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What Does a Surveyor Do and Look For?

Martha Lott

Written by

1st Oct 2021 (Last updated on 30th Nov 2021) 4 minute read

A property surveyor will examine all visible aspects inside and outside the property you’re buying to highlight issues or potential future risks. In most cases, they examine spaces in the property that they can easily access unless they have permission from the seller.

Both a RICS Home Survey Level 2 and 3 will provide in-depth details on the property you plan to buy, but a RICS Home Survey Level 3 will be the most in-depth examination, meaning the surveyor will include more detailed information in the report.

If you have any particular concerns or queries, you should raise this prior to the house survey so the surveyor can ensure they assess it. This article will highlight what surveyors do and look for during your survey.

A property surveyor will do the following:
  1. 1. Give an overall opinion and summary of the condition
  2. 2. Provide important information about the property
  3. 3. Examine outside the property
  4. 4. Examine inside the property
  5. 5. Check services
  6. 6. Inspect grounds such as shared areas for flats
  7. 7. Highlights legal issues for your solicitor
  8. 8. Highlight the main risks
  9. 9. Give an impartial valuation
  10. Learn More About Surveying

1. Give an overall opinion and summary of the condition

The main role of a surveyor is to give an overall condition rating of the property, highlighting defects to assess whether the property is a “reasonable” purchase or not.

They will then list all areas they examined and categorise them using the traffic light condition rating system. Each area will receive a 1, 2 or 3, with 3 meaning these issues need urgent repair.

2. Provide important information about the property

A surveyor will also make note of important details regarding the property’s age and size. They will detail the following under “about the property” on your report:

  • Type of property
  • Year it was built
  • Year it was extended if necessary
  • Year it was converted if necessary
  • Number of rooms
  • Energy efficiency rating
  • Environmental impact rating
  • Whether gas, electricity, water and drainage services are present
  • If central heating is gas, electric, solid fuel or oil
  • Basic information on the local environment, facilities, location and grounds

3. Examine outside the property

A chartered surveyor will carry out a detailed examination of the outside of the property. Your survey report will have a box labelled “limitations to inspection” which will highlight that the areas examined were ones that could be seen from ground level.

It should also be noted that your surveyor won’t check all of the windows. RICS instructions state only a random sample of windows should be opened when inspecting.

Your surveyor will look at each of the following and give them an individual condition rating:

  • Chimney stacks
  • Roof coverings
  • Rainwater pipes and gutters
  • Main walls
  • Windows
  • Outside doors
  • Conservatory and porches
  • Other joinery and finishes

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4. Examine inside the property

Your property surveyor will inspect all accessible areas inside the property.

Both RICS Home Survey Level 2 and Home Survey Level 3 are non-intrusive, meaning that if the surveyor can’t access a certain area, they can’t rip up floorboards or drill holes to access it to avoid personal injury or damage to the client’s belongings.

Surveyors try their best to examine the roof space, but it might not be possible if there’s insulation in the way and the timbers aren’t visible. They won’t move or mess around with this to enter the roof space.

Each area examined will have a detailed write up on what the surveyor found, along with a condition rating and reasons for the condition rating.

Your surveyor will look at:

  • Roof structure
  • Ceilings
  • Walls and partitions
  • Floors (if not covered)
  • Fireplaces, chimney breasts and flutes
  • Built-in fittings
  • Woodwork (staircase and joinery)
  • Bathroom fittings

5. Check services

Your surveyor will also do a basic check of the main services in the property. As the services are generally hidden within the construction of the property, surveyors can only inspect services that are visible to them.

It should be noted that surveyors won’t carry out specialist tests and their basic inspection can’t examine if the services work safely. It’s advised to hire a professional to check electrics and plumbing and ask your solicitor to provide the relevant safety certificates from the seller.

A surveyor will visually inspect:

  • Electricity
  • Gas/oil
  • Water
  • Heating
  • Water heating
  • Drainage
  • Common services

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6. Inspect grounds such as shared areas for flats

Your surveyor will assess the condition of the grounds by walking around the property and gardens, visually inspecting the following:

  • Boundary walls
  • Fences
  • Footpaths
  • Decking areas
  • Permanent outbuildings
  • Areas in common, which is especially important if you're buying a flat with shared areas

They will also look for any signs of Japanese Knotweed which is important to be aware of as it could affect your mortgage and the property’s value in the long run.

7. Highlights legal issues for your solicitor

A surveyor will highlight any legal issues within the property and grounds that they suggest you should raise with your conveyancing solicitor before exchanging contracts. This typically would include things such as:

  • Checking building regulations and planning permission for extensions
  • Ensuring there's a warranty to cover windows or doors or a FENSA certificate
  • Engineers certificates for gas central heating
  • Electric safety check certificates

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8. Highlight the main risks

It might be overwhelming when you first read your survey report, but your surveyor will conclude their report by listing the main risks they found within the property and grounds. It will summarise defects and issues that pose a threat to the building, grounds and people.

Risks to the building might typically include chimney stacks whereas ground issues might be environmental such as shrinkable subsoil, which unfortunately you can’t do anything about. Your Environmental Search as part of your conveyancing searches will detail more on this. Risks to people will include getting a safety check on the main services.

9. Give an impartial valuation

If requested, your surveyor will provide their valuation for the property. This will include their opinion on the market value of the property and the current reinstatement cost of the property, which means how much it would cost to rebuild the property.

Learn More About Surveying

This is part of our surveying guide. In the next article, we explore the different types of property survey. To learn more, read what survey do I need.

Martha Lott

Written by Martha Lott

Having written for Huffington Post and Film Criticism Journal, Martha now regularly researches and writes advice articles for everything moving house related.