The Kelleher & Associates Home Buyers Guide to Residential Building Surveys

Kelleher Associates Home Buyers Guide Residential Building Surveys

Type 1, 2 or 3 Building Surveys? Our definitive Surveyor’s Guide to RICS & SCSI Home Buyers Surveys

Kelleher & Associates are an independent practice of Chartered & Registered Building Surveyors who have surveyed thousands of houses, apartments and commercial properties for buyers since 2008 covering the Greater Dublin area as well as Galway and the West coast of Ireland generally. Our Surveyors have decades of experience in surveying and construction. Kelleher & Associates are professional members of the SCSI (Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland) and the RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors).

Residential Building Surveys are described in different ways; however, the function should always be the same: to protect and inform the potential house buyer by providing them with a comprehensive, detailed report on the condition of the property by clearly and unambiguously bringing to their attention all issues, defects and potential pitfalls as well as the cost of the works required to address repairs needed to the building. This information is essential prior to the exchange of contracts with the Solicitor in order to provide all relevant information needed to make the final decision.

So, what are Residential Building Surveys commonly referred to as?

  • House Survey
  • Pre-Purchase Survey or Pre-Purchase House Survey
  • Property Survey
  • Structural Survey

The above are some of the most common terms with variations of the above; however, the purpose of such report is the same.

We are frequently asked by Clients whether we provide Type 1, 2 or 3 and what level of detail each type of survey report provides.

The RICS & SCSI provide a very comprehensive guide to house surveys and breaks down survey reports into 3 categories or types:

  • Survey Level 1
  • Survey Level 2; and
  • Survey Level 3

The RICS & SCSI offer Chartered Surveyors a flexible framework allowing members to decide what level of service to provide considering the requirements of their Client’s by tailoring their survey reports accordingly.

Survey Level 1

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This level of service includes a visual inspection that is less extensive than for survey levels two and three. This type of survey is suitable for newly constructed properties built under the 2014 BCAR (Building Control Amendment ). No tests of the building elements or services such as electricity or gas are undertaken; however, the report will contain a summary as to the condition of, for example, the boiler, specifically, whether it is functional for the time being or is in need of upgrading.

The survey report objectively describes the condition of the building, its services and the grounds. It highlights relevant legal issues, the condition of the building any obvious risks to the building, people or grounds. The report is concise and easy to understand and provides an assessment of the relative importance of the defects and problems. A Survey Level 1 report does not include advice on repairs or ongoing maintenance and this, combined with the less extensive inspection, usually means it is better suited to conventionally built, modern dwellings in satisfactory condition. It will not suit older or complex properties, or those in a poor condition. Even for most the most modern apartment or house, we do not recommend such a survey.

Survey Level 2

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This intermediate to advanced level of service includes a more extensive visual inspection of the building, its services and grounds.

Concealed areas normally opened or used by the occupiers are inspected if it is safe to do so (typical examples include roof spaces and under-floor areas). The report objectively describes the condition of the different elements and provides an assessment of the relative importance of the defects/problems. At this level, although it is concise, the report does include advice about repairs and any ongoing maintenance issues. Where the building surveyor is unable to reach a conclusion with reasonable confidence, a recommendation for further investigations may be necessary. This scenario is difficulty to avoid in older buildings where further investigation is often required to gain a full handle on the remedial works required.

The type of advice would extend to electrical and heating services where testing and further inspection by appropriate registered specialists is always recommended.This type of survey report is suitable for traditionally built houses and apartment suits a broader range of conventionally built properties. Our extensive experience in surveying residential properties has allowed us to built up an extensive database of the most common defects affecting Irish properties from Victorian to the most modern.

This level of inspection would be suitable for building falling under the following broad headings:

  • Complex or heavily altered buildings, for example those that have been extended over their lifetime. Many of the properties inspected by us in the Greater Dublin area which is, where the majority of our surveys are carried out, are in poor condition.
  • Period or ‘Protected’ older properties.
  • Properties in poor condition; or those where plans are in place to conduct extensive renovation or where the Client intends to extend the dwelling.

Survey Level 3

This is the standard level of Building Survey provided by Kelleher & Associates.

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This type of building survey consists of a detailed visual inspection of the building, its services and the grounds that is more extensive than survey level two. Concealed areas normally opened or used by the occupiers are inspected if it is safe to do so (typical examples include roof spaces and underfloor areas where the removal of loose floorboards is possible). Although the services are not tested, they are observed in normal operation – i.e. boilers are switched on and electrical switches operated.

The survey report describes the form of construction and materials used for different parts of the property i.e. the likely build up of walls and floors and whether insulation is likely to have been included in their construction. It describes the condition of individual elements of the property and provides an assessment of the relative importance of the defects/problems. Our approach is to provide a list of ‘Essential’ and ‘Desirable’ repairs at the start of the property report which gives Client’s a detailed breakdown of the items requiring the most urgent attention. Additionally, this type of survey report will:

  • Describe the identifiable risk of potential or hidden defects in areas not inspected. This particularly applies to material with latent defects such the risk that sub-floor fill stone should be tested for pyrite given its age and locations
  • Propose the most probable cause(s) of the defects on foot of the building survey i.e. the cause of internal water breaches.
  • Outline the extent of any appropriate remedial work i.e. what would be needed to address foundation movement such as subsidence.
  • Make general recommendations in terms of when the work should be carried out. We normally categorise repairs as being needed in the immediate, short, medium or long terms.
  • Give an indication of likely costs. It is important if requested that Building Surveyors provide guidance on the likely cost of remedial works as this can make or break a property deal. Many Clients of ours underestimate, through no fault of their own, the cost of renovation and remedial works.

Where our building surveyors are unable with confident to confirm the cause of a defect, they will refer the matter for further investigation. This is often essential in the case of building services where the surveyor usually only has a broad knowledge of such systems. Kelleher & Associates try to keep recommendations for further investigation to a minimum. Our goal at this level is to provide our Clients with the full suite of information in the Pre-Purchase survey report to make a final decision. This type of service will suit any domestic residential property in any condition.

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