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What does a surveyor do?

Welcome to the fourth in our Surveyor 101 series, a comprehensive guide to surveying and surveyors in the UK. In this article, we’ll look closer at the varied roles within the surveying industry and what each type of surveyor does.

Part 1: How to become a building surveyor

Part 2: How much do surveyors earn?

Part 3: What are the different types of surveyors?

Surveying is vast. With hundreds of different roles and specialisms, getting into surveying may at first seem overwhelming. It is, however, a remarkably rewarding field known for its variety, career progression options and mix of fieldwork and office work.

From land surveyors to valuation surveyors and everyone in between, surveyors play an important role in the very foundation of the built environment as they are involved at almost every stage in the property journey. Their work contributes to a safe, well-built, sustainable and efficient society through their expert knowledge.

As we discussed in our blog post, What are the different types of surveyors?, surveying is a varied profession with each type of survey being different from the last. While the catch-all term surveyor can be applied loosely to most in the wider profession, each field requires specialist attention from a qualified surveyor. The roles are highly specialised with a range of job functions, and thus the detailed reports surveyors conduct will vary from job to job.

What does a surveyor do?

What does a surveyor do?

Among many other things, property surveyors do the following:

  • Look at structural integrity
  • Identify visible issues
  • Locate and report problems or defects
  • Measure distances and prepare plots, maps and reports
  • Establish boundaries for property, land or water
  • Work with architects, construction teams and property developers
  • Record the results of their inspection or survey and issue a report
  • Present their report to their customers or clients
  • Provide any evidence in court if there is a dispute or issue

A surveyor will carry out an inspection of all parts of a property, looking closely at the condition of a property and identifying any visible issues, structural integrity, urgent defects or major concerns or repairs. Surveyors can expertly look for and assess signs of defects before evaluating the reasons why these may have occurred. Surveyors will then advise on remediation work how much that is likely to cost.

Surveyors have a wealth of knowledge in building regulation, so they are best placed to judge whether or not a property meets required standards, often identifying risk in the process.

When a surveyor identifies a problem or major issues, they will make a recommendation for further investigation. For example, when it comes to electrics, the surveyor may notice a flaw or potential risk and advise the property owner or manager to seek expert electrical advice from a registered electrician.

The same goes for structural issues – if a surveyor identifies a potential issue like subsidence, they would likely refer the property owner or building manager to a structural engineer, who can then explore the issue in more depth.

Once a surveyor has conducted their inspection, they will then issue a detailed report or a property survey. This report will depend on the type of inspection or survey, though there are three basic types; condition reports, building surveys, and homebuyer reports.

What does a RICS surveyor do?

A chartered surveyor, often referred to as a RICS surveyor, is a member of the professional surveyor body the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in the UK. Although other countries have membership groups or organisations protected by law, in the UK RICS is recognised as the foremost organisation. Its goal is to develop highly trained, chartered surveyors in a range of surveying specialisms, like chartered quantity surveyor or chartered building surveyor, for example.

Surveyors must undergo training, accreditation, assessments and continuing professional development to show that they can handle their role with the utmost competence.

For a RICS Building Survey (Level 3) or a RICS Homebuyers Report (Level 2), the RICS surveyor will assess the condition and, if required, the value of a property. There are multiple types of survey. While a building survey goes into more depth on structural integrity (though not as much as a specialist structural survey), a homebuyer report will include things like reinstatement cost or a valuation.

The RICS surveyor will visit the property and conduct a thorough visual inspection, inside and out of the property, before writing a report and detailing their findings. After consultation with the client, a surveyor will advise on next steps, if that is required.

Surveyors will look at external things like brickwork, the roof, and surrounding structures, while internally they will assess walls and ceilings, among many other things. They will typically not look in concealed areas or those that might need deeper investigation, like under floorboards. These investigations generally need a specialist. 

What does a building surveyor do?

As we covered in the first instalment of Surveyor 101, How to become a building surveyor, building surveyors will typically take measurements and assess the quality of certain aspects of a building before producing a report which can be used in legal paperwork.

Building surveyors will also look at boundary lines, land restrictions, building age and quality, structure size, and much more. As building surveyors are often involved in many aspects of the property and construction timeline, building surveying is known to be one of the most varied professions within surveying.

What does a party wall surveyor do?

In the UK, the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is the legal basis for preventing and resolving disputes when it comes to boundary walls or party walls. A party wall surveyor has a duty to the Act itself, rather than any particular parties in the dispute. This is to ensure that the dispute is resolved in a fair and unbiased way.

A party wall surveyor will put together a party wall agreement, or a party wall award, that details the outcome of the party wall survey, with advice on how to proceed. It’s a complex field, often requiring an in depth knowledge of legal and regulatory considerations relevant to the boundary or party wall dispute.

What does a valuation surveyor do?

A valuation surveyor carries out a market valuation on any type of property, such as residential, industrial or commercial properties. Sometimes they are known as commercial or residential surveyors if they have trained under a certain specialism.

The valuation surveyor will typically inspect buildings or land to assess their value. Considering the size, location, condition and other things which factor into the overall valuation of a property. Valuation surveyors are also known to advise on rental costs or business rates, organise the sale of a property, and produce homebuyer reports.

What does a commercial surveyor do?

Commercial property surveyors value, purchase, sell, manage and lease commercial real estate. They negotiate between landlords and tenants, and strategically manage corporate property portfolios. Commercial surveyors generally work for property consultancies and agencies in both the private and public sectors.

What does a residential surveyor do?

The role of a residential surveyor is similar to that of a commercial surveyor, their expertise helps to strategically manage residential portfolios, value and survey property and give advice on investment and development.

Using their specialist knowledge, residential surveyors assess a residential property’s condition and deliver an impartial house survey or report to their customers. This report typically details defects or issues like dampness or subsidence.