What do surveyors do?

Last updated: May 2024 | 3 min read

Learn all about the invaluable part which a surveyor plays during your house selection. Hiring a reputable professional for conducting house surveys, will guarantee that your investment is protected. 

A surveyor is indispensable when setting out on the road to purchase your new home. This article is your guide to simplifying the complexities of a property survey, offering insight into how the surveying process is carried out.

The surveyor is the key property evaluator

Surveyors in the context of residential property conveyancing operate as key figures ensuring properties are evaluated accurately before transactions.

Their skills and knowledge encompass a broad range of aspects related to property, from the physical condition of the buildings to understanding and interpreting local planning and building regulations.

There's a variety of house surveys of varying costs, which a surveyor might proceed with.

A property surveyor's work is multifaceted, involving assessment, reporting, and advising on the various characteristics of residential buildings.

They work closely with other professionals in the property sector, such as estate agents, solicitors, and architects, providing information that influences the buying and selling process.

A surveyor's responsibilities

Assessing structural integrity and safety

One of the primary responsibilities of a surveyor is to assess the structural integrity and safety of a property.

This involves examining the main walls, roof structure, and foundations to detect any potential issues like subsidence, rot, or structural damage.

A property surveyor's sharp eye will identify problems that you, as a homebuyer or homeowner, might overlook. (You might want to have a look at a checklist of a survey report.)

They check the stability of chimney stacks, look for signs of dampness in walls, and ensure the overall solidity of the building.

Their assessments play a significant role in determining whether a property is safe to inhabit and maintaining the safety of its occupants.

Evaluating compliance with building regulations

Surveyors are also tasked with evaluating how well a property complies with current building regulations.

They carry out a building survey which includes ensuring any extensions or alterations to the property meet legal standards. A surveyor will look closely at whether the property adheres to the relevant legal requirements for things like electrical wiring, insulation, and planning permissions.

New build properties or development projects must align with sustainable development practices. In their reports, surveyors often provide professional advice on whether certain aspects of a property, like bathroom fittings or central heating systems, meet the stipulated requirements.

How does a chartered surveyor differ from other surveyors?

Chartered status and professional standards

Chartered surveyors in the UK earn their title by becoming members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

This designation signifies a higher level of professional education and experience. Chartered surveyors must adhere to stringent ethical and professional standards, setting them apart from other surveyors.

They undergo rigorous training, encompassing various aspects of property and construction, including legal issues, technical guidelines, and business practices.

Roles specific to chartered surveyors in property transactions

Chartered surveyors play diverse roles in property transactions. Unlike their non-chartered counterparts, they often engage in specialised areas such as project management, planning permission, and valuation for insurance purposes.

Their expertise extends to more complex tasks, such as assessing environmental impact and providing impartial valuation services.

Chartered surveyors offer guidance in construction projects, land surveying, and provide strategic advice on existing structures and investments.

A surveyor's activities during a house survey

Internal examination: from roof space to dampness

During a house survey, surveyors will look into the loft or attic space as part of their comprehensive internal examination.

They assess the roof space for structural integrity, insulation quality, and signs of any leaks or pest infestation.

Inspecting the loft reveals the property's overall condition, identifying issues that are generally hidden.

A surveyor checks for damp during their inspection. They visually inspect walls, floors, and ceilings for signs of moisture ingress.

Surveyors use specialist tools, such as moisture meters, to detect damp that might not be immediately apparent. Identifying damp-related issues early can prevent more significant problems in the future.

Surveyors also investigate issues such as subsidence. They look for signs of movement in the building's structure, like cracks in walls or uneven floors, to identify subsidence.

Electrical systems are checked for safety, compliance with current standards, and the condition of the wiring. This thorough inspection helps in addressing safety concerns and maintaining the property’s integrity.

External examination: boundary walls to drainage services

A surveyor's activities range from examining the building's exterior to assessing boundary walls and outbuildings.

They visually inspect external structures for damage or decay, considering factors like weather conditions.

Surveyors also check services like drainage, to ensure they function correctly and comply with local regulations.

Assessing external structural issues, a surveyor evaluates the property's foundation, roofing, chimney breasts, and other structural elements.

They consider the local environment's impact, including risks from nearby trees or water bodies.

This comprehensive outside evaluation ensures that the building's exterior is not only aesthetically pleasing but also structurally sound and environmentally safe.

Different types of surveys and their purpose

A structural survey

A structural survey, often conducted by a building surveyor, involves a comprehensive inspection of a property's condition.

It's recommended for older, larger, or non-standard properties.

During a structural survey, the surveyor will look at all visible or accessible parts of the building, identifying any significant repairs or alterations needed.

This type of survey is particularly useful if you're planning major works or if you have concerns about the property's structure.

Differences between a homebuyers report and a valuation survey

A homebuyer survey report and valuation surveys serve distinct purposes. A homebuyers report, prepared by a property surveyor, provides an overview of a property's condition, highlighting issues like damp or subsidence. It's less comprehensive than a structural survey but more detailed than a valuation survey.

The valuation survey, often required by mortgage lenders, is conducted by valuation surveyors to determine the property's market value. This survey focuses on assessing the property for loan security rather than detailed condition.

Specialised surveys: energy efficiency and environmental impact

Specialised surveys like the energy efficiency assessment are gaining traction, focusing on a property's environmental impact rating. These surveys, carried out by RICS surveyors, evaluate how eco-friendly a property is, which can affect its value and appeal.

They look at insulation, heating systems, and other features impacting the property's energy performance. This information proves essential for understanding future energy costs and environmental footprint.

How to make sense of a surveyor's report

Deciphering a surveyor's report can sometimes feel daunting. The report usually includes details on the condition of the property, from structural issues to partition floors.

It also provides an environmental impact rating, reflecting the property's energy efficiency.

These details help you grasp the property's current state and any potential costs or necessary repairs.

How a surveyor's findings influence property decisions

The findings in a surveyor's report significantly impact property decisions. If a surveyor identifies major issues like structural damage, it could influence your negotiations on the property's price or even your decision to purchase.

For smaller issues, you might decide to request repairs from the seller before finalising the sale.

The report's insights guide you to make informed decisions, balancing the property's cost against future repair investments.

Dealing with negative findings: from structural damage to missing tiles

Confronting negative findings in a surveyor's report requires a considered approach. Structural damage, for example, might necessitate specialist advice or renegotiation of the property's price.

Less severe issues, like missing tiles or minor dampness, could be resolved through repairs post-purchase. Addressing these issues promptly and efficiently ensures the property's safety and value remain intact.

How to address issues identified in a surveyor's report

Upon identifying issues in a surveyor's report, you should plan your next steps. For serious defects, you might need further evaluations by specialist surveyors or engineers.

Your conveyancing solicitor can help address these issues in the transaction process. This article gives more detail about how to find a conveyancing solicitor.

For less critical concerns, obtaining quotes for repairs and using these to negotiate the sale price or repair terms can be effective strategies.

These steps make your property a secure and valuable investment.


Here are some common questions about property surveyors:

Can surveyors provide legal advice on property issues?

No, surveyors focus on the physical aspects of properties, not legal. For legal property issues, such as conveyancing or disputes over deeds, seek a solicitor's expertise. If you need more detail on what type of professional is best suited to your particular needs, read on to know the difference between a solicitor and a conveyancer.

Do surveyors play a role in resolving boundary disputes?

Surveyors can map land and clarify boundary lines, aiding in boundary disputes. However, for legal resolutions, a solicitor might be needed.

What doesn’t fall within a surveyor’s remit?

Architectural planning and extensive engineering are beyond their scope.

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