RICS Planning to Simplify Building Surveys

home surveys imageIs One Size Fits All a Better Solution?

When I bought my current home I took out a full building survey, although, the surveyor did not look at floor boards or joists – if he did he would have uncovered some major problems! Sometimes it pays to take out a full, thorough survey. Maybe if there was only one option the problems would have been uncovered before I moved into the house.

A house is the most expensive thing most of us will ever buy, so the importance of being absolutely clear about the condition and value of our purchase goes without saying. Having a building survey carried out is all part of the house buying routine, and as things currently stand there are three types of survey on offer depending on the detail the buyer requires and the amount he or she wants to spend.

“You pays your money, you takes your choice” is a reasonable enough concept, but there are concerns among those companies providing measured building surveys and homebuyer reports that the current system is unstructured and fragmented.

Existing practices

As things stand, buyers can choose from a Condition Report, a Homebuyer’s Report or a Structural or Building Survey. The first will flag up major issues, the second goes into a little more detail and the third is the most comprehensive. These definitions might sound a little vague and therein lies the problem. A lack of clarity as to what is, and is not, covered by each type of survey means that a report from one surveyor might look considerably different to another – even if they are both supposedly offering the same level of survey.

The new proposal

RICS has suggested that these three different survey types should be thrown in the bin to be replaced by one single report. Buyers will still be able to choose from three different levels of detail, but these will be far more clearly defined, with minimum service requirements attached to each.

Graham Ellis is the Associate Residential Director at RICS and he issued a statement on the RICS website about the rationale behind the proposals. In it, he explained that the consultation is about more than simply rebranding the current survey types on offer. He said that the levels themselves need to be critically re-evaluated to ensure they meet the demands and needs of today’s home buyers. The RICS working group will also evaluate the qualification requirements for those carrying out the surveys.

Improving transparency and consistency

It is understood that, depending on the scope and level of detail needed, not every survey will be carried out by a chartered building surveyor. What is important is to ensure there is no knowledge or qualification gap between the survey required and the person performing it. It is also essential that everyone is working to the same standards.

RICS has been working on the new proposals since the beginning of the year, and feels that now is the time to put them to a wider audience. It will provide full details of the proposals to members in a consultation process that is expected to run till early next year.

New survey criteria that better meets client needs, better consistency in reporting and improved safeguards to ensure the surveyor is adequately qualified to perform the work at hand. For homebuyers, the changes cannot come soon enough.

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