Stuart Parrett
Stuart Parrett
Stuart Parrett
PROinspect Consultancy
September 2012
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How Good is your Home Survey & Surveyor?

11 benchmarks to measure Home Survey service quality.

You have agreed to buy a Home and have all sorts of costs: is a House survey essential and if they are all the same why would I not buy the cheapest.

Often I hear this, usually from first-time-buyers but also from seasoned buyers. The answer is simple – the chances are that you are correct but a significant proportion of buyers buy a problem and then wish they had taken better quality, or any advice at all. Do you really want to take a chance with such a big investment?

If you are prepared to rely on chance then you don’t need me, or any other Surveyor. Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors research suggests that the average homebuyer faces an unforeseen repair bill of about £2,000. If you don’t want such an expense, and don’t want to rely on chance, then you only have one way to go – talk to a Surveyor to see what survey options you have so you use your money wisely, not blindly.

A good Surveyor will reveal these currently hidden defects, tell you what a reasonable repair budget cost is, the effect of that cost on the value of the home (often more than the cost of works) and how to best re-negotiate your offered price. If those negotiations are successful your survey fee will repay itself many times over.

So, what are the hallmarks of a possible cheap survey service as opposed to those of a high quality survey service?

Let’s start with defining the core Quality Areas of concern —

  1. Service Fee cost
  2. Good and easy Communications
  3. Initial Free Consultation/Interview
  4. Product Options
  5. Surveyor Choice
  6. Appointment scheduling
  7. Local Knowledge
  8. Verbal Initial Report
  9. Report Explanation meeting
  10. Further Advice later on
  11. Survey linked to Loan Valuation

If you are being directed into a potentially less-than-top-quality route the service hallmarks will look something like this:-

  1. Service Fee cost – rates start at £400
  2. Good and easy Communications – via an intermediatory only
  3. Initial Free Consultation/Interview – probably not possible
  4. Product Options – often not discussed, or only a token effort made
  5. Surveyor Choice – Big Name brand but no choice is possible
  6. Appointment scheduling – 7 to 21 days range (too long)
  7. Local Knowledge – not guaranteed but possible
  8. Verbal Initial Report – difficult to obtain, probably not achievable
  9. Report Explanation meeting – never possible
  10. Further Advice later on – highly improbable
  11. Survey linked to Loan Valuation – normally engineered this way (to save you costs – they will say).

If you have been successful in protecting your best interests and have truly obtained independent opinion, that service will bear these hallmarks —-

  1. Service Fee cost – rates start at about £500 (regional variations will apply)
  2. Good and easy Communications – always via just one person – your Surveyor/Adviser
  3. Initial Free Consultation/Interview – always needed/provided
  4. Product Options – always discussed
  5. Surveyor Choice – one person the whole time makes getting advice easy
  6. Appointment scheduling – within 2 to 7 working days
  7. Local Knowledge – always
  8. Verbal Initial Report – always provided
  9. Report Explanation meeting – will be possible
  10. Further Advice later on – always possible and will be free
  11. Survey linked to Loan Valuation – never agreed, as conflicts of interest disadvantage you.

How will you begin to recognise when you are being seduced into a cheap service level? This is easy to detect – here are 11 tell-tale signs to watch for —-

  • Your Financial Adviser will recommend a simultaneous Loan Company Valuation service with the private survey added to it (supposedly to save you money).
  • Your Solicitor should recommend a private Surveyor to you so why would you need to rely on the choice of an Estate Agent, Financial Adviser or other such Non-Surveying middleman?
  • Often the Survey Appointment is delayed for many days, as Valuations are more important to Loan Companies than Private Surveys.
  • Your Surveyor may be a great local Valuer, but is he/she an experienced Surveyor as well (probably not). Ask the Surveyor how many surveys he completed in relation to the number of pure valuations he completes!
  • If you pay for a simultaneous Valuation and private Survey but these are done by two differing people then the Loan Company have probably out-sourced your Survey out to a cheap Surveyor who is paying the Loan Company a commission for that service (often not disclosed to you even though it is mandatory to declare any such arrangement).
  • No Surveyor will call you to discuss your needs and worries. This means a tailored service cannot be designed for you.
  • When you next speak to the Sellers, ask them how long the Surveyor took on-site (under two hours and you should be worried) and whether detailed questions were thrown at the owners (if not, then the Surveyor has not done his job properly).
  • If your Report is full of repetitions and standardised text/paragraphs (easy to detect as the language used is similar for all sections and can be full of “appears to be…” phrases) then the Surveyor is not using his brain to report to you individually but instead is more concerned to reduce liability to you by treating you like any other client and therefore no personalisation can be built in to your report.
  • If you have Report queries just try to talk to the actual Surveyor to have a detailed conversation with him/her. If this is difficult or not possible then the chances are you are talking to a Big Name but cheap-service Company (often with very familiar Names and Branding).
  • To the actual Surveyor who is going to inspect the premises for you, ask (before they inspect your next home) if he/she has any negligence claims at all in their career. Many Surveyors have large numbers of claims against them and they are not expelled from membership of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) as RICS do not follow such trends.
  • If you can get through to talk to your Surveyor ask if they can recommend local Contractors and Specialists to further investigate the problems identified in the Loan Valuation report: lack of positive response will probably mean a lack of local knowledge and so why did they accept your job in the first place?

At the end of the day it comes down to a basic choice – are you going to take the initiative to create self-protection or roll over and let the system make money out of you whilst protecting their own backs, not yours? The choice is yours.

2 Responses to “How Good is your Home Survey & Surveyor?”

  • Mark a:

    I came here hoping to learn from your wisdom, as a junior surveyor. I leave disappointed, at what feels like somethng of a bitter commentary, saying such things as “many surveyors have large numbers claims against them”, etc,
    It thus then leaves me in doubt as the all the other comments and learnig on the site.

  • Just noticed a glitch and will reply a second time……
    Many Surveyors do have extensive PII claim histories: having been an Expert Witness is this area as far as I am concerned my web comments are accurate. Indeed, with so few Surveyors prepared to even work in Residential Markets because of PII issues this has led to the Opportunity for new grades of Surveyors to enter the residential market. This means we currently have many new Surveyors which, by simple logic, lack experience and so the trend toward poor PII Claims Histories is likely to continue.
    Your comments about my comments seem to imply i have a vested interest and welcome this situation. NO, not true: indeed I have very recently Retired and have no interest whatsoever.
    I have great experience of Residential Surveying Markets but as seen from the survey angle, not the loan valuation side: the latter I had serious reservations on quality issues and mainly on conflict of interest and non-disclosure of hidden commissions angles.

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