HOW TO CHOOSE A SURVEYOR
With the advent of the Internet how we buy, sell, rent or otherwise deal in property has changed forever, no longer is it the domain of those with a vested interest in achieving a sale, e.g. Estate Agent, to determine who you use to survey the property you’re buying. Now you can simply search online, input a few details and hey presto you have a fully qualified and experienced surveyor to assist. Or do you?
My name is Wayne Norcliffe and I’m a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (FRICS) and a Fellow of the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (FCABE). In this short article I will outline the different types of professional qualification you may encounter, ending by providing you with 5 questions to ask your chosen professional before you instruct them to help you.
Firstly, a word of warning. Like any business there are those who will try to exploit a person’s lack of knowledge and who may profess to be something they are not or may bend the truth to get your money. Hopefully this article will help you avoid such people.
So let’s begin with one of the Property Industry’s most prominent Professional Bodies and certainly the one you will encounter when buying a property where you are obtaining a Mortgage, that’s because the Valuer will most likely be required to be a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
ROYAL INSTITUTION OF CHARTERED SURVEYORS (RICS)
The RICS was originally set up as a Member’s organisation and with circa 134,000 members and trainees can trace its roots back to 1792. If operating as a firm of Chartered Surveyors, then the logo above should be displayed to indicate that the firm is regulated by the RICS.
POINT TO NOTE: only those who are Members of the RICS should be referring to themselves as a Chartered Surveyor. Check the wording used by the firm you are considering using!
The RICS has different professional membership levels and these can be complex, so for the purpose of this article I shall focus on those I consider most relevant to the UK Residential Property market, i.e. those which you as a property buyer or seller are most likely to encounter.
- Associate Member (Assoc. RICS)
The AssocRICS level member does NOT have full membership status but is on a progressive path in becoming a Chartered Surveyor and working towards full membership of the RICS, a candidate is essentially on the pathway to become an MRICS or FRICS (see below).
This level of membership can be attained by those with more limited experience in the industry and is described as “the entry-level RICS qualification and offers the chance to progress to full chartered status”. This level of membership can be obtained with as little as 1 year’s relevant experience along with a relevant bachelor’s degree.
An Assoc. RICS member may be someone who is relatively new to the surveying profession, indeed may have simply completed a short course of study by way of an introduction to the profession and may have little practical experience of surveying properties, in particular complex properties that require an RICS Level 3 Building Survey or more complex transactions e.g. Party Wall Awards, Lease Valuations, etc… You should check their experience is sufficient for the property you are buying.
- Chartered Member (MRICS)
A Chartered Member of the RICS, referred to in abbreviated form by most as MRICS is likely to be a person who has worked their way through the rigorous RICS route to professional membership, this could have included study of a relevant degree, along with at least a couple of years as an Associate or Graduate Surveyor working alongside more experienced surveyors, including potentially a Fellow of the Institution (more on that below).
A Chartered Surveyor can have attained that status via various routes to professional membership of the RICS, including a Building Surveyor, Valuation Surveyor, Commercial Surveyor, etc… route to membership. This essentially means that the particular surveyor is proficient in a particular specialism, having undertaken at least a couple of years professional study and mentorship in that particular area of expertise. This could be fairly described as being similar to having served an Apprenticeship in a trade profession for instance.
To become a Chartered Surveyor and MRICS qualified a person would need to have the following before applying for assessment.
- Relevant experience and an RICS-accredited degree
- 5 years of relevant experience and any bachelor’s degree
- 10 years of relevant experience operating at an advanced level by seniority, specialisation, or in academia.
Fellow of the RICS (FRICS)
Like any profession there are those who have reached the peak of qualification membership and those who strive for it. In previous sections we’ve discussed those striving to achieve the peak, in this section we’ll consider why you should aim to choose someone who is a Fellow, whether of the RICS or another profession.
A Fellow of the RICS, usually referred to using the abbreviation FRICS, is someone who has likely worked in the property/surveying field for many years, has vast experience of property and/or has significantly contributed to the profession in various ways. To be accepted as a Fellow of the RICS an applicant needs to have at least the following:
- Be considered a Champion i.e. be able to explain how they have gained recognition from an appropriate authority or the RICS.
- Be an Expert and demonstrate how they have been verified as advancing, sharing or interpreting knowledge of the industry, which could be teaching, dispute resolution, etc.
- Be an Influencer of the profession through Leadership, Management or Development
- Be a Role Model to demonstrate how they have exceeded standards to the benefit of their clients such as Client care for instance.
When you employ a Fellow of the RICS to assist you in your property purchase, negotiations, etc… you are employing a professional who has spent many years honing their skills and knowledge. They will likely have encountered many more situations than lesser qualified/experienced surveyors and as such can be depended upon to provide you with a professional service (as can all Chartered Surveyors of course), having considered in detail your requirements and the subject matter.
CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF BUILDERS
The Chartered Institute of Builders (CIOB) have similar membership levels to the RICS as outlined above, however a member of this organisation is able to use the title of Chartered Builder and NOT Chartered Surveyors. Some may use the phrase Chartered Builder and Surveyor, this MAY NOT mean they are a Chartered Surveyor, simply someone who is using clever wording to confuse you. They may or may not have property defect analysis expertise for instance, as the CIOB organisation are mainly focused on the construction industry and having a wide membership amongst builders, project managers and the like. As such building defect analysis, valuation and such types of work may not be their specialism.
CHARTERED ASSOCIATION OF BUILDING ENGINEERS
The Chartered Association of Building Engineers (C.Build E CABE) have similar membership levels to the RICS as outlined above, however a member of this organisation is able to use the title of Chartered Building Engineer. They may or may not have property defect analysis expertise for instance, this organisation being mainly focused on the construction industry and having a wide membership amongst builders, Building Control practitioners, etc…. Again look out for people using phrases like Chartered Building Engineer and Surveyor, they MAY NOT be a Chartered Surveyor and simply use such wording to confuse you.
5 Questions to ask your Surveyor
- Will it be you (i.e. the person with the qualifications and experience) undertaking the survey? If not what are the qualifications and experience of the person doing so?
- How many surveys/valuations do you undertake per day?
- How long have you been working in the area where the property is situated?
- What post survey support do you offer? Is this additional or part of the service?
- Do you provide RICS compliant reports?
I hope you found this short summary useful, you can find our more about the author via the website www.castle-surveyors.co.uk Wayne Norcliffe being a Fellow of the RICS and Assoc. of Building Engineers.