How Good Is Your Home Survey and Surveyor?

You have agreed to buy a Home and have all sorts of costs: is a House survey essential and if they are all the same why would I not buy the cheapest.

Often I hear this, usually from first-time-buyers but also from seasoned buyers. The answer is simple – the chances are that you are correct but a significant proportion of buyers purchase a problem and then wish they had taken better quality, or any advice at all. Do you really want to take a chance with such a big investment?

If you are prepared to rely on chance then you don’t need me, or any other Surveyor. Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors research suggests that the average homebuyer faces an unforeseen repair bill of about £2,000. If you don’t want such an expense, and don’t want to rely on chance, then you only have one way to go – talk to a Surveyor to see what survey options you have so you use your money wisely, not blindly.

A good Surveyor will reveal these currently hidden defects, tell you what a reasonable repair budget cost is, the effect of that cost on the value of the home (often more than the cost of works) and how to best re-negotiate your offered price. If those negotiations are successful your survey fee will repay itself many times over.

So, what are the hallmarks of a possible cheap survey service as opposed to those of a high quality survey service?

Well – first of all let’s define the core quality areas:

  1. Fee Costs are explained
  2. Good communications means
  3. Initial Free Consultation available
  4. Product options are explained
  5. Choice of Adviser
  6. Short term appointment scheduling
  7. Good local knowledge
  8. Verbal initial Report
  9. Report explanation meeting
  10. Later further advice is available
  11. Simultaneous Loan Valuation with the private Survey?

If you were to not exercise any quality control self-protection by letting non-property Advisers design your property advice then the answers to the above 11 core advice areas would look something like this:-

  1. FEES – 2012 rates start at about £400 for a private Homebuyer Report.
  2. COMMUNICATION – via an intermediatory, not a Surveyor direct.
  3. FREE CONSULTATION – not available from a Surveyor.
  4. PRODUCT OPTIONS – Often not discussed at all (do you want a survey or not, is the only advice offered!).
  5. SURVEYOR CHOICE – Despite the BIG NAME or Branding you are dealing with you will have no idea who is to work for you, or his/her experience and record.
  6. APPOINTMENTS – Often within a 7 to 21 day range (too long).
  7. KNOWLEDGE – Without talking to your Surveyor how do you know they will have knowledge of the house type, its local area and the specific type of defects it is liable to suffer from.
  8. VERBAL REPORT – This speeds things up and provides re-assurance you need BUT is lacking when you are using a cheap, non-personal Survey Company.
  9. REPORT EXPLANATION – You must understand the whole report – can you get at the Surveyor to explain all matters to you? Probably not.
  10. FURTHER ADVICE – Along the route to a successful purchase or disposal all sorts of problems and queries crop up. Is your Surveyor available to field questions at any time and long after the initial survey was completed?
  11. LINKED LOAN VALUATION – If your Advisers tell you to link the Loan Valuation to the private survey then you are running some serious risks of undeclared commissions and quality issues. Never mix Loan Valuations with Private Surveys.

If you grasp the initiative and control the way you instruct a private Surveyor direct, the core quality benchmarks will revert to something like this:-

  1. FEES – Private Survey fee costs will start at about £500.
  2. COMMUNICATION – Will always be direct with a Surveyor, and only that Surveyor.
  3. FREE CONSULTATION – Your Surveyor will always be available for free advice.
  4. PRODUCT OPTIONS – These will always be discussed.
  5. SURVEYOR CHOICE – You will be able to ensure your Surveyor ticks all the boxes you demand.
  6. APPOINTMENTS – Survey inspection will be scheduled within the next 2 to 7 working days.
  7. KNOWLEDGE – You can check this because you have access to your Surveyor.
  8. VERBAL REPORT – Yes – this can be arranged to suit you so you have the reassurance to proceed as soon as possible.
  9. REPORT EXPLANATION – Once you have the written Report if you need further explanation and advice this can be arranged.
  10. FURTHER ADVICE – Property transactions always throw up uncertainty and confusion and any high quality Surveyor will be available to smooth things over and at any time (all part of the service).
  11. LINKED LOAN VALUATION – Never do this: too many conflicts of interest exist and the ability of a Valuer to produce a high quality Survey is open to question.

So a summary of the self-protection you need can be recognised. Below are 11 further benchmarks to be on the lookout for as they can tell you if you are being taken for a ride by an intermediatory:-

  1. Your Financial Adviser will recommend a simultaneous Loan Company Valuation service with the private survey added to it (supposedly to save you money).
  2. Your Solicitor should recommend a private Surveyor to you so why would you need to rely on the choice of an Estate Agent, Financial Adviser or other such Non-Surveying middleman?
  3. Often the Survey Appointment is delayed for many days as Valuations are more important to Loan Companies than Private Surveys.
  4. Your Surveyor may be a great local Valuer, but is he/she an experienced Surveyor as well (probably not). Ask the Surveyor how many surveys he completed in relation to the number of pure valuations he completes!
  5. If you pay for a simultaneous Valuation and private Survey but these are done by two differing people then the Loan Company have probably out-sourced your Survey out to a cheap Surveyor who is paying the Loan Company a commission for that service (often not disclosed to you even though it is mandatory to declare any such arrangement).
  6. No Surveyor will call you to discuss your needs and worries. This means a tailored service cannot be designed for you.
  7. When you next speak to the Sellers, ask them how long the Surveyor took on-site (under two hours and you should be worried) and whether detailed questions were thrown at the owners (if not, then the Surveyor has not done his job properly).
  8. If your Report is full of repetitions and standardised text/paragraphs (easy to detect as the language used is similar for all sections and can be full of “appears to be… ” phrases) then the Surveyor is not using his brain to report to you individually but instead is more concerned to reduce liability to you by treating you like any other client and therefore no personalisation can be built in to your report.
  9. If you have Report queries just try to talk to the actual Surveyor to have a detailed conversation with him/her. If this is difficult or not possible then the chances are you are talking to a Big Name but cheap-service Company (often with very familiar Names and Branding).
  10. To the actual Surveyor who is going to inspect the premises for you, ask (before they inspect your next home) if he/she has any negligence claims at all in their career. Many Surveyors have large numbers of claims against them and they are not expelled from membership of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) as RICS do not follow such trends.
  11. If you can get through to talk to your Surveyor ask if they can recommend local Contractors and Specialists to further investigate the problems identified in the Loan Valuation or Survey Report: lack of positive response will probably mean a lack of local knowledge and so why did they accept your job in the first place?

At the end of the day it comes down to a basic choice – are you going to take the initiative to create self-protection or roll over and let the system make money out of you whilst protecting their own backs, not yours? The choice is yours.

Ten Pieces of Home-Flipping Advice

First piece of advice: remember that bad things DO happen. As with just about every project in life, no matter how well you prepare and plan, there will be unforeseen obstacles and accidents that you’ll have to overcome. Be prepared to play “defense”.

Second piece of advice: information is power. Find out everything you can about a property before buying it. Know how much the bank or seller has invested in it BEFORE you make an offer on it. Also, learn everything about the locality and nearby areas.

Third piece of advice: keep organized records. Record the miles you put on your vehicle. Save your receipts for tools, meals, paying your workers, etc. You’d be surprised how much you can deduct on your taxes. Consult a CPA to take full advantage of your write-offs.

Fourth piece of advice: don’t count out lawyers. For added protection with legal issues, consult a lawyer. Have a lawyer review all legal paperwork for you. They are truly worth their weight in gold.

Fifth piece of advice: pay by the job – not by the hour. Your hired help will work harder and smarter if they are paid by the job. Jobs should be separated by phases – for example, the “demolition phase” or the “bathrooms” phase.

Sixth piece of advice: get everything in writing. This truly applies to all agreements between you and anyone you hire. Make it clear that you must be satisfied with a particular job BEFORE paying any money.

Seventh piece of advice: keep the workplace clean. It’s easy to lose track of that drill you were using yesterday or that box of nails that you bought two days ago. Only remove materials from your “pile” that you’re going to use and at the end of each work day.

Eighth piece of advice: stretch your holding costs. There is absolutely no reason to pay a utility bill or a mortgage payment way before their due dates. Don’t be late with them, but don’t be super-early with them either.

Ninth piece of advice: stay in the loop. Keep yourself well-informed by frequently inspecting the progress being made (if you’re not doing the work yourself). Constantly ask your staff if they need anything: more help, special equipment, etc. Make sure your house remains secure by testing the windows and doors occasionally.

Tenth piece of advice: scrapbook. Some investors maintain a scrapbook of their projects by taking pictures at various phases of the rehabilitation. Daily journals are another great way to record your projects.

Generally speaking, if you stay organized, informed, and ready for any obstacle or unwanted surprises, you will have many successful projects in your home-flipping future. Build a network of contacts, such as potential buyers, city workers, plumbers, electricians, etc. Most importantly, don’t risk more than you can afford to. Your first rehab project should be nothing more than a part-time, weekend hobby.

For more free articles and previews to The Field Guide to Flipping Homes, visit the official site at []

Designing a Child-Friendly Home

A large percentage of child mortality is attributed to accidental injuries rather than crimes like homicide, kidnapping, or assaults. Some of these accidents may happen at home. As parents we want to prevent our child from being hurt-especially in our own home.

Childproofing your home doesn’t mean moving all of your stuff so mishaps will not happen. It is checking and dealing with potential dangers that may cause injury or harm to your children. Here are some ways to make your home child-friendly:

Inside the Home

o Make sure the locks of storage cabinets are child resistant. This will prevent them from touching or swallowing any chemicals that we use to clean our house, kill pests, or as medicines.

o Cleaning agents must be stored in a higher storage cabinet.

o Common household items can also do harm and should be out of children’s reach. Samples of these are mouthwash, cosmetics, medicines, and spices.

o All medicines in whatever form (tablet, capsule, syrup, ointment) should be placed in a medicinal box with a lock. Keep the key where a child cannot reach it.

o Instead of putting cleaning agents under your sink’s cabinet, you may use it as extra storage for the toys of your kids.

o Phone cords and other electric wires must be bundled.

o The handle of the pots must be turned to the direction of the stove during cooking. This is to avoid accidental reaching and scalding of children.

o Avoid using table cloths.

o A toddler must always be attended while in the bathroom.

o Buy those plastic inserts which you can use to cover all electrical outlets.

o Make the stairs childproof by putting gates on top and bottom.

o For restricted rooms, use a door knob which cannot be opened by children.

o Make sure your kid can open the door from the inside and outside of the bathroom or any room which he has access to.

o Set as off limits the garage, attic, and basement.

o Lock safely big buckets or pails which can drown a child.

o Educate the older members of the family where they can get first aid materials and teach them the basics.

o Post emergency numbers where they are accessible so help can be called immediately when accidents occur

o Install smoke alarms on all rooms of the house.

Outside the Home

o Check you fences for sharp edges which may wound your children upon contact.

o Get rid of plants that are poisonous or bushes that attracts bees or harmful insects.

o Keep your tools in the garden out of children’s reach.

o Repair walk ways or clean them to avoid falling or tripping.

o Keep the children away when mowing the lawn. Some power lawnmowers have a tendency to hurl rocks.

o Check the play area for puddles or water deposits.

o Check the material used for building the play equipment.

o A swing rope must be able to carry your own poundage.

o Have a first aid kit near the pool area.

o Do not allow kids to enter the pool area without the supervision of an adult.

These are just some tips to keep your children from harms’ way. The key to child safety at home is being observant, sensitive and adaptive to the needs of the younger members of the family.