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WHICH SURVEY

Updated: Nov 23, 2023



WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SURVEYOR AND ENGINEER?

Probably the best place to start is to briefly explain the difference between a surveyor and an engineer. The surveyor carries out surveys and an engineer carries out structural inspections. However, there are some surveyors who are experienced and qualified enough to also carry out structural inspections and there are some engineers who are experienced and qualified enough to also carry out surveys but generally speaking a surveyor carries out surveys and an engineer carries out structural inspections.


Surveyors are normally qualified and typically members of the: Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), SAVA, Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA), for instance.

Engineers are normally qualified and typically members of: Chartered Association of Building Engineers (MCABE), Institute of Structural Engineers (MIStuctE), Institute of Civil Engineers (IEng or CEng MICE), Engineering Council (CEng), for instance.


WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SURVEY AND A STRUCTURAL INSPECTION?

A survey inspects and reports on the general condition of the property.

A structural inspection inspects and reports on structural damage or movement or general structural integrity of the property.


WHICH IS BEST A SURVEY OR A STRUCTURAL INSPECTION?

If you need to know the general condition of the property, say one you are buying or if you want a heads up on the property that you own then a survey will be the best choice, say a RICS Level 2 or 3 Home Survey.


A level 2 may be suitable for younger properties, say less than 20 years old, or a Level 3 for the older or more complicated properties.


If a property has structural damage, then a Specific Structural Inspection, for localised damage, or a General Structural Inspection, for whole house structural check, will be the best choice.


However, a Harvey's Full Structural Survey provides the best of both worlds and includes a General Structural Inspection and a Level 3 Home Survey and more.


WHICH SURVEY IS BEST FOR YOU?

With surveys and structural inspections there are a number of different types to each, and it can be quite confusing to understand which one will suit you best. The typical types of surveys available are listed below with an explanation. For the sake of brevity, only the RICS surveys and typical structural inspections by engineers are concentrated on. Other similar surveys are also available from other organisations but may have a different name. Also, individual firms and practices often have their own bespoke survey particularly with regards to the Level 3 Home Survey (formerly Building Survey).


THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SURVEYS

This is a budget survey and offers the least amount of information. It can be useful for new properties that are in very good condition.


The Level 2 Home Survey (formerly HomeBuyer) supplies more information than a Level 1 survey and costs more. It is useful for younger properties that are in reasonable condition.


The Level 3 Home Survey (formerly Building Survey) supplies in-depth detailed information and is suitable for the older property or younger property in poor condition.


The Harvey’s Full Structural Survey is the equivalent of a Level 3 Home Survey plus a General Structural Inspection and gives the most comprehensive and in-depth advice of any of the surveys. It is suitable for older properties particularly if they are in poor condition or have any structural issues.


THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF STRUCTURAL INSPECTIONS

This is a survey that inspects and reports on localised damage or on a specific structural issue although sometimes it is also used for reporting on damp and timber issues.


This survey also inspects and reports on localised damage and will also inspect and report on the structural integrity to the whole property. It is also useful when a property will undergo full refurbishment and only the structural integrity of the property needs to be checked. It can also be used if you do not want to go to the expense of the Full Structural Survey.


FINAL THOUGHTS

Once you have decided the survey or inspection that will suit you best, I recommend that you read the information sheets on the individual survey by clicking on the clinks above to see exactly what it covers and more importantly what it does not cover to confirm whether it is the right one for you.


To help you with this process see the comparison table by clicking HERE.


Author: Tony Waring is a Chartered Building Engineer (C.Build E MCAB), an Associate of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (AssocRICS) and a member of the Faculty of Party Wall Surveyors (MFPWS).  He has over 30 years of surveying experience and 20 years as an engineer.

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