The surveyor should look at everything relevant to the condition of the house and its services, insofar as is reasonable in the circumstances. The owners of a house for sale, particularly one in good condition, will not normally allow a surveyor to take up fitted carpets, or floorboards or cut holes in dry lining.
Some old houses do not have any access into the roof space so that a surveyor may have no way of getting to see the roof timbers with a view to assessing their condition. Some roofs are more inaccessible than others and the same goes for the pointing of chimneys which cannot be viewed at close quarters.
It would be a great help to your surveyor if you arrange beforehand for access to be as free as possible, including arranging ladders and freeing trapdoors for inspection of the attic spaces and/or the roof. Remember you are paying for his or her time and you want it to be used as productively as possible. A surveyor will not normally bring a set of ladders or someone to hold a ladder on an ordinary inspection. Finding that a ladder is needed, and none is available may mean a second trip, and more cost.
A survey should not be confined just to the building. An experienced surveyor should look at various other things such as, for example: –
- Are there any indications to show that the property may be liable to flooding, such as proximity to streams, open drains, etc?
- Do any rights of way affect the property? Gates or gaps in boundary fences which could indicate such rights may be obvious.
- Whether access to the property is shared with another property.
- Boundary walls, and particularly any “retaining walls” on the property.
- Settlement cracks. Many older houses have cracks which are caused by settlement. A surveyor will have the expertise to know which cracks are a cause for concern and if they are what should be done about them.
- Checking for asbestos, pyrite or other undesirable materials.
- Checking for what is known as Japanese Knotweed, an invasive plant which is expensive to get rid of and can affect foundations.
- If a property has no mains water supply and draws water from a well, it is important to establish whether the well is within the site and if it is shared with anyone else. This should also be brought to the attention of your solicitor so he or she can see the necessary legal agreements are in place.
- Where a house is not connected to mains drains, you need to understand what exactly the arrangements are for disposal of sewage and waste water. Most are served by a septic tank/waste disposal unit, and its soak pit or percolation area needs to be checked. Many house purchasers do not know what a soak pit or percolation area is, and your surveyor will explain this to you.
In conclusion, you should discuss with your surveyor any of the above factors which may be relevant together with other relevant matters, such as the price you are likely to pay and the work or changes you may wish to carry out to the house and whether any other inspections e.g. by a structural engineer are advisable.