Building Surveys of residential and smaller commercial properties

If you, or maybe your business, are looking to purchase or lease property, then it’s vital that you’re aware of its condition and are as informed as you can be before you sign on the dotted line. Remember you’re taking on a repairing liability for the building, either sole or shared, as a whole or parts of it not just at the point of purchase but for the years of ownership ahead. Forewarned is forearmed, and survey findings may enable a residential buyer to negotiate a reduction in the purchase price. If you’re acquiring a commercial lease, you will be taking on repairing liabilities and if you don’t know what the real condition of the demised premises is, you could be exposing yourself, or your business to an onerous and expensive obligation, either in the short or long term.

The word ‘survey’ can be misleading and potentially has different meanings to different people and in different circumstances. In the residential context, the mortgage fee charged by a lending instituation will typically include for a ‘survey’ pior to them making you a mortgage offer. This survey is primarily designed to reassure the lender that the property is sound for lending purposes, namely that it exists, it has no obvious major defects and that the proposed purchase value is compatable with current market prices for the area. The survey report typically covers two sides of A4 under broad headings. Until relatively recently borrowers didn’t even receive a copy of this report. Nowadays borrowers are able to rely on the findings of the survey but given that the appointed surveyor will only be on site for maybe 30-40 minutes, the ‘survey’ report produced will not be comparable to a ‘survey’ that results from several hours on site. So when you hear the word ‘survey’ make sure that you interrogate what you are getting and whether it’s sufficient for your needs.

A Building Survey inspection will include a visual assessment of the external and internal elements of the building fabric and a visual assessment of the building’s service installations and drainage. Inevitably there are always some limitations on what can and can’t be inspected and I will talk you through these and confirm them with you on instruction. 

I try to match the scope of the survey to your specific needs. For example if you are buying a flat or house with the intention of stripping out the services and starting again, then we can agree that the exisitng services will not be covered by the survey. As long as both sides are absolutely clear about what is and what isn’t covered, then surveys can be tailored to suit a client’s specific needs. However where appropriate I will warn you that by omitting an element you are potentially exposing yourself to risk.