I'm about to buy a house and wondered how best to find a surveyor and when I should appoint him/her?
The first thing to consider is timing, i.e. when should you instruct a surveyor. This will, to a large extent depend upon the particular circumstances, such as when you are ready to sell; what the market is like (i.e. strong rising market, move quicker, slow falling market move slower). The following is my thoughts though.
Firstly make sure your own property has been surveyed and you know that the sale is proceeding, there’s little point in spending money on your own survey unless/until you know you have a sale proceeding;
You’ll probably be offered a ’friendly’ Surveyor by the Estate Agents. AVOID using them! I’ll use this analogy, would you buy a car and rely on the mechanic (however independent they protest they are) telling you it’s fault free? All RICS and CIOB Surveyors are professional and work to the highest standards, avoiding conflicts of interest and working in client’s best interests at all times, however finding your own Surveyor gives you the power to decide who, when and potentially where, it may even be cheaper.
Try to think about what could cause you to pull out of the purchase, for instance if you’re buying a leasehold flat say and want to rent it out, there may well be restrictions in the lease which prevent you from doing so, it would be best to try to identify the all the matters that may make you stop buying before you commit your money to a survey. If the property is freehold, however, and there’s seemingly little risk of legal problems arising, then you’d likely be best advised to instruct a surveyor early and progress alongside the legals, albeit each case is of course different.
The Mortgage lender’s Surveyor may well offer to undertake the survey. These guys are usually target driven and this can result in them having to undertake 3 or more homebuyer reports in a single day, as a minimum target. This can result in them being very busy and possibly difficult to get hold of, which could mean you can’t get the explanation of the report’s findings which you’d wish to have. All Surveyors will work hard to give you such time and it’s vital you discuss the report’s findings to avoid any ambiguity, as you can imagine however, when you’re as busy as that, it may not always be as easy to do so as you’d like. In addition, as these companies are usually large operations with many offices and/or overheads, the cost of the survey may well be higher and particularly so as VAT will be payable.
Use the search for a quote function on http://www.totallymoving.co.uk to get FREE quotes from local surveyors, check whether they charge VAT or not, ask how many surveys a day they do, when they are next available, what’s their turnaround time and how will the report be delivered, are they going to be available to discuss the report’s findings afterwards, etc..
Access to qualified professional advice has never been easier and according to the Building Research Establishment (BRE) having a survey done can save you potentially man thousands of pounds. You wouldn’t buy a car without an MOT so don’t buy a house without a Survey, the risks are potentially much more disruptive and costly.
Hope this helps, DYOR and this is my personal opinion only.