Surveyors are often criticised for passing the buck and recommending further reports by one white van man or another. There are often good reasons for this; surveyors cannot be experts in all aspects of a building and in many cases specialist equipment is required to test the services. They are also fearful of being sued if they miss anything so although they could make a good guess at the quality of, for instance an electrical installation, they would rather defer to a specialist.
The 5 most common specialist reports that surveyors recommend are:
Damp and timber specialist
Probably the most common report for older properties and the one that most worries the public. Most surveyors will recommend this report as soon as their moisture meter turns amber or red. In most cases it will be caused by bridging of the damp proof course where some cowboy building work has been carried out. Rising damp is relatively rare and not that difficult or expensive to remedy. If a patio is bridging the damp proof course it will be considerably more expensive. Choose a member of the BWPDA and don’t be afraid to pay for the report as most of the more professional firms will make a charge. Timber problems such as dry rot or beetle attack will often be related to dampness combined with a lack of ventilation. Your report should recommend on how the conditions that caused the attack can be improved as well as the replacement of affected timbers.
The central heating system
If the central heating system is complex, has been added to or is more than a few years old it is likely that a test will be recommended. This should be carried out by a CORGI registered gas engineer. Just because a test is recommended doesn’t mean that there is a serious problem.
The Electrical Installation
Similarly to the central heating a test is often recommended of the electrical installation. A test may be triggered by many things including a lack of certification (evidenced by the sticker put on the consumer unit when it is tested every 5 years), DIY additions (usually surface mounted and often with unprotected cables), lack of earth bonding (the green and yellow wire) or just the presence of older re-wireable fuses. The main professional body is the NICEIC .
Most surveyors should recognize historical settlement in older properties and not alarm you by recommending a structural report. If you are buying an Edwardian or Victorian property, particularly where the sub soil is shrinkable clay, you should expect movement. A structural engineer should only be called in if the movement is recent or progressive. Use a member of the Institution of Structural Engineers and ask them to look specifically at the problem highlighted by the surveyor rather than the whole property. Your solicitor should also enquire if the owner’s insurance company is aware of the problem.
This will normally be recommended if the surveyor cannot get a good view of some of the roofs. Surveyors will only have a ladder with them that extends to about 3 meters so any flat roofs above this will not be inspected. This will also be the case with butterfly roofs or roofs with shallow pitches where the covering cannot be seen from ground level with the aid of binoculars. Try and get a personal recommendation and again don’t be afraid to pay for the report as you may find it hard to get a roofer to look at a property that you do not yet own without charging.