Services : Residential Surveys

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Basic Mortgage Valuations

Such a Valuation is NOT a Survey. It is a limited report on the property based on a cursory inspection along the lines required by Mortgage Lenders. This type of report is unlikely to cover items of detail, which would be picked up in a Survey. Here at Peter Cunliffe & Co, we advise that you should consider a proper Survey, namely the RICS Homebuyer Survey and Valuation or the RICS Condition Report (which is a briefer version without a valuation) or the more detailed Building Survey. It is a relatively small cost which might help to save you thousands – problems with the fabric of the property or issues with the price you are proposing to pay for it.

I already have a Mortgage Valuation report...

Even if you are seeking a mortgage - and may be paying separately for a Mortgage Valuation report - it is still advisable and prudent to arrange a survey by your own independent Chartered Surveyor. The Consumers' Association Which? magazine and the Council of Mortgage Lenders both give this advice. The reason is simple: the Mortgage Valuation report is prepared for the lender, not for you, the borrower. It answers only the lender's questions concerning the appropriate security for your loan. You cannot rely on it to answer the questions which concern your personal interests.

What choice of surveys do I have?

RICS members (Chartered Surveyors) offer three forms of survey which are specifically designed to help homebuyers:

  1. RICS Condition Report
  2. RICS HomeBuyers Report
  3. Building Survey (formerly called the “Full Structural Survey”)


We can provide current or retrospective valuations on land and property to help you to minimise the amount of tax you need to pay, say, when you inherit an estate or if you are selling a property investment that is significantly worth more now than when you purchased it. Sometimes, the Inland Revenue will challenge the amount of your return: the Valuation Office Agency valuers may consider that the property has been undervalued and increase your tax liability: in such situations we can also negotiate with the Valuation Officer on your behalf.

MATRIMONIAL or some other similar dispute (also see EXPERT WITNESS)

We are often asked to provide valuation reports in connection with the break-up of a relationship: often one party would prefer to remain in the property and it is a question of how much is reasonable to buy-out the other party.Of course, in the vast majority of cases, this is co-ordinated through solicitors on each side and our report is used by the Court to settle the matter

RICS Survey Reports


The HOMEBUYER Survey and Valuation

The HOMEBUYER Service is in a standard format and is designed specifically as an economy service. It therefore differs materially from a Building Survey in two major respects.It is intended only for particular types of home: houses, flats and bungalows which are:

  1. conventional in type and construction
  2. apparently in reasonable condition

It focuses on essentials: defects and problems which are urgent or significant and thus have an effect on the value of the property-although it also includes much other valuable information.

What else should I know about the HOMEBUYER Service?

The Service, the inspection, the report and the valuation are all explained in detail in the accompanying Description of the HOMEBUYER Service, but the highlights are:

  1. This is an economy survey package.
  2. The surveyor's main objective in providing the Service is to assist the prospective homebuyer to:
  3. make a reasoned and informed judgement on whether or not to proceed with the purchase.
  4. assess whether or not the property is a reasonable purchase at the agreed price.
  5. be clear what decisions and actions should be taken before contracts are exchanged.

The surveyor also gives his Professional opinion on the particular features of the property which affect its present value and may affect its future resale.

This concise report covers the building inside and outside, the services and the site. It focuses on the defects and other problems which in the judgement of the surveyor are urgent or significant, but it also covers:

  1. the general condition and particular features of the property.
  2. particular points which should be referred to the client's legal advisers.
  3. other relevant considerations concerning, for example, safety, the location, the environment, or perhaps insurance.

Matters which are judged to be not urgent or not significant are in general not included in the report but the surveyor will mention matters judged to be both helpful and constructive.

Differences between a HomeBuyers Report and a Building Survey

Download: Choosing between surveys

HomeBuyer Report sample

Download: HomeBuyer Report Sample

Standard terms of engagement

  1. The service – the surveyor will provide the standard RICS HomeBuyer Service (‘the service’) described in the ‘Description of the RICS HomeBuyer Service’, unless you and the surveyor agree in writing before the inspection that the surveyor will give you additional advice.
  2. The surveyor providing the service will be a full Member or Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, who has the skills, knowledge and experience to survey, value and report on the property.
  3. Before the inspection – you will tell the surveyor if there is already an agreed, or proposed, price for the property, and if you have any particular concerns (such as plans for extension) about the property.
  4. Terms of payment – you agree to pay the surveyor’s fee and any other charges agreed in writing.
  5. Cancelling this contract – you are entitled to cancel this contract by giving notice to the surveyor’s office at any time before the day of the inspection. The surveyor will not provide the service (and will report this to you as soon as possible) if, after arriving at the property, they decide that:
    1. a. they lack enough specialist knowledge of the method of construction used to build the property;
    2. or b. it would be in your best interests to have a building survey and a valuation, rather than the RICS HomeBuyer Service. If you cancel this contract, the surveyor will refund any money you have paid for the service, except for any reasonable expenses. If the surveyor cancels this contract, they will explain the reason to you.
  6. Liability – the report is provided for your use, and the surveyor cannot accept responsibility if it used by anyone else.

Complaints handling procedure

The surveyor will have a complaints handling procedure and will give you details if you ask.


Formerly referred to by some as a ‘full structural survey’, the Building Survey is a detailed examination of a building.

A Building Survey is suitable for all residential properties and provides a full picture of their construction and condition. It is likely to be needed if the property is, for example, of unusual construction, is dilapidated or has been extensively altered, or where a major conversion or renovation is planned.
It can be tailored to the client's individual requirements, if, for example, the client wants to append a drainage report, electrical report etc. but obviously at an additional charge to cover these further reports that will be carried out by separate tradesmen and/or Professionals.

The report includes detailed technical information on construction and materials as well as details of the defects, major to minor, and advice on future planned maintenance.

Michael Cunliffe was part of the review group in 2003/2004 that revised the current RICS Guidance Note and Terms of Engagement for Residential Building Surveys.

Although the Building Survey does not generally include a Valuation, as an added benefit to our clients, a market valuation and Building Insurance figure is included.

Non-traditional housing

Predominantly built in the 1940s to 1960s period, non-traditional, ‘pre-fab’ housing was the darling of Local Authorities across the country.
Originally intended as cheap and quick houses to meet the housing shortage, as World War II came to an end, they were not intended to be a long term solution but the majority of them have stood the test of time.

However, you should take care with pre-fabricated (‘pre-fabs’) buildings and systems-built houses, as there have been some issues that have effectively rendered certain types unmortgageable.

e pre-fab types were officially designated as being “defective” in the Housing Act 1985 although the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) do recognise some licensed repair schemes.

We have been involved Professionally with social housing for over twenty years and have inspected a wide range of such house types across the North West region and they range from cast in-situ concrete, pre-formed concrete panelling, steel framed, steel or aluminium cladding, asbestos panelling etc – types such as ... Airey, Wimpey No-Fines, Waites, Corolite, British Iron & Steel Federation Houses BISF (often known as “Tin Houses”), Tarran Bungalows, Dennis Wilde.

More commonplace than you might think: there were 300,000 Wimpey No-Fines houses were built over a 30 year period, 35,000 BISF houses, 26,000 Aireys, as well as a great many more.

Older properties and those needing work

For all older properties we strongly advise commissioning a building survey first.

We will find out if there are any hidden structural problems and will provide you with enough information to buy the property with knowledge of the principal problems or where further investigations are needed.

If you intend to renovate, you must check building regulations carefully. We can help ensure this is done accurately and professionally.
If in a poor condition and clearly in need of renovation, we can provide you with a report that identifies the scope of the works, such that you can then cost the repairs and decide whether the property is still worth renovating.

Listed buildings

If the property is a Listed building, or in a conservation area, any work you do on it may be restricted and have to follow certain guidelines.

The scope for any structural change could be extremely limited and you will need to discuss any proposals with your local planning authority. You may have to obtain Listed Buildings Consent before any work can begin.