Image of a run down house which needs a building surveyor to look at it.





Even if you’re one of the lucky few of us to actually buy a property, the chances are you’re probably a little worn out by the whole thing. You might be slowly waking up to the reality that buying (and indeed selling) property is not always as amazing as it may seem on the outside. And that’s before all the costs.

You’ve raised the stamp duty, paid out on the mortgage charges and got it valued, you’ve got a keen eye on the agent and solicitor fees and you’ve dragged that deposit from the shallows of your bank account.

You’ve splashed the cash surely, you’re good to go then?

No, not quite yet…

It’s time to get a survey done. But which one do you really need?


Jack Brynes From Meet The Parents

Robert De Niro & Ben Stiller From Meet The Parents

Jack Byrnes, Robert De Niro’s retired CIA Operative in the popular Hollywood film ‘Meet the Parents’, spent a lot of time in the film performing systematic and rather over the top background checks on his potential son-in-law, Ben Stiller. Buying a property is a tiny bit like getting married in that you are making a long term emotional and financial commitment. It’s very different in that with your spouse, unless you’re Jack Byrnes of course, it’s difficult to do all the checks yourself.

So, in this article we’re going to invite you into our ‘circle of trust’ and take closer look at what type of surveys there are and when to get one.  




A cup of British Tea and Rich Tea Biscuits On A Wooden Table highlighting the Number 1 reason why a shared party wall surveyor is important


A Valuation Survey is a task for a specific type of RICS Chartered Surveyor who is a ‘Registered Valuer’. They are the people who would tell Jack Byrnes how much his property is worth. Regardless if he is buying or selling. They are often a final piece in the process of  getting a mortage. One of the reasons they are used is to make sure that the property is not being undersold or that the price is so highabove the ‘market value’ it quickly devalue and pass on the loss to the lender. They can do this by three methods:

  • A Vist to the Property: This is where they will ask questions, measure the house and property, and then take the details and pictures away and see how it compares to the local property market.
  • A Desktop Review: This is performed using specialist software which analyses the property in the context of the local market.
  • A Drive By Review: Where the Surveyor will utilise software and tools available and then perform a breif, external check on the property.

As you can already tell, none of the above actions are going to tell you much about the acutal state of the property and therefore whether it is worth making that long term commitment.




First things first – a HomeBuyers Report is not a mini survey. It is an option in its own right, and will be produced on a standard RICS template that the surveyor would follow. These are described by the RICS as Level 1 (Condition Report) or Level 2 (Homebuyers Survey), and can be provide either with or without a valuation.

These are  usually cheaper than a survey, but can be a lot less detailed depending on which level you opt for, usually commenting on visible issues but not exploring causes or analysing further where problems might exist. Zoopla describe a Home Buyers Report as a ‘health check’ but that doesn’t go far enough. Its more of a tick box exercise and there are a few important points to consider:

  • Its usually cheaper, but cheaper doesn’t always mean better.
  • Surveyors and Companies that provide the HomeBuyers Reports must purchase a Licence from the RICS to use the template and software. This means your report will be very standardised and contain a lot of coverall statements and sections of text.
  • these are typically designed for properties which are of standard and modern construction, that are not altered, historic, nor in dilapidated condition.
  • It will be informative about the items and issues that are visible and can include a valuation if the surveyor carrying ou the survey is a registered valuer, however this will usually cost more.
  • It could identify something which is an impedement to the sale so you can either pull out or negotiate on the price.

A HomeBuyers Report would be like Jack Byrnes doing a simple and routine background check on our hapless future son-in-law. There’s just no way it’ll be enough for him – only a Full Survey will do the trick.


A pink and blue shaded terrace of houses


A full Building or Structural survey (or RICS level 3 survey) is the equiviate of our Jack Byrnes going into full CIA mode. However, there are pracitcal limits to a survey though.

We are often asked by prospective buyers why we don’t tear into a wall or rip out a chunk of flooring to get a peak at what’s going on in the hidden places of a property. There is one major reason for this – the cost of putting all the mess we may cause back together would be so high that no one would want to foot the bill, especially if the buyer didn’t want to proceed.

So whilst a well developed and comprehensive survey stops short of what is known as ‘intrusive investigation’ it will give you (and Jack) enough information to do the following:

  • Understand what, if anything, is seriously wrong with the property before purchase and if possible explain why or advise on further action and remedial works that could be considered.
  • Understand both the major and minor issues so you can predict and plan works across the time you plan to own the property.
  • Understand when elements of the property may need to be replaced, such as roofs, windows, electrical and plumbing installations for instance.
  • If thesurvey is for a flat, additional commentary on the communal structure and areas will be given to assist in understanding any issues that you may be responsible for paying some costs towards resoving as a flat owner.
  • Greater effort will be made to inspect areas where possible, such as lifting a loose area of carpet, accessing loft voids etc.
  • Help ensure that your financial and emotional commitment to your propery is secure in the long run.
  • Potentially save you money in both the short and long term. You may find significant costs or isues are reported which you may need to discuss the price you are willing to pay with the agents/vendor.





A common problem with new builds is that the developer has usually hired lots of small businesses to work on the properties they are constructing. These Tradespeople are normally squeezed into small margins and often workmanship standards are not checked thoroughly to rush to completing the build. Its more of a numbers game.

A good developer will have a competent site team who will monitoring quality control an average developer won’t and if quality control isn’t at the top of the list then guess what readers – a quality finish isn’t either.  

That’s where a New Build Snagging survey comes in. The equivalent of a Jack Byrnes full body search on his new Son-In-Law.

Developers might suggest that any snagging will be done ‘when the build is finished’. In our experience it almost always isn’t. Due to lack of quality control over the course of the build the problems might be so serious by that point that it is simply to expensive to properly solve before you, the new owner, moves in.

You might be thinking that is ok but consider this for a moment. When you move in and scrape the sofa across the white walls who is to say what damage was done by you and what was snagging before you arrived. Quality developers will already be ready to help but the average ones will have long been thinking about the next development to build and you and your snagging are distant memories.

NHBC or other new build warranty providers will normally provide a warranty but again it comes down to a willingness to investigate and if there isn’t categoric proof of snagging or documenting more serious issues before you take on full residency then it is now an Everest sized problem instead of just Ben Nevis.

A snagging survey on new builds is not just a device to save you money and help you get the property to meet expectations, but it is a tool which could potentially save you a ton of sleepless nights. Trust us.


A block of new build flats with colourful windows and doors
A block of new build flats with colourful windows and doors


We know what you’re thinking… surely a flat is just like a house right?


Not only are flats likely to have a lot smaller square footage they also have less on the outside too. Which means two things:

  • Flat surveys will cover the inside of the space you are getting.
  • Flat surveys will also usually include a brief summary of external condition.

The external condition summary will generally only cover what is relevant to potential service charge outgoings.  It’s likely you will be buying a leasehold interest which means you and others in the building will contribute toward the cost of works to the roof, external walls and shared spaces.

A lot of prospective flat buyers forget, or simply have little interest in, the scale and involvement of leasehold service charge costs and additional contributions for communal projects and repairs. Another tip is to always check on when major works like the outside painting, lift, or carpeting was last done. Has the last owner moved out just in time to hand the major costs over to you?

Take a look at our Planned Preventative Maintenance journal and podcast articles for more information on PPMs and similar matters.


1) Both the employer and the contractor can challenge the decision of the CA.

2) A Building Surveyor makes a great choice for CA on existing building projects because they have lots of experience looking at pre-existing defects and issues.

3) The Contract Administrator is not the same as the Project Manager. They fulfil very different roles.

4) Contract Administration is a complex and wide-ranging role. Not to be taken lightly if you go want to DIY.

5) Beware of the contractors own T&C’s as they will likely favour the contractor much more than you, the employer.

It’s likely that Jack Byrnes choose to do everything single option we have discussed above but that’s where he’d be wrong. The options available depend on your situation, level of concern or simply the sheer number of questions you have about your prospective property.

If you have any doubts over which option to choose, give Cardoe Martin a call and we can help point you in the right direction. Find us at





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Welcome to the Cardoe Martin Podcast A-Z of Building Surveying, it’s Cardoe Martin’s 20th Anniversary so this episode will be a mini birthday celebration, neatly socially distanced of course with Graham Cardoe and Graham’s the Co-Founder and Chair of Cardoe Martin. Welcome Graham it’s nice to have you on again how are you today?

20th Anniversary Celebrations Podcast With Graham Cardoe

20th Anniversary Celebrations Podcast With Graham Cardoe

Welcome to the Cardoe Martin Podcast A-Z of Building Surveying, it’s Cardoe Martin’s 20th Anniversary so this episode will be a mini birthday celebration, neatly socially distanced of course with Graham Cardoe and Graham’s the Co-Founder and Chair of Cardoe Martin. Welcome Graham it’s nice to have you on again how are you today?


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