For larger commercial projects, you’d typically investigate how financially stable they are or ask to see case studies & testimonials from previous clients. For smaller domestic projects, you might ask friends & family for their trusted recommendations or check out online consumer review websites like Checkatrade.com (oh no, that’s it, I’ll be singing their radio ad jingle all afternoon now).
But what about your Building Surveyor? How much do you really know about them and are they cut out to do the job?
Here at PPC Surveyors, we’re proud to offer a reputable service but sadly, not everyone does. So, drawing on my 27 years of experience in the industry, here are 7 clues that might help you sniff out a suspect surveyor before it’s too late!
1. Jack of all trades, master of none
Typically, a surveyor will train and specialise in one of these fields. They don’t tend to jump around from one specialism to another or claim to be able to offer all these services personally unless they’re part of a really large organisation that legitimately can.
Be cautious of surveyors who claim to be able to do it all themselves personally because chances are, they can’t.
Make sure you know the type of surveyor you need, and when you do, ask to see their portfolio of past clients. You should be able to see a pattern of work and importantly, similarities with the project you’re asking them to undertake.
2. All the gear, no idea
RICS is a mark of quality and acts as a seal of approval from the world's leading professional body for qualifications and standards in land, property, infrastructure and construction.
Becoming a chartered surveyor with the RICS isn’t easy. A surveyor must undergo a period of intense training & education, mentoring, exams and a final interview with an expert panel. Once chartered, members must then demonstrate they continue to uphold the ‘5 pillars of ethical behaviour’ and maintain their knowledge through Continued Professional Development (CPD).
Before appointing any surveyor, first check to see if they are personally a member on the RICS website and then that their company is registered with and regulated by RICS.
According to RICS, “regulated firms must follow the RICS Rules of Conduct for Firms and are held to a higher standard in areas such as staff training, professional indemnity insurance, complaints handling and security of clients' money”.
PPC Surveyors are registered and regulated by the RICS; we have been for over 10 years and we always ensure a Chartered Building Surveyor oversees our projects from start to finish.
"Just like a cowboy builder over compensates with a van full of tools, a suspect Building Surveyor might ‘talk the talk’ on site with their glossy business cards, hard hat & high vis and claim they’re an experienced, chartered surveyor but in reality, you might find they’re not even qualified."
3. Pass me the tartan paint!
Everyone has to start somewhere but if you’re working with an early career surveyor, it’s not rude to check how closely they are being supervised and how frequently their work is being assessed by a more experienced hand.
Trainee surveyors should have a strong, supportive team around them who are ready to step in if you ever need them to do an accompanied site visit or escalate issues up to if necessary. Suspect surveyors will leave trainees to their own devices which isn’t good for you or your project, nor fair on the poor trainee who desperately needs the guidance to develop.
4. Got insurance for that?
Has your surveying practice got this cover? Yes? Great, but if so, for what amount? If something goes wrong during your project, you need to make sure they have the appropriate level of insurance.
They might have the cheapest policy they can get which isn’t worth the paper it’s written on or a long history of disputed claims against them – that’s if they have any insurances at all. Avoid these surveyors at your peril!
5. You buy cheap, you buy twice
A good surveyor will always tell you upfront what the costs will be and are fully transparent from the outset if there’s a likelihood additional services might be required in the future. At PPC Surveyors, we like to think we offer value for money. We won’t always be the cheapest out there but we get lots of repeat business, so we must be doing something right!
On the whole, the day rate of your surveyor should be a useful indication of their level of expertise. However, don’t be fooled into thinking the most expensive surveyor will offer you the best service either. Reverse psychology can be another tactic so never assume - check out their credentials first.
Most importantly, what you don’t want is to be paying the day rate of an experienced, RICS accredited surveyor who simply signs off the work of a trainee as their own. This underhand tactic is a sign of a suspect surveyor if ever I saw it!
6. Sign on the dotted line
A professional surveyor will always have official documentation they will ask you to check, sign and return to you before commencing work on your project. It’s as much about protecting you as it is about protecting them.
The documentation will vary depending on the nature and complexity of the project but in general, it should set out the scope of work, list of services you can expect to receive from them and a copy of their Terms & Conditions for you to review.
For assignments like building surveys, we pay a license fee to RICS in order to access their official forms. This way, we know our documentation is always up to date and compliant with RICS Guidance Notes & Practice Statements. A suspect surveyor may not be aware of these standard terms of appointment or use their own documents as a money-saving exercise.
"A professional surveyor will always have official documentation they will ask you to check, sign and return to you before commencing work on your project. It’s as much about protecting you as it is about protecting them."
7. The proof is in the pudding
Poor quality surveyors are just in it for the money and don’t genuinely care about you or your project. They won’t act with integrity or professionalism, they’ll miss things or make mistakes along the way and worst of all, manufacture issues so they can bill you extra. To minimise the risk, speak to previous clients listed on their corporate website and sales brochures - not just the ones they tell you to speak to.
In comparison, good surveyors will take full responsibility for the brief from start to finish, consistently delivering work to the highest standard. In the unlikely occasion their work doesn’t hit the grade you expected or agreed, they should make good without fuss.
However big or small the query, we always aim to get back to our clients within 48 hours or less because we recognise that if it’s important to you, it should be important to us too.
So, after reading through my 7 clues, what does your gut instinct say?
Well, they might be old clichés, but if someone seems too good to be true, chances are they are and if a situation doesn’t feel right, chances are it isn’t.
Reduce the likelihood of getting a suspect Building Surveyor on your next project; take my advice and research them in the same way you would your contractor. Opt for a chartered surveyor and you’ll reap the benefits in the long run. Trust me (honest, you can!).
I hope you found my advice helpful. As the owner of PPC Surveyors Ltd, I’m an experienced Chartered Building Surveyor and an active member of RICS who upholds their code of ethics.
If you feel that my services are something that could help you on your next building project, please feel free to say hello.