When you mention a surveyor of a property then most people will immediately imagine what is known as a building surveyor, namely someone who inspects the literal condition of the property and identifies issues like rising damp, structural cracks, and wonky floorboards. In its purest sense that is actually true, and other forms such as a valuer for mortgage purposes is really focusing on the general market value and using a property inspection to determine this.
A true building surveyor will help get technical with the nitty-gritty construction of a property, whether that’s a detailed survey or then going on to oversee any refurbishment works. Even though you may not technically require such a survey for a property transaction, they can still be worth utilising to establish the true condition of a property.
When it comes to property management, the secret is knowing when a building surveyor is needed, and then working closely with them in order to make the overall objectives of the property interest happen. So it may be worth having a list of works done, but with people and cost restraints involved this can paint a different picture in reality.
And it also helps clearly define where property management stops and building surveying needs to begin, as otherwise people can expect unrealistic expertise from someone managing a property. It’s one thing instructing a contractor as part-and-parcel of normal property management, but another if you look into a large and complicated refurbishment project.
With this in mind, here are some top pointers to working alongside a building surveyor and allowing them to complement the day-to-day management of the property:
1. Inspecting Together on Site
It sounds simple, but often missed is the busyness of life and work. It’s not that a building surveyor is not at all capable of a property inspection on their own, but when you combine another skill-set like property management then this helps bring focus and purpose.
It doesn’t need to be for the whole inspection, maybe at the beginning to make sure they begin looking at certain question areas, or at the end as a form of de-brief.
You can go through ideas you’ve had yourself for a problem, and provide feedback such as when actual occupiers have seen a water leak. There may even be specific contractors and quotes that you want any survey and inspection to help shape afterwards.
2. Arranging Access
Always assumed to be ever so easy to agree at the last minute, whereas there can be time and effort spent liaising with a variety of different people to allow access, be there to allow it, and confirm any access keys and codes to do so.
Not all areas of the property may be needed, so narrow down what’s essential and get the ball rolling earlier rather than later.
3. Additional Costs Biting
Keep a tight hold on costs as well, both those directly related to the building surveyor’s time, and the consequential works afterwards. Ideally agree a set-fee at the beginning, but be aware of extra time being needed or specialist mini-surveys from, say, a mechanical & engineering consultant along the way.
Even VAT on the fees can be a hit with, for example, residential property where it can’t be claimed back.
And then watch out for the budget planned-maintenance costs afterwards, as these can be a little hazy and theoretical whereas in reality you could complete a little bit more cheap-and-cheerful and at least phased over time.
4. Scrutinising Drafts Together
It’s handy to ask the building surveyor to first send a draft of their findings, to then go through together or separately with any final amendments for the final version.
In addition to spotting any obvious queries or omissions, this is more along the same lines as a joint-inspection as you can add different angles and pointers from another property management perspective.
So as an example, if you know this will be seen by various occupiers who will have certain questions in their minds, then this can help answer them. Or if a contractor will see this to complete certain works, then it can have the right technical building jargon to help accomplishes this.
5. The Whole Process
Understanding the whole process that a building surveyor can be involved with will be important to make sure they hit the sweat-spot of what’s needed.
On one extreme it may be just an isolated report or condition survey on a single issue, on the other a whole project management of a major refurbishment. Often only the initial stage is thought of, when in actual fact they will have the expertise to manage actual contractor works to tight specifications, set budgets, and health and safety issues like CDM.
However sometimes it may not be all needed, or in actual fact another more specialised surveyor implementing works on the back of a report from a previous one.
6. Practical Conclusions
Probably one of the most important aspects to working with a building surveyor is to know what actual practical building works and costs this all boils down to.
Often you need an official survey or report for maybe a property deal or to justify proposed maintenance works, whereas in reality it might mean just a few certain works being carefully planned over time.
You might then need to consider knock-on effects like access and scaffolding, project management fees, and contractor interim payments.
In short, it’s important to have the theory and factually-correct feedback on one side, but then the reality of what this means works-wise on the other.
Building on a Building Surveyor’s Expertise
A building surveyor’s input is required in all kinds of instances, right through from a detailed survey to help ascertain any building fabric issues, to then effectively overseeing more complicated construction and building works. When things go well you unfortunately may not appreciate this, but when they don’t either now or in the future, it will be worth its weight in gold.
Once you do identify these important scenarios to involve them, then make sure you still work alongside them to achieve the best from everyone’s perspective. This technical building skill needs to dovetail nicely with all other property-management factors including any budgets and people restrictions.
Once you have this perfected, things will run smoothly, including any important property transaction.
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