey to be able to make a better judgment about, but the surveyor can only ask the seller if they are prepared for this to happen. Naturally, the chances of damaging a property are greatly increased with an invasive survey. Thus it cannot ever be presumed that a seller will give consent to this and reasonably so.

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What if you were selling eggs?

As an analogy, if you were selling eggs and a buyer said they wanted to break one open to check it for freshness, if you allowed this – you wouldn’t – and the egg turned out to be fresh, you’d find it impossible to reconstruct that egg to saleable condition. You’d expect the buyer to pay unless you’d previously agreed that you’d allow for the damage yourself.

If we applied that to the conveyancing sphere, then sellers would only allow this to happen if the buyer was in some way indemnified against damage. The complications for all parties involved if this path were followed can only be imagined. At very least, you’d still be unable to force a seller to allow an invasive survey. This is why surveyors are limited to inspecting only visible areas that they are granted access to by the seller.

What is an intrusive survey?

An intrusive survey is where a surveyor has been granted access to survey a property by accessing areas that are not viewable or accessible. In all cases, the home owner must agree the access. Examples of an intrusive survey are:

  • Lifting carpets/floorboards
  • Drilling holes
  • Removal of tiles
  • Removal of plaster


When should you get an intrusive survey?

As a rule of thumb, an intrusive survey is conducted following the finding of evidence of specific defects such as damp, subsidence or rot. The evidence is strong enough to warrant a more exacting inspection than a non-intrusive one. Additionally, any costs incurred by damage caused by the inspection are, on the balance of probabilities, likely to be slight compared to the consequences of not having such an inspection.

In simple terms, if a surveyor produces hard evidence that a property has serious problems with rot, the home owner involved would be well advised to investigate the matter further before either damage occurs or the costs of remedy rocket upwards – “a stitch in time saves nine”.

Buyer’s interests vs. Seller’s interests

In sum, when a surveyor conducts an inspection on behalf of a buyer, it will invariably be non-invasive, because the seller will not want damage to their property given that the buyer has not committed to buying it and may pull out.

Invasive surveys generally arise because there has been an initial non-invasive survey, which might for example be a building survey purchased by a potential property buyer, which has uncovered evidence of one or more serious defects. The property owner agrees to the survey either because they themselves have ordered it or they have agreed as a vendor to such a survey being ordered by a potential buyer.

Need a RICS survey? All our RICS surveyors have a minimum 8 years’ experience and have great local knowledge: call 0333 344 3234 or fill out this form.


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