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Do I need a survey if my mortgage lender has already done a valuation?

Yes. The “valuation” or “valuation survey” undertaken by your lender is not the same as a condition survey. Firstly, even though you will usually be required to pay for it, the valuation is for the lender’s benefit, not for your benefit as the purchaser. Increasingly, lenders carry out desktop valuations and never actually visit the property. But even if the property is visited, the inspection is typically very brief and can’t be relied upon to identify issues with the property. Therefore, the best way of ensuring you understand the condition of your prospective purchase is to commission your own independent condition survey. As well as enabling you to get a clear picture of the property’s condition, the survey will also often provide you with a basis for renegotiating the price to reflect any serious defects that are found, something that a ‘valuation survey’ is insufficiently detailed to achieve.

My mortgage lender has offered me an upgrade to a Level 2 or Level 3 condition survey as part of my valuation. Am I allowed to commission my own independent survey instead?

Yes, you have the choice of using the same surveyor your lender has chosen to undertake the ‘valuation survey’ OR you can commission your own independent Level 2 or Level 3 survey to take place as a separate visit. You should review the website and credentials of both the lender’s surveyor and an independent option (such as me) and see who you feel most comfortable with. At the end of the day, the surveyor appointed by the lender is, to some degree anyway, concerned with keeping the lender happy. If you chose an independent surveyor, they are working for one person only – you!

What are the benefits of using an independent surveyor?

As an independent surveyor, I don’t have any financial links to banks, building societies, solicitors, estate agents, builders or anyone else in the industry. As a result, I only work for one person – you!

What is the purpose of a condition survey?

A lot of people think a condition survey is just about establishing if there are major problems with the property (structural movement, major damp, etc.) that mean you need to either pull out of your purchase or, at the very least, negotiate a large discount on the price. A condition survey certainly will identify if that is the case, but a condition survey has other equally important benefits. As well as any really serious issues, a condition survey will help you identify other issues that, whilst less serious, can still be troublesome and costly to put right. It is important that you know about these issues so that you can budget for repairs and, of course, a big enough collection of these mid-level issues could still add up to a case for renegotiating your purchase price. Even if the property is in relatively good condition, a condition survey will help you to understand your new home – how it is built, how it should be used, how you should maintain it – and that can help you to ensure future problems are avoided. All in all, the value you get from a survey in terms of money saved, in both the short and long term, easily exceeds the cost of the survey itself.

Which survey do I need?

This depends on two factors – (i) the type of property you are purchasing; (ii) your own appetite for information/detail about the property and its condition.

If the property is old, in poor condition, of non-standard construction, or has been very significantly extended or modified, or if you are planning your own major works, then you should opt for a Level 3 survey. You might also choose a Level 3 survey if, even though you are buying a property that’s in better condition, you want the additional peace of mind and extra detail that is provided by this most detailed type of inspection and report.

A Level 2 survey is suitable for conventionally built properties that are in reasonable condition and have not been very significantly extended or modified. Whilst still a very thorough inspection and report, the Level 2 survey is better suited for customers who want a higher-level summary of the property’s construction and condition.

I’ve had an offer accepted. When should I commission a survey?

It’s wise to commission a condition survey as soon as possible after an offer is accepted. A survey will highlight if there are any serious issues that affect your willingness to proceed with the purchase or to pay the price initially offered, triggering a renegotiation where appropriate. Even for a property that is in relatively good condition, it is useful to be clear about any less serious issues, ongoing maintenance requirements and running cost considerations that could, in combination, impact on your overall budget. A timely condition survey will, depending on the findings, either (i) enable you to reconsider your purchase or the purchase price with minimum time lost; or (ii) more positively, provide peace of mind and enable you to proceed with full commitment to the purchase process.

Aren’t surveys full of standard phrases, caveats and recommendations for further investigations, and therefore a bit pointless?

It’s certainly true that some surveyors are too reliant on report writing software and standard phrases and some surveyors adopt a very ‘defensive’ approach to report writing. In combination, this can be very frustrating for a client. I take a different approach, producing reports that are hand crafted, specific to your property and circumstances and I keep caveats and exclusions to a minimum. That said, there are of course some things that simply can’t be seen or can’t be definitively established within the constraints of a non-invasive visual inspection as part of a single site visit and, in those circumstances, some caveats or limitations may need to be set out, or recommendations for further investigations made. The key thing is that these things are kept to a minimum and not included in a report without good reason, and that is the approach that I take.

What’s the difference between a Level 2 and Level 3 survey?

The difference between a RICS Level 2 and Level 3 survey is both in the scope of the inspection and the detail included in the report. A Level 3 survey includes a more comprehensive inspection and a more in-depth report, particularly in regard to the level of detail included within the maintenance and repair recommendations. Level 3 reports also include more extensive analysis of sustainability and energy efficiency.

Does a Level 3 survey include estimated repair costs?

My Level 3 survey does not include estimated repair costs. This is because, in the current climate (i.e. high inflation and an imbalance between supply and demand for building contractors in this region), it is very difficult to provide reliable estimates. I instead recommend that you obtain 2-3 quotations for any substantive work that is required as this is a much more reliable approach and also constitutes a much more robust basis for any required renegotiation of your purchase price, where applicable.

Does a survey provide a guarantee that there are no hidden defects?

No. A survey is a visual, non-invasive inspection of a property. As such, if a defect exists that is invisible and is not yet manifesting itself in any detectable way, this would not be picked up by a survey. This is why, as well as highlighting any defects that are visually evident, your survey report will also recommend that your conveyancer confirms that building regulations and other statutory approvals are in place, together with completion certificates in some situations, as this can provide greater comfort that the unseen areas of the property have been properly constructed. This is particularly important in the case of recently constructed properties or extensions where sufficient time may not yet have passed for the effects of any hidden defects within the construction to become apparent.

Can you provide a valuation together with the survey?

Yes, for a small additional fee (please see the Pricing page) a market valuation can be provided with any Level 2 or Level 3 survey.

How long does it take from booking a survey to getting the report?

Ordinarily, the inspection can be booked in within 1-2 weeks of your instruction. Level 2 survey reports are delivered within 3 working days of the inspection and Level 3 reports withing 5 working days.

Do you offer a same day or next day survey report service?

No. RICS guidelines are very clear that surveyors must allow time for ‘reflection’ and time for any necessary further research before finalising their conclusions and issuing a survey report. In my view, a same-day or next day service does not allow this important window for ensuring that the correct conclusions are reached and the most appropriate advice given.

What will the survey cost?

The cost of a survey is a product of the amount of time it will take to research the property, undertake the inspection and write the report. This is in turn a product of the property’s age, construction type and the extent to which it has been altered. For these reasons, I quote for each survey on an individual basis. However, my Pricing page gives an indication of the typical range of costs for each survey type.

Can I discuss the survey report with you?

Absolutely, and I would encourage you to do so. I speak to all my clients before the survey takes place in order to understand any questions or particular concerns you may have. I also offer a 30 min (Level 2) or 1 hr (Level 3) post-survey telephone call or Zoom meeting to talk through the report and ensure you understand it, and to answer any further questions that you or your conveyancer may have.

Can you recommend specialists or builders to quote for work?

No, simply because I cannot guarantee the quality of work undertaken by third party companies. However, I will provide advice as to which accreditation schemes or membership bodies you should look for when appointing contractors or seeking quotations for work.

Should I give a copy of the survey report to my legal advisor?

Yes, definitely. The report will usually include important information that your legal advisor will need to review.

Should I give a copy of the report to the vendor or estate agent?

No. The report is confidential and is for your use only. Where you need to highlight issues or defects to the estate agent or vendor, I recommend that you do this by summarising the report findings or, where absolutely necessary, by sharing only small, selected sections of the report.

Will you give advice and/or comment on any further specialist reports I have already obtained or may obtain after the survey?

Usually, no. This is because, where specialist reports have been recommended, this will be because the subject matter sits outside my own personal expertise.

If you find something very major when inspecting the property, such that I decide to immediately abort my purchase, can I instruct you not to write the survey report and save myself some money?

Yes, if my initial findings are such that you wish to immediately pull out of your purchase and you no longer require me to write the report then my Terms of Business allow for a partial refund in this situation.

RICS Help To Buy Valuation

In what circumstances will I need a Help To Buy valuation?

If you purchased your property using the government’s Help To Buy scheme then, when you come to sell, remortgage or want to repay your Help To Buy loan, you will need to obtain a valuation report in the correct form from a RICS Registered Valuer.

When should I get my Help To Buy valuation?

Because a Help To Buy valuation only lasts for three months, you should try to time the valuation so that the valuation date is no more than three months before the point you expect to complete your sale or remortgage. In the event that the valuation expires, you can obtain an updated ‘desktop valuation’ for a small additional fee.

What are the requirements for a Help To Buy valuation?

The requirements for a Help To Buy valuation are set out by Homes England. The key requirements are:

  • The Valuer must be appropriately qualified and RICS registered
  • The Valuer must be independent, not known to you, and not connected to an estate agent
  • The Valuer must consider at least 3 appropriate comparable properties and sale prices.
  • The Valuer must assess the interior of the property and provide a full valuation report.
  • The valuation report must include certain information, be on company headed paper, be signed by the RICS surveyor and be addressed to Homes England.

What does redeeming my loan mean?

Redeeming your loan means that you will be paying it off, either by selling your property and paying it back from the proceeds of that sale, or buying the percentage of the property you do not currently own. In this situation, a Help To Buy valuation is required so that the amount you have to repay can be calculated.

What is staircasing?

Staircasing means that you are choosing to pay off a percentage of your Help to Buy equity loan so that you own more of your property than you did before. Even though you are not selling your property in this situation, a Help To Buy valuation is required so that the amount you have to repay can be calculated.

How much will the Help to Buy valuation cost?

The cost of a Help To Buy valuation depends on the size of the property but is typically between £239 and £299 (no VAT to pay). Please Contact Me to receive a fast, free, no-obligation quotation.

How long does a Help To Buy valuation inspection take?

The inspection entails an examination of the exterior and interior of the property and typically takes around 1 hour.

When will I receive my Help To Buy valuation report?

Obtaining the most up to date information on comparable properties can take time, and sometimes involves discussions with estate agents. As such, valuation reports are guaranteed to be delivered within 3 working days of the inspection. However, where comparable information is more readily available, reports can be delivered more quickly.

How long is a Help To Buy valuation valid for?

A Help To Buy valuation is valid for three months. That being the case, you should try to time the valuation so that the valuation date is no more than three months before the point you expect to complete your sale or remortgage. In the event that the valuation expires, you can obtain an updated ‘desktop valuation’ for a small additional fee.

What happens if my Help To Buy valuation expires?

If this happens then you can obtain a ‘desktop valuation’, but you must obtain this and send it to Target within two weeks of the first valuation expiring. A desktop valuation is an update to the original valuation which will either confirm the valuation has not changed or, where it has, will provide new comparables to evidence a new valuation. The desktop valuation is valid for a further three months. As the desktop valuation does not require a further visit to the property, it can be provided for a lower fee. My charge for a desktop valuation is 50% of the initial valuation fee.


What is a Red Book valuation?

A Red Book valuation is a formal, evidence-based valuation. It can only be carried out by a RICS Registered Valuer. The valuation is created by carrying out desktop research, undertaking an inspection of the property and then creating the valuation based on a hierarchy of evidence. At the top of that hierarchy of evidence is completed sales of similar properties in the same area, but other factors are also taken into account. The output of the exercise is a valuation report which is typically valid for three months.

How is a Red Book valuation different to an estate agent’s valuation?

An estate agent’s valuation or ‘market appraisal’ is usually an aspirational valuation and is not as evidence-based as a Red Book valuation. That is why mortgage lenders require Red Book valuations in support of secured lending. Similarly, an estate agent’s valuation cannot be used in support of legal proceedings or for tax calculations.

When do I need a Red Book valuation?

You will need a Red Book valuation if your purchase includes a mortgage. However, in this situation, your lender will arrange the valuation on your behalf using one of their approved firms. (Please note that, in these circumstances, it is still advisable to commission your own independent condition survey – see Survey FAQs above)

If you are not purchasing with a mortgage, you may still wish to commission a Red Book market valuation alongside your pre-purchase survey. This is a useful way of confirming that you are paying the correct price for your property, rather than simply the ‘asking price’.

A Red Book valuation is also helpful if you are selling a property to family or friends and want a reliable, evidence-based valuation on which to base the purchase price.

Red Book valuations are also a needed for various other legal and administrative purposes. These include:

  • Probate and Inheritance Tax
  • Help To Buy
  • Shared Ownership

I am able to provide Red Book valuations for each of these situations.

Does a Red Book valuation include a reinstatement cost?

In most cases, yes. Where a property is traditionally constructed then a reinstatement cost can generally be provided. However, properties that are of non-standard or unusual construction may require a separate, specialist assessment.

In some situations, such as a valuation for Help To Buy, a reinstatement cost is not required.

How long does it take from booking a Red Book valuation to receiving the report?

Ordinarily, the inspection can be booked in within 1-2 weeks of your instruction.

If the valuation is taking place alongside a condition survey then the valuation will be delivered together with the survey report. I deliver Level 2 survey reports within 3 working days of the inspection and Level 3 reports withing 5 working days.

For standalone valuation reports, I will deliver the report within 3 working days of the inspection.

Party Wall

When does the Party Well etc Act 1996 apply?

Put simply, the Act applies when the following types of work are planned:

  • Altering, repairing or exposing an existing wall or structure shared with another property
  • Building a new wall up to or astride a boundary line
  • Excavating within certain distances of a neighbouring building

Where the Act applies, there are obligations on those proposing to undertake the works (the ‘Building Owner(s)’ in the language of the Act) to go through certain steps including, in the first instance, notifying neighbours (‘Adjoining Owners’) in the appropriate way and within specified timescales. Adjoining Owners can then consent or dissent to the works. Where the Adjoining Owners dissent, this triggers a dispute under the Act at which point it becomes necessary to appoint a party wall surveyor (each party can have their own surveyor or there can be an agreed joint surveyor) to make an Award that will govern how the works are carried out.

I am a Building Owner planning notifiable works. What do I need to do?

If the work you are proposing comes under the Act, you will need to issue notices to your neighbour(s) in the correct form and on the correct timetable. If the notices trigger a dispute under the Act, you will need to appoint a party wall surveyor (each party can have their own surveyor or there can be an agreed joint surveyor) to make an Award that will govern how the works are carried out.

I assist clients with working out whether the Act applies and preparing notices on when it does. Should I dispute arise, I can act as the Building Owner surveyor or can act for both parties as an Agreed Surveyor.

I am an Adjoining Owner and I have received a Party Wall Notice. What do I need to do?

If you have received a Party Wall Notice then, assuming it has been correctly served, you will need to decide whether to consent or dissent to the works. Dissenting will trigger a dispute and the need for either an Agreed Surveyor to be appointed, or alternatively each party can appoint their own surveyor. The role of the party wall surveyor(s) is to make an Award that will govern how the works are carried out.

I assist clients in considering how best to respond to Party Wall Notices and, where necessary, can act the Adjoining Owner surveyor or can act for both parties as an Agreed Surveyor.

Billing and Cancellation

Do you require payment in advance?

For all fixed price work, yes, I request payment in advance. This is for two reasons. The first is that the work for a property inspection starts long before the actual inspection (contacting the vendor/agent, booking in the inspection, undertaking desktop research etc.). The second is that, as a small firm, it is costly to run a credit control system and chase up payments after completing work. By taking payment up front I can eradicate those costs and pass those savings onto my clients. Please note that, although I ask for payment in advance, I also offer a generous cancellation / refund policy – see below.

For party wall work, an initial sum will be billed in advance. However, as fees will vary depending on time spent, the balance of any further fee due will be invoiced in arrears.

What methods of payment do you accept?

I request that all invoices are paid by bank transfer. You will find the firm’s bank details on your invoice.

Can I cancel a survey or valuation after I have booked and paid for it, but before the inspection has taken place?

This situation can sometimes arise if a sale falls through or a chain collapses after a survey has been booked. In these circumstances, yes, you can cancel.

If no significant work has yet been undertaken preparing for the inspection then I will provide a 100% refund.

If the cancellation occurs near the inspection date and work has already been undertaken then I will provide a refund equivalent to 80% of the survey fee.

Can I cancel a survey or valuation after the inspection, but before I have been sent the report?

This can occasionally arise if a sale falls through or a chain collapses in the short time between my inspection and issuing the report.

Or, sometimes, a situation arises where I find something so significant on the inspection that, based on a post-inspection de-brief, you decide to pull out of your purchase and feel there is no point in receiving the full report.

In circumstances where a report has not yet been written, I will provide a refund of 30% of the survey fee.

Unfortunately, if a report has already been written at the point that you cancel then, with all work having been completed, I do not have any ability to offer a refund in that situation.


Which areas do you work in?

I undertake work across the whole of Norfolk. However, being based in the northern part of the county, a greater proportion of my assignments are in the council areas of Norwich, Broadland and North Norfolk .

Do you wear a suit?

Very rarely! Property inspections involve getting into lofts, basements and other areas than can be a bit grubby. For that reason, a suit is not very practical if you are going to undertake a proper, thorough inspection. For that reason, be a bit suspicious of any surveyor who turns up looking too smart!

Who are the RICS?

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is the global professional body promoting and enforcing the highest international standards in the valuation, management and development of land, real estate, construction and infrastructure. Only members of the RICS are permitting to deliver RICS survey products and only RICS Registered Valuers can provide Red Book valuations.

Are you a RICS regulated firm?

Yes, Stephen Michael Surveying Limited is regulated by the RICS. This means that the firm has made a commitment to work to RICS standards and I allow the RICS to verify that commitment through auditing and monitoring.

What is the RPSA?

The Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) is a not-for-profit representative body for independent residential surveyors.

Are you insured?

Yes. Stephen Michael Surveying Limited maintains appropriate insurance cover for all work. 

Do you operate a complaints procedure?

Yes, Stephen Michael Surveying Limited has a formal Complaints Handling Procedure (CHP). A copy of the CHP is available on request.