Advice for Choosing a Surveyor
There are lots of surveyors offering surveys and it can be confusing for house buyers who only buy a house on average, once every ten years. So where do you start when trying to choose the company to carry out your survey?
Firstly, our advice is to not use the bank or building society to carry out any form of survey other than the valuation. They often promote the RICS Homebuyer's Report, even where it is unsuitable for the particular property; you have no influence in the choice of surveyor, so cannot tell what qualifications they hold or whether or not they are chartered. The surveyors usually have to travel many miles to carry out a long list of surveys that they must complete that day; this is not conducive to carrying out a thorough, in-depth survey.
So, assuming that you have decided to find your own surveyor, we always recommend using a RICS regulated company.
Not all companies are regulated by the RICS. Some are "agencies" who sell the survey to a "local surveyor" for a fraction of the fee paid by yourself. Your legal contract for the survey will be with the company, not the surveyor, so even if they do use a RICS surveyor (and many do not), if there is a problem, the RICS will not assist you, as they do not regulate the company.
When regulated, a company must hold professional indemnity insurance; have a complaints procedure and mechanism for redress; where it holds client's money, it must hold it separately and securely. They will also (hopefully) deal with you in accordance with the highest standards stipulated by the RICS. They will all be given a RICS firms number and this can be checked on-line or with the RICS.
Unfortunately, a lot of companies (both regulated and non-regulated) state that they are based in the city or area of the survey, but in reality are based in another part of the UK. In this instance, they will either pass the survey on to a "local surveyor" or send a surveyor many miles to carry out your survey. Similar to a "bank/morgage surveyor", you will have no influence over who the actual surveyor is who will carry out your survey. If you are planning on using one of these companies, always obtain the name and qualifications of the actual surveyor who they will send to your property ( link - RICS is your surveyor qualified? ); do not accept the name of the company director or principal as it is most unlikely that they personally, will travel from many miles away to carry out your survey.
Secondly, to confuse matters, there are three different classes of individual membership to the RICS.
You may come across AssocRICS surveyors. As associates, they are not full members of the RICS (MRICS or FRICS) and they are not qualified Chartered Surveyors. They have not achieved or demonstrated the required experience and qualifications to be full members of the RICS and they have not completed an APC (Assessment of Professional Competence). Confusingly for the general public, they are allowed to carry out the RICS licensed Home Surveys (Condition Survey, Homebuyer's Reports and also the RICS licensed Building Survey). You will therefore, find these surveyors offering these standardised, licensed surveys.
Please be aware that a firm operated by an AssocRICS surveyor may still be regulated by the RICS but will not be a Chartered Surveying practice as they cannot call themselves a Chartered Surveyor.
To be a full member of the RICS and call yourself a Chartered Surveyor, you must have attained at least MRICS (Member) status or progress to FRICS (Fellow) status.
Thirdly, there are different types of Chartered Surveyors. Amongst others, you will come across valuation surveyors, building surveyors, quantity surveyors, commercial property surveyors and building control surveyors offering surveys. We have even seen local authority housing inspectors offering surveys (these are not Chartered Surveyors).
Each different type of Chartered Surveyor has different skill sets and this may not be relevant to carrying out good quality residential and commercial surveys. If on checking the individuals designation on the RICS website (link above) it does not say Chartered Building Surveyor, then in all probability, they are not a Chartered Building Surveyor and they chartered as some other type of Chartered Surveyor (assuming they are MRICS or FRICS) and may not have the in-depth building pathology and defect diagnosis experience that is required to charter as a Building Surveyor.
Our advice is to use an independant MRICS or FRICS Chartered Building Surveyor who is local to the property.
Finally, price. There are companies offering the RICS licensed surveys for very little money (especially when VAT and corporation tax liabilities are taken out). A good survey, especially a good independent survey will cost you more. There is usually a difference and it is worth getting a sample to see the quality of the survey offered.
This cost difference comes at an expensive time when buying a property stretches your budget to the limit. With a survey, you are asking an individual to give their professional opinion on a property that is costing you hundreds of thousands of pounds. So, is it really worth taking the lowest quote without looking into what is being offered at that bargain price and by whom? It may suit your budget but does it cover all the issues? If not, will you have some nasty surprises when you move into your dream home?