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New surveys from RICS – what do you need to know?

  1. 23 December 2019
  2. By Andi Michael

In November, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) launched a new Home Survey Standard in a bid to improve and speed up the house moving process.

The new standard - which RICS members must use from June 2020 onwards – will aim to better protect buyers and sellers, with emphasis on consumers fully understanding the importance and benefits of commissioning a home survey before purchasing. 

RICS said that the process and language that will be used in the survey has undergone simplification, with the survey set to become increasingly standardised.

Ahead of the launch, a RICS statement said: “The new Home Survey Standard will increase consistency, transparency and competency across residential surveying in the UK. The updated standard aims to deliver not only clarity to the process but more open communication which will greatly benefit property transactions and will make sure consumers fully understand the process, the different levels of surveys, and get the level they need.”

RICS added that the initiative ‘aims to provide a clear, flexible framework within which RICS professionals can develop their own services that consumers can trust, simplifying the home survey process for all.’

Paul Bagust, RICS’ Global Property Standards Director, added: “The complete overhaul of home surveys with our new Home Survey Standard will bring vital standardisation and clarity to the process, where RICS professionals can work effectively to meet the changing needs of the market.”

What does the new standard involve?

The Home Survey Standard, which will become the mandatory best practice benchmark on June 1 2020, can be used by firms already, but June 1 is the point at which it becomes enforceable as RICS aims to promote and enforce high standards in the sector.

RICS says that the new standard will enable adoptees to demonstrate consistency, deliver the highest quality of service, meet evolving consumer needs and contribute to delivering greater trust in the home survey market across the UK.

The ‘concise mandatory requirement’ will establish a single standard for condition-based home surveys, as well as setting new benchmarks around which firms can design and deliver services that not only meet their clients' needs, but that the public can recognise and trust.

The main differentiator between the new standard and the old one is that it enables and promotes improved communication between a homebuyer and their surveyor. It also aims to set new benchmarks that embrace new technologies and media, which in turn will make it so much easier for everyday homebuyers to understand the results of their survey – speeding up transactions at the same time.

According to Joe Arnold, managing director of Arnold & Baldwin Chartered Surveyors, one of only two SMEs asked to take part in the consultation process held by RICS in September 2016, the new standard ‘puts more responsibility on a surveyor to be clearer about their observations and recommendations, which means that a survey will include fewer caveats and assumptions’.

“This is a really key change that will help develop increased trust between homebuyers and their surveyors, which should naturally lead to increased confidence, and this is likely to result in fewer aborted transactions,” he said.

Arnold said a well-managed and well-communicated survey ‘can actually help to hold a deal together’, by highlighting that there is nothing to hide when it comes to the condition of the property.

What are the other benefits?

The new survey could also bring benefits to other people involved in the homebuying process, not just purchasers. While the home survey could act to protect the buyer’s investment in the short-term, the reputation of those advising the buyer during the transaction could see their reputations protected long-term by the new standards.

With lenders increasingly turning to automated valuations based on statistical trends as a way of reducing costs, it’s often the case in these transactions that no surveyor enters the building to inspect the actual condition of the property.

The new RICS Home Survey Standard helps in this respect by improving the accessibility and quality of information that homebuyers receive when they commission a survey, which in turn helps estate agents, conveyancers and others involved in the process as the level of trust and confidence in the value of the survey will be that much higher.

The new survey should also help to improve relations between buyers, agents and surveyors, protecting transactions, clients and reputations by establishing a close working relationship between agents and a chartered surveyor they know and trust.

Overall, it aims to introduce simpler language, more transparency and greater uniformity into surveys by getting everyone to use a new industry standard from next June. 

The ambition is also to make sure surveys are recognised as essential to more buyers, and for them to be clearer for those who receive them.

How did the industry react?

A conveyancing company threw its weight behind the reforms to surveys outlined by RICS, with Convey Choice saying that change was needed.

RICS research has previously suggested that the public see current surveys as ‘dense, unreadable, poor value, confusing, full of caveats and lacking real detail on costs and deliverables for a homebuyer’. 

With this in mind, Convey Choice released a statement saying that any change to enhance survey reports that are vital to consumer processes when purchasing a property will assist and drive consumer confidence in the purchasing cycle and enable them to feel secure in their acquisition. 

“The property market needs to continue to adapt and make these milestone changes to support the consumer and guide them through what could be the largest investment they will ever make,” the company said. 

“Offering expert advice and products which meet a defined standard and are easy to understand, with clear guidance is refreshing and will ultimately deliver more credibility to the reports and the value they add.”

RICS, for its part, said its proposals to change the guidelines will lead to better respected and more comprehensible surveys, but crucially will not change the overall difference between the basic Condition Report, the Homebuyer’s Report, or the Structural or Building Survey.

You can find out more about the new Home Survey Standard, and how it came into play after an industry and consumer consultation earlier this year by exploring the RICS breakdown.

If you’re looking for advice on surveys, have a look at our guide to choosing a Chartered Surveyor.

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