Why a Surveyor’s Report Doesn’t Always Tell the Whole Story.

Why a Surveyor’s Report Doesn’t Always Tell the Whole Story.

Did you know that a ‘full’ survey may not include lifting carpets or going into the loft? I have surveyor friends who are incredibly knowledgeable and true professionals, but sadly not all live up to these high standards and you can’t always trust a full survey to reveal all the defects with a property. To obtain professional indemnity insurance a surveyor must be a ‘professional’ and pass certain exams, ensuring important minimum standards are met. In fairness to surveyors I’m not saying this is easy. But spotting a dud from a goodun at a good price can usually be done by a decent builder and any reasonably intelligent internet-literate person. Surveyors are obliged to be comprehensive, which makes the survey expensive because it must include trivial or obvious things, such as that paint is peeling, or a couple of roof tiles are missing. You don’t need to be told this if it also has terminal subsidence! We’ve got used to simple things becoming professionalised and the latest raft of this includes HIPs and EPCs too now.

So before paying £700 – £1,000 for a survey which might be wasted on a dud, why not get a RELIABLE builder friend to take a look? I do this occasionally for friends in the business. I don’t have professional indemnity or membership of a professional body, so it has to be a strictly no-comeback service. But I do have 30+ years experience as a builder, I do lift carpets and I do go into lofts. There are some very minor health-and-safety issues around stepladders, but to my mind not using one prevents surveyors from doing their job properly. Would you employ a builder who wouldn’t use a stepladder?

A step too far for the surveyor?

The most a builder’s check-over should cost is £50 for an hour of his time plus a bit of travelling, a bit more if he writes a report. If you pass him a lot of work, he might even do it free. He should pick up on any serious issues. I once found a rotten purlin in a roof, which would have collapsed had it not been propped from the chimney breast on a bit of 4×2. It would require major engineering works, one side of the roof off and probably a crane to lower a new beam in. All a surveyor would do is shine a torch through the hatch, and this fault was invisible from the landing. I probably saved my friend at least £5K and a long delay before occupancy. Someone else I know sued their surveyor for not finding dry rot in the floors. If you don’t lift the carpets, you won’t find the dry rot!

If your builder doesn’t spot any problems, there’s nothing stopping you getting the full survey done later and I would never discourage anyone from doing that.

When it comes to valuing, an astute investor specialising in a particular patch is likely to be more accurate than a surveyor from outside the area. Establishing market value is not complicated but it does require detailed knowledge. You take data from Land Registry on at least three comparable sold house prices, and extrapolate from those allowing for market fluctuations and other factors. Nick Parkin once had two RICS valuations within a short space of time, one of which came in 40% lower than the other! It’s not an exact science and any valuation, RICS or otherwise, is always secondary to what you can actually obtain in the market.

Next week I’ll tell you why you shouldn’t rely on a Building Inspector to assure that your builders are doing the job properly.


These blogs are not intended to replace the services of a surveyor, engineer or other professional. They may however help save you the expense of a surveyor for a duff building that you won’t buy.


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