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Why You Shouldn’t Attend Your Survey

Sunday, 25th April 2010 | by: Peter Barry

I’m asked by clients quite regularly if they can ‘drop by’ towards the end of a survey inspection to get a ‘quick run down’ – I always politely refuse. I have lost instructions in the past for taking this stance but the more surveys I do the more sure I am that it is correct.

Apart from the fact that I have no authority to allow a prospective purchaser in to an existing owner’s property there are surveying reasons why it’s not a good idea.

In the past the courts have been critical of surveyors that dictate their reports at the property. The reason for this is that reports written in that way tend to have a ‘say what you see’ quality. When surveyors are trained they are always advised to ‘follow the trail’, in other words, investigate the likely cause of a particular defect and consider whether there might be a link to any other noted defects. In this way we avoid making snap decisions.

There have been occasions when the full picture has only become apparent while I am writing the report. A good example might be with low level dampness to a Victorian property with suspended timber floors. During the inspection the dampness is likely to be noted as the walls will be tested with a moisture meter. The ‘trail’ would probably lead you to inspect the floor joist as closely as you could for signs of rot where they were in contact with the damp walls. There are a number of possible causes for the dampness but if while going through your notes you saw that a number of the cast iron gutter joints had corroded elsewhere on the property then leaking gutters would be flagged up as the most likely. This would be difficult to test when surveying the property on a dry day put while reflecting on the notes it becomes apparent.

There are other reasons why talking to your surveyor during the inspection is a bad idea. Although they may deny it, I  have a strong suspicion that clients who want ‘a quick run down’ don’t go on to read the whole report. If that is the case they are not getting the full picture and probably missing out on many pieces of important advice.

On one of the few occasions that a client did attend one of my inspections (they just showed up so I didn’t have much choice!) they talked so much that I almost missed a potentially serious defect.

So, while I am always happy to discuss a report with a client after they have read it please don’t ask to join me on the inspection – it’s for you own good.