Commercial surveying is a crucial part of the commercial property market in the UK. It involves the measurement and assessment of land and buildings to provide accurate and detailed information about their condition, value and potential use. Without the work of commercial surveyors, there would be a higher risk of disputes over property boundaries, easements, and other legal issues.
In addition to that, commercial surveying is vital because construction projects could be delayed or even halted due to unexpected issues with the land or property, and without accurate and comprehensive surveys, there could be safety issues with buildings and infrastructure.
One of the key reasons why commercial surveying is so important is that it helps to identify these potential issues or risks associated with a property. For example, a survey might uncover issues with the structure or foundation of a building, problems with the electrical or plumbing systems or other hazards that could affect the property’s value or safety.
Commercial surveying is also used to establish the boundaries of a property, which is essential when buying or selling land. Surveyors can use a range of tools and techniques, including GPS technology, to accurately map out the boundaries of a property and identify any potential encroachments or disputes with neighbouring properties.
Furthermore, the work of commercial surveyors is crucial for assessing the value of a property. A thorough survey can provide a detailed analysis of a property’s condition and highlight any areas that may require repairs or maintenance. This information is essential when negotiating the price of a property, as it can help to ensure that buyers and sellers are making informed decisions based on accurate and impartial information.
According to a survey conducted by RICS in 2020, much like other areas in the real estate industry, the commercial property market in the UK experienced a decline in activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey revealed that 76% of respondents reported a decrease in the number of new instructions, and 80% reported a decrease in the number of enquiries, which naturally meant less work for qualified commercial surveyors.
However, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, commercial surveying remains an essential service in the real estate and construction industries and is once again starting to pick up, and the role of commercial surveyors in assessing the condition and value of properties, identifying potential issues and recommending necessary repairs or maintenance has begun to steadily increase since the pandemic.
What is commercial surveying?
Commercial surveying is the process of measuring and assessing land and buildings for commercial purposes. It involves providing clients with detailed, impartial information about the condition, value, and potential use of a property. Why is impartiality so important? Well, because The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors operates on a strict code of ethics and professional standards that emphasise the importance of objectivity, integrity, and impartiality.
RICS surveyors must not favour one party over another in property transactions and must provide unbiased opinions on the value and condition of properties. This impartiality is critical to maintaining trust in the surveying profession and ensuring that property transactions proceed fairly and smoothly.
As we’ve mentioned, commercial surveyors perform different types of surveys depending on the client’s needs and the property’s condition. Here are some of the most common types of commercial property inspections and surveys:
- Building survey – This type of survey is a comprehensive inspection of the building’s structure, services, and finishes. It aims to identify any defects or issues that could affect the property’s value or safety.
- Condition report – This survey assesses the current condition of a building and identifies any areas that require repair or maintenance.
- Dilapidations survey – This survey is typically conducted towards the end of a lease agreement and aims to identify any damage or disrepair that the tenant is responsible for repairing.
- Land survey – This survey involves mapping out the boundaries of a property, as well as identifying any potential risks or hazards on the land.
- Measured survey – This survey involves taking precise measurements of a property’s dimensions and creating accurate floor plans and elevations.
- Structural survey – This type of survey focuses specifically on the structural integrity of a building and identifies any issues that could affect its stability.
- Schedule of Condition – This type of survey is often required as part of a lease agreement and aims to provide a detailed record of the property’s condition at the start of the lease, in order to avoid disputes at the end of the lease.
One of the most common commercial property surveys is a building survey. This is a comprehensive inspection of a property’s structure, including the roof, walls, floors, and foundations. Prior to a lease or purchase, a commercial building inspection will assess various physical features such as the construction and structure of a property, the size of the property, the materials used in the build, and the surrounding land.
In a similar vein, another type of survey is a condition survey. Condition surveys are more focused than building surveys. The survey, as its name implies, provides clients with an overview of the property’s current condition, including any necessary repairs or maintenance. This can be useful when assessing the value of a property, though it is distinct from a commercial property valuation.
Commercial property valuations are another type of survey performed by commercial surveyors. These surveys assess a property’s value, thereby providing clients with an estimate of its market value. Valuation surveys take into account aspects of other specific surveys, such as the property’s condition, as well as any other relevant factors.
Regardless of the type of survey carried out, there is a common theme – the purpose of a commercial survey is to provide clients with essential information about a property. This information is vital for property owners or prospective buyers who need to know the exact information about the property when it comes to a commercial transaction.
Another purpose of a commercial survey is to identify any potential risks associated with a building. For example, if a property is built on a flood plain or has a history of subsidence, this information must be disclosed to potential buyers or tenants. Commercial surveyors can also identify any topographical features that may impact the property’s use or value.
So, as we’ve seen, commercial property surveys have a range of uses and requirements. But what about the people who carry out those surveys? Let’s take a closer look.
What does a commercial surveyor do?
There are a number of different types of surveyors, but commercial surveyors are crucial in providing the necessary insight, advice and guidance to enable people and businesses to make informed decisions about property, construction and development in the commercial real estate sector.
A commercial surveyor’s responsibilities are varied, depending on the specific role of that surveyor, but they often include performing various surveys, analysing information, producing reports and providing impartial advice to clients.
As we mentioned, the primary responsibility of a commercial surveyor is to conduct surveys of land and/or buildings. This includes identifying property boundaries, measuring properties and assessing the structure or condition of a property. Commercial surveyors use a variety of equipment to perform these surveys, including GPS devices, smartphones, 3D laser scanners and…yes, run-of-the-mill tape measures, a pen and some paper – although this is becoming much less common!
With so many aspects to consider, commercial surveyors must be adept at many things, and the training can be quite extensive. To become a commercial surveyor in the UK, you typically need to complete a relevant degree in surveying or a related field. After completing a degree, you can apply for a graduate scheme with a surveying firm or construction company, which will typically include on-the-job training and professional development opportunities.
But to take things to the next level and become a chartered surveyor, which is the highest level of professional accreditation in the field, you will need to complete the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) through a professional organisation like the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
The APC typically involves a period of structured training and assessment, during which you will gain practical experience and demonstrate your knowledge and skills in a range of areas, including property valuation, construction technology (ConTech) and business management, among other things.
Commercial surveyors need to have strong analytical skills, excellent communication skills and an inherent ability to work well under pressure, and they must also stay up to date with changes in regulations and other laws that may affect their work.
So, once the surveys are complete, what next? Commercial surveyors will typically analyse the information and produce reports detailing their findings if they’re using the old-fashioned method. More future-focused surveyors are beginning to adopt inspection software to carry out their commercial surveys, which take much less time.
Either way, these reports provide clients with essential information about the property, as we’ve previously discussed. Commercial surveyors may also provide impartial, factual feedback to clients on how or when to address any issues identified during the survey.
Trends and innovations in commercial surveying
The field of commercial surveying is constantly evolving, and new technologies and innovations are emerging all the time. One significant trend in recent years is the use of drones and 3D scanning technology to perform surveys.
Drones really took off in recent years as they became much more affordable for the average surveying firm, while 3D scanning technology can still be quite expensive, so it’s not as widely used as other technologies, despite how powerful it can be for commercial surveyors.
Drones have become increasingly popular in the real estate and construction industries, offering a cost-effective and efficient way to perform surveys of large areas. Drones can be used to capture high-quality aerial imagery and create 3D models of buildings and landscapes. This technology allows commercial surveyors to identify potential risks and hazards from on high, such as unstable terrain or building damage, all from a safe distance.
3D scanning technology on the other hand is revolutionising the way that commercial surveys are performed on the ground. This technology can capture precise measurements of buildings and landscapes, creating highly accurate models that can be used to identify potential issues or assess the condition of a property. 3D scanning technology is particularly useful in situations where traditional surveying methods may not be feasible or safe, such as when surveying large, inaccessible or complex structures.
These advancements in technology are certainly improving the accuracy and efficiency of commercial surveys, allowing surveyors to perform their work more quickly and with greater precision. Likewise, this is having a significant impact on the real estate and construction industries, as clients are able to make better decisions based on the high-quality data provided by these types of technologies.
But another innovation is having much more of a significant impact in the field of commercial surveying, and that’s the use of inspection software. Inspection software allows commercial surveyors to capture their surveys and data, like photos and videos, in real time, reducing the risk of errors and improving compliance by keeping a detailed track record of all surveys.
This software can be used to report on the inspections of buildings and structures and track the condition of assets over time. Perhaps one of the most important parts of inspection software, however, is the time it saves.
Unfortunately, in recent years, amidst an unstable property market, there has been pressure on many surveying firms to lower their costs to remain competitive. In order to stay profitable, commercial surveyors have had to opt for speed without sacrificing quality. That’s where inspection apps play a huge part, cutting out all the manual work involved with compiling a report.
Commercial surveyors using inspection software can perform their work more quickly and efficiently, reducing the time and resources required for surveys, while also helping to ensure that surveys are accurate and compliant.
The future of commercial surveying
It’s undeniable that commercial surveying plays a crucial role in the real estate and construction industries by providing accurate and detailed information about properties. Without the tireless work of these highly-skilled commercial surveyors, clients are not able to make such informed decisions about their properties, purchases or leases.
So, looking ahead to the future of commercial surveying, it’s evident that the industry will continue to evolve and adapt as new technologies and innovations emerge. As we’ve mentioned, one area that is likely to see significant growth is the use of inspection apps for surveyors, to finally, once and for all, eliminate the outdated paper-based inspections of yesteryear.
It’s fair to say that the future of commercial surveying looks bright, with continued growth and innovation expected in the coming years. As technology continues to evolve, as it always will, commercial surveyors must stay up-to-date with the latest tools and techniques to provide clients with the best possible service.
Property Inspect is proud to play a part in the digital transformation of commercial surveying. Being one of only a few select RICS-accredited solutions to exclusively carry approved, branded and fully compliant RICS report templates, we’re just the solution for any commercial property surveyors looking to take the leap into the world of digital inspections.
Sign up for a free trial today and see for yourself!