In the course of buying a property, whether for investment or to live in, the buyer will often view a few properties just to get a feel for the market and to discover what they actually want in terms of area, bedrooms, bathrooms etc.
Sooner or later at a house viewing, the price will match what you are willing to pay and you will want to investigate further either before or after putting in a bid. Some vendors can be flexible particularly in a slow selling market and will encourage multiple viewings. Arrange your inspection visit and bring a torch with you.
This will be the first survey and it really is a preliminary assessment. The section on What is a house buyers inspection? explains this type of survey and it will take 1-2 hours probably. You check the basics of the house condition and control services and basic 'functioning'. It is not an 'expert' home survey but helps you to filter out homes that may need investment or refurbishment. If you feel the property passes and suits your needs, then the next steps are the detailed surveys. If you find problems, get a repair cost and approach the vendor with a revised offer - if they refuse to negotiate, then you have to decide if you really want the property and are willing to pay for further detailed inspections. Further inspections may show up faults so your initial survey also helps you to assess if the vendor will bargain. Read our article about House Survey and Insurance to see why a pre-purchase inspection is so important!
An electrician will check the electrical wiring system and verify that it is suitable and safe - you should also think on possible changes that you would like to make to the property - for example, maybe you want to have an electric instead of gas cooker - will the current wiring be suitable and how much would changes cost? A gas boiler and central heating system should also be checked by a gas verified installer from Gas Safe.
RICS is the Royal College of Chartered Surveyors and members are professionally qualified. They have various levels of surveys and these vary from a basic visual inspection to a more thorough assessment. It is emphasized that when checking services or windows etc, at most they will check a 'selection' - they do NOT check all taps/switches etc - that is your job in your preliminary inspection. The RICS surveyor may then recommend a specific type of survey if they discover dampness or suspect a structural fault or weakness.
These are professional surveys carried out by professionally qualified engineers and mainly check structural items or compliance with building regulations - if the home your are buying has had an extension built on, it is always worthwhile to ensure that it is compliant with Building Regulations both in terms of construction and paperwork - did it have planning permission for example?