Not all countries are like the UK and automatically use building surveys as part of the conveyancing process when a second-hand property is purchased. Here Matthew Noble BSc (Hons), MRICS, Chartered Building Surveyor of MKN Surveyors, provides some pointers.
The estate agent says the property has stood for 200 years so why do I need a survey?
Properties need on-going maintenance to keep them watertight and in good condition. Has work been done to the appropriate standard using the correct materials? For instance, the use of cement-based materials is detrimental to traditional buildings. Has any maintenance been neglected or are there hidden and therefore not evident; problems which an experienced surveyor would find.
What parts of the building will be inspected?
A surveyor will examine all parts of the building during the course of the survey from the chimney down to the foundations inside and out. Most surveyors will be able to send you a sample survey report so you can see what is included.
Will the report be in English?
The report is normally written in English. There may be some references to the native countries planning systems and purchase process which may use the language of the country concerned, but these terms can be explained to you by the surveyor. It may be possible to have the property translated into another language, for an additional fee.
How long will it take to carry out the survey?
Surveys usually take place within a week or two of initial contact between the buyer and the surveyor. The surveys take several hours up to a couple of days for a large chateau. The survey reports will take approximately a week to get back to the client. If there is a cooling-off period, this should be noted and the report returned to allow for a couple of days so that any changes can be made, or in the worst-case scenario, the purchase process stopped.
Are the services inspected by the surveyor?
Building surveyors are not usually qualified to test the electrics and plumbing and other services, however advice can be given if the services in the opinion of the surveyor are in need of updating, or there is an obvious problem. e.g. bare wires on an electrical system.
Will the survey prioritise repairs?
Repairs are prioritised using a traffic light system for each element in the case of one of our reports. We will also state which items are urgent such as removal or repair of dangerous fixtures.
Can you provide advice on repairs and costs?
Yes, advice can be given on the correct type of repair made and the order in which they should be done. Some surveyors can provide project management services and plan and elevation drawings (for planning applications you may have to also use the services of an architect).
Has the surveyor got professional indemnity insurance and also correct qualifications?
You need to check the surveyor is a building surveyor. There are lots of other types of surveyor, most of whom will not have the appropriate experience. RICS building surveyors are called just that, so check the qualification obtained by your surveyor and that they have suitable experience in the type of building you are purchasing.
We recommend using a RICS qualified surveyor because they carry professional indemnity insurance. This protects you in case a major fault is not detected during the course of the survey.
Ask to see a copy of the surveyor’s professional indemnity insurance.
How much will a survey cost?
Prices depend on the size of the property and location. Usually sending the link to the property on the web will enable the surveyor to quote for the work. You will need to let them know if there are extensive outbuildings or land which you need surveying as this will affect the price.