Residential Surveys FAQs

Frequently asked questions we get about Residential Surveys

Frequently aksed questions on residential surveys

At Harrison Clarke, we find that a lot of our clients ask very similar questions when it comes to arranging a surveyor to inspect their potential new home. We thought it would be helpful to run through some of those commonly asked questions to ensure that you know exactly how selecting a surveyor, knowing how the survey process works and ensuring you are choosing the right survey for your property.

Do I need to have a survey on the property I am purchasing?

Strictly speaking you are under no obligation to have a survey on the property you are looking to purchase unless your mortgage requires one. However, instructing a surveyor to carry out a thorough inspection of the property can help you avoid expensive and unwanted surprises. 

Some of the common ‘surprises’ we find range from hidden water ingress within roof space, dampness to walls and inadequate electrical installations which are not always obvious. 

These faults might not necessarily mean you don’t go through with the purchase, but may give you the opportunity to renegotiate the purchase price or simply allow you to plan for those repairs. 

Given the amount of money you will be spending on your property which is often the most expensive investment you will ever make in your life, spending a relatively small amount of money to have an expert surveyor look over your property is a good investment to make to provide peace of mind and ultimately protect you. 

Are your surveyors qualified? 

All of our surveyors who carry out residential surveys at Harrison Clarke are members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), which is the industry’s regulatory authority. This ensures that we are committed to providing you with expert advice that is clear, concise, accurate and in your best interests. The strict RICS regulations means that we have to follow rules of conduct and keep up to date with the latest developments in the industry. Each of our Chartered Building Surveyors have in excess of 14 years’ experience. You should ensure that your surveyor is suitably qualified to be carrying out your survey and have the appropriate level of experience. 

What kind of survey would you recommend?

The kind of survey we would recommend depends largely upon the age, type and construction the property. The plans you may have to refurbish or alter the building may have an effect on what survey is best suited to you. 

Two old city terrace houses joined

As a general rule, Level 2 HomeBuyers surveys are most suitable for properties built within the last 100 years, of conventional construction and apparently in reasonable condition. A Level 3 Building survey is recommended for larger, older properties or those in poor condition, or if you are planning extensive works or alterations. 

If you are unsure which survey would work for you, please give us a call and we will be happy to talk through the options free of charge. 

Will my survey include a valuation?

At Harrison Clarke we do not currently offer valuation, however we work alongside some fantastic local valuers who we can recommend to provide valuation advice. 

My mortgage lender has already inspected my property, why do I need another survey?

It is worth noting that there is a big difference between the valuation that a mortgage lender requires, and a home survey we would carry out. A mortgage valuation is there to assure the lender that the market value of the property is not less than the amount they have agreed to lend you. A valuation does not include an in-depth assessment of the physical elements of the property and their condition. It is therefore vital that you instruct a surveyor to assess the physical condition of the property.

Additionally, the valuation done for the lender is just that – for the lender. Should the valuer miss something, it is unlikely that you will have any recourse to them and will not be able to make a claim for any defects missed, however major.

How much will my survey cost?

We aim to offer you a quick, simple and cost effective solution to your survey needs. This means that we offer a bespoke service and tailor our survey to you and your property. Because of this, the cost of a survey can vary. We take into consideration the size and value of your property, how long we expect to be on site, any prior or further desktop research we may undertake, travel time and the type of survey required. When you ask us for a fee proposal, 9 times out of 10 we will be able to offer you a quick quote over the phone and follow that up in writing straight away. If you want further information on this topic, we already have a helpful video!

When should I instruct a surveyor?

We recommend that you instruct a surveyor as soon as your offer has been accepted subject to contract. However, we suggest that the inspection is undertaken once your solicitors have received the draft legal documentation and you are sure that matters are proceeding smoothly before you incur the additional costs a survey. However, do not leave it to the last minute! We always try our best to accommodate our clients, but we deal with a large number of clients so the more notice you can give us, the less stressful this process will be. 

What happens if I want to go ahead with my survey?

Once you have instructed us, we will do the hard work for you! Firstly, we will contact the agent looking after the sale of the property or the building owner and arrange a convenient time to inspect. Often, this is within a couple of days subject to access. We will let you know when we will be inspecting and when you can expect your report. At Harrison Clarke we aim to deliver your report to you within 2 working days of inspection, but bear in mind not all surveyors may be able to offer this quick turnaround. 

Can I request a specific surveyor?

Our team of highly experience and friendly surveyors are all more than capable of assisting you, however we are more than happy to allocate your survey to a specific surveyor if required. We want to ensure that you receive a personal service that meets your needs.

Can I ask my surveyor to look at specific concerns or elements of the property?

Yes, if there are any particular concerns or areas you would like us to pay attention to, please do let us know. 

Will you inspect or test the services as part of your inspection?

Our inspection of services are carried out from a building surveyors perspective only. This means that we will be able to give advice on the age of the installations and any obvious defects but we are not qualified or suitably experienced to test services. If no recent test certification is available when we inspect, or we spot obvious concerns, we will recommend them to be tested by an experienced and qualified person. 

How long will you spend at the property?

The amount of time we spend at a property can vary dramatically. As a rule, we generally spend more time at larger properties or those in poor condition because it simply takes longer for us to carry out the inspection! In some cases, a survey can take a whole day! Although, we find that on average our surveyors tend to spend ninety minutes to three hours at a property.

Can I meet the surveyor at the property?

We try to avoid meeting clients at the property as we want to ensure that we can remain focused while carrying out the inspection. We also find that conversations at the property are of little use as we have not had enough time to get to know the property ourselves. We offer a follow up call once you have received your report to discuss in detail any questions, or specific concerns. This is all included within the cost of your survey and will incur no extra charges! Again, not all surveyors will offer this service. 

How will I receive my report?

Once your report has been completed, we will email a PDF of your report straight away. If you would prefer to receive a hard copy, we can accommodate this, but it may incur a small additional charge. 

What do the traffic light condition ratings in my report mean?

When you receive your RICS HomeBuyer report or Building Survey, you will notice the four ratings provided next to the description of each element that make up the property. These are designed to help highlight the condition of the property.

NI: Not inspected. This often means that we were unable to inspect or access this area of the property. We will always do our best to inspect every element of the property, but sometimes this is not possible. We also give this rating when an element is missing – for example, not all properties have a porch or a chimney.

Green: No significant repairs are needed. This means that we have not identified any urgent remedial works. However you will still need to carry out regular maintenance which we can advise on. 

Amber: Defects that need repairing but are not considered to be serious or urgent. Amber does not mean that you can ignore these defects, and we still recommend that you seek cost estimates for the costs of these repairs.

Red: Defects that are serious and need to be repaired or investigated urgently. There are three reasons why we may give a red condition rating. The first is that urgent repair is required, for example a failed roof covering allowing water ingress which could cause further issues within the building. Secondly, we feel that further investigation is needed, for example inadequate electrical installations. Finally, we have a concern for health and safety, for example finding damaged asbestos containing materials. 

Can you recommend builders, trades, or specialists? 

At Harrison Clarke we have built up strong relationships with trusted and competent builders, drainage contractors, electricians, and other specialists. We would be more than happy to make the necessary introductions if we find defects within the property that would benefit from further investigation and/or work. 

Discover something you would like to know more about?

Faye Williams, party wall and building surveyor at Harrison Clarke chartered surveyors.

About the author

Faye Williams,
BSc (Hons) MFPWS Senior

Surveyor & Winner of Young Property Person of the Year 2023

Faye joined Harrison Clarke in 2018. Faye found an interest in Party Wall surveying, and became a Member of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors in 2022.

Since then, Faye has set out a revolutionary approach to party wall instructions, by focusing on people and relationships, backed up by expert knowledge. Faye’s approach has saved building owners £1,000s in unnecessary party wall fees.