The art of knowing how to survey property correctly is a skill that many property investors and developers would give their right arm to learn. As a property professional one of the annoying little expenses that you constantly have to pay is that of the property survey.
Wouldn’t it be great to cut down on the amount of in-depth surveys you have to pay for each year? This article will go into detail about how to survey property yourself. It will give you a checklist of vital things to look out for when surveying property. By the end of it you will have enough knowledge to be able to make educated decisions on the state of any given property.
The first thing to do is to make sure you are prepared. Below is a list of a few items that you might want to take with you when you go to view a potential investment property.
- Camera/Video camera
- Voice memo
- Any details of the property you already have from the estate agent, Internet, vendor or through other means
A useful tip (though not always practical) is to try and do the survey in wet conditions. This way you can spot problems with down pipes, a leaky roof, faulty guttering or any other wet or rain related problems.
You don’t necessarily have to do the survey in the order that is specified here. However, it might be wise to firstly start off by taking a walk around the property and trying to get a general feel for it and the location.
- What is it made of?
- Go into the loft and check for light and/or water coming through.
- Check the ceiling of the room below the loft for signs of water damage or any other problems that might have resulted from a problem with the roof.
- What is the roofs general state of repair? Be sure to look at the roof from all angles as sometimes problems are only visible when seen from a certain direction.
- Look at the Chimney Stack. Check for signs of loose bricks or damage. This is where the binoculars might come in handy.
- What type of construction are the external walls i.e. solid brick, stone or something else.
- Is the pointing okay? What type of finish is there on the walls? Is it pebble dash, stone, brick or something else? Sometimes the finish that has been used will help to pinpoint the age of the property.
- Look out for bulges in the Wall or signs of damp or staining.
- Look for cracks or signs of movement around the corner of doors or window frames. If you find cracks in these areas it might be the sign of more serious problems. If you notice anything that seems strange then make sure you take a look at the other properties on the street to see if they have a similar problem. Take particular note of any cracks below the damp proof course as this might indicate major issues with the property.
Check the condition of any outbuildings associated with the property. That includes sheds, garages, outdoor offices, barns, stables, toilets or anything else.
Check the state of any alterations that have been made to the property. Check extensions, loft conversions, basement conversions (be especially mindful of any problems with damp in basement conversions since, if they have not been built correctly, these conversions are notorious for damp problems, ).
It is crucial that you check any relevant paperwork and ensure that things where done according to building regulations and that planning permission was obtained where necessary. It is also a good idea to view any current guarantees or warranties the vendor has.
- Is the property new build, established (older) or refurbished?
- What is the general state of repair of the inside of the property? Does it appear to have been looked after well?
- Is the decoration trying to hide something? Be mindful of ceilings painted in a dark colour that might hide some sinister secret, such as, water damage, underneath the paint work.
- Is there any sort of sound proofing in the ceiling, floors or walls?
- Does the property have original features that will add to its value?
- What is the state of the Windows and what are they made of? Are the Windows double glazed? Do they look like they need replacing or repairing? Windows in disrepair can be great for helping you to negotiate a cheaper price with the vendor.
- Is there a damp proof course. You can sometimes tell this by checking the walls outside the property. If there is a black line about two or three bricks up, this would normally indicated that there is a damp proof course present.
Other Things to Check
If you are trying to be meticulous in your property survey, then you will probably also want to check the seven things on the list below.
- What’s the state of the fixtures and fittings in the property?
- Is there central heating? How old is the boiler? Are there records available to show the service history?
- Is there a shared main water supply and has there been a water meter fitted.
- Check there is adequate ventilation in the property, especially in areas such as the kitchen and bathroom.
- Does the electric supply have some sort of trip mechanism? How old is it? Does it seem like it will need replacing or repairing in the near future?
- Try and take a look behind any furniture or appliances that seem out of place. They may have been put there to hide a problem lurking behind them.
- You should flush the toilets and run the water to check that the water drains away well and to check that there are no strange noises, such as, a loud knocking when the water is run.
Lastly, do not forget to check the land registry to find out the actual price that comparable properties in the area have recently sold for. There are many free websites on the Internet that you can get this information from.
All the items listed above can be checked and verified by you just as well as they can be by a surveyor who comes into a property and walks around it for 25 minutes. Learning how to survey property yourself is not necessarily something you need a degree to be able to do. However, if you have a builder that you work with regularly, or that is a friend, then I would advise you to try and drag him along to your property visits – especially the first few – until you gain more confidence.
The fact is, most surveyors are not stretched very much in their day to day jobs and the skills that they use to do the average run of the mill property survey, only touch a fraction of what they spent years studying.
This article was not written to put the humble property surveyor out of business.
Surveyors are vital cogs in the buying property wheel and even if you don’t employ them, lenders always will. When you need them, surveyors can be an invaluable lifeline. If you are dealing with a property that is not standard build, that is not your average property, or that you just feel might have problems, then you need to organise a comprehensive survey by a professional.
The reason this article was written was to try and educate the average property investor and developer so that they can judge the condition of a property themselves before having to call in the surveyor. That way, if the vendor is not willing to come down in price, they can eliminate a number of properties they are looking at, before they spend money on a property surveyor.