Four Reasons Why A Building Survey Is Anything But A Tick-box Exercise

Issue 38

Puneet Vedhera, Associate at Knight Frank Newcastle, shares his expertise on building surveys.

You wouldn’t buy a house without having it surveyed, would you? And the same should apply to buying a commercial building. But you’d be amazed at how many think it’s not necessary and just a tick in a box.

I have worked as a building surveyor and project manager in commercial property for around eight years now – covering offices, industrial and retail properties with projects ranging from £50k to over £10m.

I am frequently involved in commercial and residential sales, often where the purchaser is hesitant to instruct a building survey unless it is an express requirement of their financers.

Quite often all the buyer wants to know is, is my building going to fall down? Most chartered building surveyors can answer that in minutes of seeing a building.

The value of a full survey is something that should not be underestimated. That survey could save or indeed make you a fortune.

Gone are the days where a building survey provides just a statement of fact, highlighting construction methods and a building’s condition, or just a regurgitated CIBSE guidance note stating the average life expectancy of elements and plant.

The real value in appointing a property professional to undertake a building survey is to benefit from their experience and expert opinion and advice.

That surveyor, if they are part of a multi-discipline property firm, can give you a commercial view on all aspects of a building.

They can give you considered advice through discussing a building or project with their sales agency, valuation, management or landlord and tenant specialists.

1. Market Trends

Experienced building surveyors often hold valuable expertise in what occupiers and purchasers are looking for and can advise you on how to stay on top of the market. We often advise on conversion and refurbishment costs and the likely end values within our building survey reports in order to maximise our client’s investment.

2. Leases

In our day-to-day role we advise our clients on both landlord and tenant sides on leases, schedules of condition and dilapidations. We are therefore well placed to advise on the level of risk imposed on a purchaser.

Common mistakes include an investment where there is a large blue chip company with a long FRI lease that is effectively ineffective due to a schedule of condition. On the other hand, we often see purchasers become uneasy about leases where a schedule of condition is in place where in fact the schedule would not be as detrimental to their position at dilapidations stage as it would first seem.

3. Property Management & Planned Maintenance Opportunities

It is very easy for a surveyor to pick faults in any building, old or new, and we often review damning reports of properties or portfolios where a surveyor has highlighted potential risks and the associated costs. Our advice goes one step further, highlighting opportunities with utilising service charges, undertaking less costly short-term repairs, providing advice on prioritising items in order to help spread costs throughout the property lifecycle, or ensuring high risk items within a portfolio are dealt with correctly.

4. Capital Expenditure and Asset Management Opportunities

A good surveyor can and should highlight and advise on opportunities through their expertise and involvement in refurbishment projects. Market knowledge procured through such involvement ultimately means a surveyor understands how expenditure can be utilised in order to create best value.

The above are just a few examples of good, commercially minded qualities that anybody dealing in property should be looking for in a building surveyor as part of their normal due diligence. A building surveyor can offer valuable advice and this should be seen as an opportunity rather than an obligation.

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