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What does a surveyor do when they visit your property to conduct a survey?

  1. Simon from Winchester
  2. Surveying Process questions and answers


I’ve organised for a survey to be conducted on the property I am intending to buy and I was just wondering what do surveyors actually do when they survey a property? Are there certain areas of the building that they can’t look at? I have a couple of concerns about particular aspects of the property, will the surveyor be able to take this into account when doing the survey?


The survey of a property is controlled by two major factors, the nature of the instruction and type of report commissioned and, secondly, the nature of the house to be inspected.

The survey content varies and the conditions of engagement should describe the extent and limitations of the inspection beforehand.

The property can be occupied or unoccupied, carpeted and furnished or empty floor coverings can be found left in a house that is unoccupied.

The extent of the survey can also be controlled by the circumstances of the inspection. The weather conditions on inspection for example can be significant. Rain or no rain falling for example can restrict comments about rainwater goods and if they function. The availability of the vendor to ask relevant questions is another factor.

Surveyors do not have x ray vision to see behind walls and under floors and cannot enter small or restricted roof and sub floor areas. The footings of a house are not exposed for example and services are usually tested by specialists only in the case of Building Surveys and by arrangement.

All factors apart, the surveyor should have experience of the style of building and the location in so far as it affects the fabric of the building and the valuation. The observations made on site with a trained eye can still identify areas of potential concern even if the inspection is restricted. For example water under the floors may have been experienced in the house where better access has been forthcoming in the area.

The surveyor can often predict issues based on the condition of the property externally such as missing tiles where the roof void cannot be accessed.

Internal inspection despite limitations should be able to identify major issues such as rising damp, water ingress and the like.

A surveyor on site has to consider all the visible issues outside and inside the house and advise the client of issues and potential issues. They can see in most cases the external and internal fabric and finishes and despite restrictions such as carpets and furniture to some parts most will be capable of inspection.

If a client has concerns they should notify the surveyor of these to allow a response before inspection. The client should also consider the experience of the surveyor to the area as there is no substitute for past experiences and local knowledge of issues. 

In conclusion every property is different any areas not accessed should be documented and reasons stated. The surveyor should always try to advise and not set out to write a meaningless report with no commitment when a more detailed report is requested.

This description is given on the basis of more in depth reports not a valuation only.

David Thomas

David Thomas

Duxbury's Incorporating Peter Dawkins

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Comments (5)

  • Maldwyn What would a survey cost

    posted on 17 May 2017

    I seem to have a damp problem on some walls and before redecorating I would like to find solutions

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Maldwyn,

    Sorry to hear that! We have a guide on damp that might be able to help you figure out what to do next: https://www.reallymoving.com/surveyors/guides/damp-survey 

    apartment furniture ideas

    posted on 31 May 2017

    Great to share the information. Thank you for sharing.

    Tammy brewer

    posted on 20 Apr 2018

    Can you ask to see the serve done on your property if your the one selling the house not buying it?

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Tammy,
    It isn't usually done, as the buyer is the person paying for the survey. There is nothing to stop you getting a survey yourself if you are concerned. If a buyer pulls out due to findings on the survey, you are welcome to ask them what was discovered, as this may affect future attempts to sell.


    posted on 14 Mar 2019

    We purchased a 2 bed bungalow and within a fortnight of moving in mould and damp appeared in the bedroom, we discovered that there was a whole in the roof and the last owner had hid the fact, is there anything we can do about this.

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Lorraine,

    We're sorry to hear about your situation.
    If you had a survey, there would have been some expectation on the surveyor to notice this issue.
    However, if it appears the seller deliberately hid the problems with the property, you may want to speak to a solicitor about what your options are.

    We wish you the best of luck.



    posted on 8 Jul 2019

    Our prospective purchasers are having a survey done on our bungalow which we have been told will take an hour not sure if this will be an in-depth survey , I know that it will probably need rewiring but they put in an offer £4000 less than what we wanted can we ask their surveyor after they survey if he has find any major problems

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Diana,

    As you'll be in the property whilst the surveyor is there, there's no reason you can't ask if there's any particular issues he/she notices. However it's important to remember that the surveyor's client is your potential buyer, not you. So asking the odd question probably isn't a problem, but calling up after the survey and asking for information is not the standard.
    If your buyer does put in a lower offer because of the survey, you can ask if they are happy for you to see the report and go from there.

    Kind regards,

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