Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Structural Survey the same as a Building Survey?
 

There is often some confusion over the differences between Structural Surveys and Building Surveys.   Although the term 'Structural Survey' is used widely by the public it is not generally now used by Chartered Building Surveyors as the term 'Structural' is rather vague and somewhat misleading as to what is actually included. 

To avoid confusion, Surveyors now differentiate with two names; a Building Survey and a Structural Survey.    Building Surveys are carried out by RICS Building Surveyors and includes a full inspection of the accessible areas of a property as well as a detailed report documenting their findings.  The reports can be somewhat bespoke to suit your specific needs and those of the property as each one is unique.  Please contact our team for more information.

Structural Surveys can only be carried out by Chartered Civil or Structural Engineers.  They look in detail at the structural stability of the property.  We would be happy to make a recommendation if this is the type of survey you are looking for.

Do you need planning permission for a loft conversion?
 
Planning permission is not mandatory for a loft normally, this would only be required when what you intend to alter aspects about the loft that exceeds certain limits and conditions. An example being, increasing the volume of 40 cubic metres to anything higher for terraced houses or above 50 cubic metres or more is the limit for detached and semi-detached would require planning permission because it passes the limits. 
 
These are some additional limits:
  • No extension beyond the plane of the existing roof slope of the principal elevation that fronts the highway
  • No extension to be higher than the highest part of the roof
  • Materials to be similar in appearance to the existing house
  • No verandas, balconies or raised platforms
  • Side-facing windows to be obscure-glazed; any opening to be 1.7m above the floor
  • Roof extensions not to be permitted development in designated areas
  • Roof extensions, apart from hip to gable ones, to be set back, as far as practicable, at least 20cm from the original eaves
  • The roof enlargement cannot overhang the outer face of the wall of the original house.
     
What is the difference between a HomeBuyers report and a Building Survey?

 

A HomeBuyers report is best suited to conventional properties in reasonable condition.  It is laid out in a standard format set out by RICS and gives an opinion about the condition of the property using an easy-to-read traffic light system. It also rates the condition of all permanent structures included in the property, e.g. garages etc. highlighting the important problems that could affect the property’s value.

 

A Building Survey (which was previously known as a Full Structural Survey) is suited to any age of property but is particularly helpful for dilapidated properties and those that have been extensively altered.  The report goes into further detail on the property’s construction and condition than the HomeBuyers report and can be adapted to suit your requirements as there is no standard format that has to be followed.

 

A Building Survey is also useful if you plan to renovate or convert the property and will also include advice for future maintenance.

What is the difference between planning drawings and building regulation drawings?

 

The planning drawings are submitted to the local authority planning department to gain permission for the proposal. They show the appearance of the existing property and identify the alterations that are to be made and how they will be achieved.

 

Once planning permission has been granted, then you may need building regulation drawings to enable the project to be constructed. The building regulation drawings contain technical details and specification of materials and finishes.  These can then be used to obtain a firm contract price from your building contractor.  As the drawings must be approved by the relevant Building Control department this ensures that the project is built to all current building regulation standards thus reducing the possibilities of price increases at a later date. 

 

Why do I need a party wall award?

 

It is important to have a party wall award as it provides protection for both the building owner and adjoining owners and provides a mechanism for resolving disputes.

 

It protects the owner as it ensures that existing cracks and other defects to the adjoining property are recorded before the works commence. It also provides for a right of access under the Act to enter upon the adjoining owner's land to carry out work.

 

For the adjoining owner, it means that the surveyors can control the times during which the notifiable work can take place. It also includes provisions for dealing with damage without the need for a civil claim.

How long will a Building Survey or HomeBuyers report inspection take?

 

Timescales vary depending on the type of property, how big or small it is, what age it is and whether or not it is furnished or not.  As a guide our surveyor could be at the property between 3 and 6 hours.  The office team will then process the report for publication and will present it to the customer. 

What is the importance of a Building Survey?

 

Buying a home is one of the most important decisions that people can make in their life. However, by failing to commission a building survey before purchasing a property home buyers could potentially face bills for remedial work running into thousands of pounds due to hidden problems within the property.  

 

According to RICS [Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors] research: "a quarter of all homebuyers who fail to have a survey are forced to make unplanned building works to their property after purchase" *.

 

 

*Survey conducted for RICS by GfK NOP Business 1,001 interviews were conducted online during August 2010 with people who had bought a property in the last 12 months or were considering doing so in the next 12 months.

How long does planning permission take and how long does it last?

 

Once a planning application has been submitted to the council for determination, a decision will typically take 8 weeks. 

 

Once planning permission has been granted, it will be valid for three years from the date of approval.

How long until my survey report is complete?
 
We understand that there are time constraints which can affect the purchase of a property and so we strive to complete our reports as fast as we can after the inspection.
 
We highly recommend that you make no hasty decisions before committing to purchase a property - even if you consult us before you recieve written documentation of the survey.
 
Turn around times on reports on houses will vary as we survey all types of properties from blocks of flats to one  bedroom bungalows and each case is unique.
Can a survey lower or raise the asking price of a property?
 
No, a survey cannot be used to drive a seller to lower the asking price but may place the buyer in a better position to negotiate with the seller.
 
A survey can bring to light certain features of the property that are not up to standard to support the original asking price.  Other facts such as the repairs needed for certain aspects could bring you way over the balance of the price and your budget. 
 
These kind of facts need to be discussed with the seller but can only be brought to light through having a survey done.