Guide to chartered surveyors

General Information

There is confusion about the role Chartered Surveyors play within the property buying process and the surveys they actually carry out. This guide I hope will help to answer some of the questions you may have involving Chartered Surveyors.

Chartered Surveyors are paid to carry out surveys on properties, at the request of a buyer or mortgage lender provider. A major question people ask is whether a survey is worth the money you have to pay out, as generally surveys can set you back a few hundred pounds. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), state that surveys are essential in helping you to decide whether to buy and how much to pay for a property and therefore choosing the right surveyor and survey is paramount for a buyer.

A home is likely to be one of the most expensive purchases that you ever make, so it is wise to make sure that you know as much information about the property as possible, before you decide to go through with the purchase. Paying for a Chartered Surveyor to conduct a survey is seen as a wise decision to make as although the survey may cost a few hundred pounds, it could save you a few thousand pounds in a lower purchase price or in costly repair bills. The Consumers Association, The Council of Mortgage Lenders and the Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors (RICS) all recommend that home buyers get a survey done, rather than just relying on a valuation, before they go through with the purchase of a property. (Or if you live in Scotland a survey is recommended before you make an offer on a property.)

Surveys have been described as a kind of ‘health-check’ for properties as they check a number of factors that may affect the price of a property. If a survey identifies any major structural problems with a property this could change your decision about whether you purchase the property or cause you to renegotiate the price of the property in order to reflect the cost of necessary repairs that need to be made to the property.

A Chartered Surveyor will report on all the parts of the property that they can easily reach, and will comment on the condition of the parts that they don’t inspect in detail, such as under carpets or furniture, and the testing of the water supply and wiring. The Chartered Surveyor’s survey is more detailed than the mortgage lender’s valuation, which simply estimates the cost of the house to ensure that it is worth the money that the mortgage provider is lending you. The valuation is unlikely to cover any of the detail that would be picked up in a survey conducted by a Chartered Surveyor, such as any major structural problems, which could cost you a lot of money in the future, which is why a survey by a Chartered Surveyor is always recommended before making a purchase.

There are two main types of survey; a Home Buyer Survey and Valuation (HSV) also known as a Homebuyer’s Report, and a Buildingsurvey. A RICS member is fully qualified to carry out these surveys and they are conducted to standard formats that are set out by the RICS to its members.

Homebuyer Survey & Valuation Report (HSV) 

The Homebuyer survey and Valuation Report (HSV) is the most suitable survey for conventional properties built within the last 150 years, which are in reasonable condition. The survey does not detail every aspect of the property, as it is designed to focus only on matters that need urgent attention. Therefore, this survey is not appropriate for properties in need of renovation or if you are planning major alterations, a Builders Survey would be more suitable for these types of properties.

The following information would be outlined in the Chartered Surveyor’s HSV report;

  • The General Condition of the property.
  • Any Major Faults that are Accessible by the Chartered Surveyor that may affect the property’s value.
  • Any Urgent problems that need Inspecting by a Specialist before you sign a contract for the purchase of the property.
  • The Results of Tests carried out for Damp in the Walls of the Property.
  • Any Detected damage to Timber’s, including Woodworm and Rot.
  • The Condition of any Damp-proofing that may have been made to the Property.
  • The Condition of the Insulation of the Property.
  • The General Condition of the Drainage. (Although the drains are not tested in detail by the Chartered Surveyor.)
  • The Chartered Surveyor’s Estimated Cost of Rebuilding the Property after a Fire, for Building Insurance Purposes.
  • The Value a Chartered Surveyor would Place the Property at on an Open Market.

Building Survey

A building survey on the other hand is a comprehensive inspection of a property and is suitable for all properties. Buyers who are seeking to purchase listed buildings, older properties, unusually constructed buildings or properties that have had extensive alterations, should definitely consider paying for a Chartered Surveyor to conduct a Building Survey.

A Building Survey examines all accessible parts of a property and if you want to have specific areas included that you are concerned about, you can ask the Chartered Surveyor to incorporate them into the survey. A Building Survey includes the following details;

  • Faults both Major and Minor and what they could Mean in the Property’s Future.
  • The Possible Cost of Repairs that may need to be made.
  • Results of Damp Testing conducted on the Walls of the Property.
  • Any Damage to the Timbers of the Property, including Woodworm and Rot.
  • The Condition of any Damp-Proofing the Property my have been made to the Property.
  • The Condition of the Insulation of the Property.
  • The General Condition of the Drainage, although the Drains are not tested in Detail by the Chartered Surveyor unless Requested by the Buyer.
  • Technical Information on the Construction of the Property and the Materials Used.
  • Location Information.
  • Recommendations for any further Special Inspections that may need to be made on the Property before Purchasing.

Please note that Building Surveys do not include a property valuation. However, your Chartered Surveyor can provide this valuation separately if required to do so by you.

Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Information

If you are uncertain about which type of survey you require or you have particular concerns about a property that you are interested in purchasing, then you can talk to an RICS member. An RICS member will be happy to discuss any particular concerns you may have in more detail and they can help you to decide which survey is better suited to your needs. The RICS’s survey reports are completely independent and are designed to help you to make a more informed decision about a property you are interested in purchasing.

The cost of surveys’ varies according to the type of survey you require, but both HSV and Building Surveys can offer you reassurance and piece of mind when purchasing a property. The RICS requires all its members to agree terms and conditions with a client before the client is engaged in a contract with the Chartered Surveyor and the service is carried out. The Chartered Surveyor is also obliged to include a fee or the method for calculation their fee in these terms and conditions. These terms and conditions therefore, reduce the likelihood of any surprises for either the client or the Chartered Surveyor with regard to fees, hence avoiding any disputes over fee levels.

If you do have a complaint about a Chartered Surveyor, the RICS has in place a system to deal with complaints. The RICS requires all its members to operate complaints handling procedure, therefore your first step is to talk to your Chartered Surveyor about your complaint, before taking it higher to the RICS. The RICS believe that many misunderstandings and confusions that lead to complaints can often be deflected through both parties involved communicating earlier rather than later. The complaints handling procedure a Chartered Surveyor is required, by the RICS, to provide can often bring both parties back to the discussion table before they find themselves in the middle of a serious dispute, which can be damaging for both parties.

It is highly recommended that, should you decide to have a survey completed on a property you are interested in purchasing, you hire a Chartered Surveyor who is a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). This is because the RICS sets down rules and regulations which its members must comply with. Therefore all RICS members will;

  • Act with Integrity and Honesty
  • Deal Fairly and Openly with Clients
  • Disclose any Conflicts of Interest they may have
  • Respect their Client’s Confidentiality
  • Safeguard Clients’ Assets that are Entrusted to them
  • Act Promptly, Diligently and with Due Skill and Care when carrying out Surveys
  • Keep their Professional and Business Knowledge Up-to-Date
  • Act within Clearly Established Guidelines
  • Keep Clients Informed in a Comprehensive and Timely Manner
  • Act in Accordance with RICS Guidelines as Applicable
  • Carry Appropriate and Professional Insurances

An affiliated member of the RICS will have the initials: TechRICS, MRICS or FRICS after their name. Also look out for the RICS logo. If you have any queries or require further information contact the RICS.

Useful Addresses 

RICS Contact Centre
Surveyor Court
Westwood Way
Telephone: +44 (0) 870 333 1600

If you require information on the firms affiliated with RICS in your area please contact:

If you have a more serious complaint or enquiries please contact:
RICS Headquarters
12 Great George Street
Parliament Square