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5 things to ask yourself about your prospective building surveyor in London

14 April, 2017

You are about to purchase a residential or commercial property in the capital. Or maybe you are about to sell, and want to clearly understand the condition and value of the property? Either way, you realise that it makes sense to appoint a surveyor to do this for you. But how do you make sure you are getting one of the best? And how can you be confident that they will know the idiosyncrasies of your London property? Here are five questions to ask prospective surveyors as you get ready to choose one.

(1) Is your London property services partner RICS accredited?
This is a fundamental and really important because the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), London is the worldwide professional organisation that promotes and polices the highest standards in valuation, development and management of land, property, construction and infrastructure.

RICS professionals will have undergone a specific level of training and have required levels of experience so they can practice as chartered surveyors. You can spot them by the letters after their name, be they AssocRICS (an associate of the RICS), MRICS (a member of the RICS) or FRICS, the highest level, a fellow of the RICS. Whether you’re in London, elsewhere in the UK or globally, there simply isn’t a better, more reassuring body when you need professional property advice.

(2) Do they offer all the surveying services?
Just as some garages offer more services than others, so different chartered surveyors in London, and around the UK, offer different services, skills and experience. The best London surveyors offer a wide range of services for London property. Here are some of the things to look for:

  • Pre-purchase surveys (including Building Surveys, RICS HomeBuyer
  • Reports and RICS Condition Reports).
  • Valuations (for purchase, rental, sale, probate, taxation and more).
  • Defects analysis and building pathology.
  • Leasehold enfranchisement advice.
  • They’re party wall surveyors.
  • Landlord disrepair claims.
  • Expert witness services.
  • Planned maintenance reporting.
  • Architectural services.

Don’t just take what the surveyor’s website or brochure says either. Ask a few questions about the services that you are particularly interested in to explore the surveyor’s depth of experience. It’s one thing saying you offer a service, but another admitting that you haven’t delivered that particular service for 10 years. A really good surveying practice with a decent-sized team will be ‘current’ on all the services they offer.

(3) Do they know London property well?
We say this in virtually every blog post and we’ll keep on saying it. Any RICS accredited surveyor should be able to do a competent job in London, but just as you wouldn’t expect a London surveyor to be a specialist in, say, Shetland crofts, so the surveyor who knew their way around your 1980s-built estate house in Bristol or Birmingham probably won’t be the best authority when you need a full structural survey on London red-brick Victorian property if you’re buying up here in Town.

The sheer volume of London properties, the effects of the capital’s varied history and the local idiosyncrasies mean that an experienced London property surveyor will be able to bring more value and local knowledge to your survey or other property service.

For instance, when it comes to valuations, many London properties look the same from the outside – just another Victorian or Edwardian terrace, right? Well actually, no. And understanding those differences could affect your bank balance as well as determining the enjoyment of a new home or office. Little details such as garden aspect, off-street parking, annexes and garden rooms can make a marked difference between the prices of superficially similar properties in two neighbouring London streets. You might also be surprised to know, for instance, that in London now, original period features generally have much less of an impact on valuation than, say, 15 years ago. Who’d have thought it!

(4) What’s ‘the chemistry’ like with them?
Or put simply, do you get on with your prospective London chartered surveyors? We all buy people don’t we? So it’s vital that you listen to your intuition and ask yourself whether you trust, like, respect and get on with the team who will be working for you. First impressions start with a company’s website: are there pictures of the partners and the rest of the team? Do they look like warm, interesting, knowledgeable professionals? The sort of people you would instinctively ask for advice? Intuition is powerful, so look at those pictures and profiles and listen to what your heart and your head says.

Then, when you first meet the team, do the same. Do they generate confidence with a thorough, straightforward approach and a friendly down-to-earth attitude. People matter: location, location, location is the property mantra, but ‘intuition, intuition, intuition’ is as important when choosing your London surveyors.

(5) How long have they practiced in London?
Of course, a new surveyor could qualify, work in a practice for a few years and then go out on their own. It’s how many RICS surveyors found their feet in the profession. But there’s also lots in favour of choosing a practice that has been specialising in London property for a couple of decades or more. Maybe they’ve even worked (and still do) on architectural services too. That way you get another important perspective on your property matters. So ask them, or look closely on their website, to see how long your prospective professional advisor has provided their services up here in ‘the smoke’. It’s a competitive and unforgiving profession. Longevity speaks volumes about the skills, expertise and integrity of building surveyors in London.

Appoint your surveyor with confidence
So there you have it, a few very obvious, but very important, questions to ask yourself (and your prospective London building surveyor) before you appoint them.

Don’t be shy and don’t be afraid to give them a friendly, but confident grilling. They’re used to asking probing questions when they work for clients like you. Any building surveyor in London who is worth their salt will respect for doing so. They’ll never take anything for granted when your biggest asset and your financial well-being is at stake. And you shouldn’t either, as you pose a few well-considered questions and listen carefully to their answers.

Then, if you like what you hear, and you like the people you meet, go ahead and appoint them with confidence. You and your property matters will be in safe, experienced hands.

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