What’s a Chartered Surveyor and do I need to hire one?

Do you need a survey done on a property? Do you need an independent assessment of the value of a property? It could be time to call in a chartered surveyor!

A chartered surveyor is someone who assesses the value and condition of a physical asset like a house or a construction project, or someone who helps plan the creation of a new development. They can also advise you on obtaining planning permission, renovating a property, or environmental issues.

There are different types of chartered surveyors and they all belong to the professional body, The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, which is online at: www.RICS.org.

When might I need one?

You would use a chartered surveyor if you wanted a valuation for a future or existing project or renovation. Surveyors can value land, buildings, or machinery; normally choosing to specialise in one area of work. For example, a rural surveyor would value a farm and its assets, whereas a building surveyor might value an urban apartment complex.

In addition to this, chartered surveyors can give assistance to companies or individuals at the design and implementation stages of a construction project, often suggesting how to maximise the land available and helping consult with the planning authorities.

A surveyor can also assess the condition of an existing building or site and produce a report for a client, detailing problems (including structural or environmental), potential solutions and their costs. What are the benefits of using a chartered surveyor?

Using a chartered surveyor means that you are getting a professional opinion on an important and expensive investment like a house.

Surveyors are property experts and will have had experience with the local authorities. They are well placed to advise you on valuations, the condition of a property, and how to deal with local authorities.

The experience and expertise of chartered surveyors mean they will conduct a more thorough and accurate investigation than anyone else (including you!) can, which in turn means that you get the best advice on how to act – very important when you consider the huge value of property nowadays. A surveyor will also have access to services and information that you may not be able to uncover easily such as details of rights of way, affecting a property.

Where can I find one?

Many surveyors will advertise in the yellow pages, although your builder or estate agent will probably be able to recommend a local surveyor for you.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ website also has a search function, which lets you search for a RICS-accredited surveyor in your area. This is to be found here.

What services should a chartered surveyor offer?

You will need to choose a surveyor who specialises in your area of work; for example, if you wanted a survey done on a farm, you would not call a construction surveyor. The profession is a diverse one, and there are several different categories of chartered surveyors, including:

  • Building surveyors – advise on the design considerations and the construction of new buildings and repairs/restorations for existing buildings;
  • Construction surveyors – oversee and provide advice on large-scale construction projects, such as office blocks and housing estates;
  • Environmental surveyors – determine and monitor the effects of buildings on the environment – this could include something like advising someone who is building on contaminated land, for example;
  • Rural surveyors – value rural properties and their assets (like farms and farm machinery), and advise landowners when dealing with local authorities.

What qualifications/accreditations should you look for?

All surveyors should have completed a degree or course that is accredited by RICS (the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors).

RICS is the largest professional body of surveyors, and any surveyor must be a member to achieve chartered status. In addition to this, your surveyor must have completed a minimum of two years’ practical experience before taking the APC exam and becoming fully qualified.

A fully qualified chartered surveyor will be able to use the letters MRICS in their title.


It is hard to give a guide cost because it will depend on the size of the job and what you want done. However, as a rough guide, the cost of a simple valuation should range between £100-250, the cost of a homeowners’ survey is about £250-1000, and the cost of a full structural survey is about £500-1500. These prices will vary depending on your individual requirements, how large the property is, and where you are in the country.

It is also very important to get several quotes from different surveyors; that way, you can be sure that you are getting a decent price for the work they are carrying out.

What happens next?

After you have decided on your surveyor, you will need to choose what type of survey you want undertaken and agree on a price.

There are a number of surveys which you can have undertaken, starting from building society survey or a homeowners’ survey (required to get a mortgage on a property) – for this they just value the property (rebuilding costs that is) and make sure it appears sound after a brief inspection. If the windows or other fairly minor decorative features are in bad condition, they may hold back some of the mortgage until repairs / redecoration have been undertaken. This should only be used for houses that are of standard design and structure and are obviously in reasonable structural condition; often this tends to be the case with new houses.

At the other end of the scale is a full structural survey, which will test everything about the house (value, grounds, structural condition) and will take half a day to complete.

After this is finished, you will receive a report, which is typically 50 pages long and includes pictures. It will detail the history of the property, rights of way, structural integrity, materials used in building, drainage, electrics, roof (condition) dry rot, woodworm wet rot, dampness, and value of rates.

It is possible to ask your surveyor to only report on certain aspects. For example, if you are buying a relatively new house, which is clearly structurally sound, you may only want to know about rights of way. This sort of survey will take less time to complete and will obviously be cheaper.

Questions to ask your surveyor?

  • Are you a RICS member?
  • How long have you been practising?
  • What is the price for a survey and what is included for each quote? I.e. What do I get for a full structural survey or for a partial survey?
  • When will the job be completed?
  • Do you know the area and have you had experience with a similar type of property?
  • Do you have professional indemnity cover?

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