Pre-Purchase Apartment Survey
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Who needs a pre-purchase apartment survey?
A: Anyone who is purchasing or selling an apartment, duplex or maisonette.
Q: What is an “Apartment Survey”?
A: An apartment survey is an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of an individual apartment, duplex or maisonette unit. The examination includes the interior ceilings, floors, walls, balconies and windows. The report will include an overview of the common areas of the apartment, duplex or maisonette block (where there is safe accessible access at the time of inspection) e.g. roofs, underground parking spaces, fire precautions and means of escape. A cursory view of the heating, plumbing and electrical systems is included. Having an apartment inspected is like giving it a physical check-up.
Q: Why you should choose to have a professional apartment inspection?
A: We cannot emphasize enough the value and necessity of a professional apartment inspection. Many apartment purchasers, either in the desire to save the €300 to €400 that a good inspection costs, or due to simple ignorance, have spent enormous sums of money repairing items that any good building engineering companies report would have pointed out.
Any offer you make to purchase should be contingent upon a professional apartment survey with a satisfactory report. Do not let anyone, not your family or friends, and especially not the seller or builders dissuade you from having the property thoroughly inspected! Not only will you sleep much sounder after you have moved in, a professional inspection can also give you the ability to opt out of a contract on a defective apartment.
Be prepared, begin the search for a professional building engineering company to perform your survey before you place an offer on an apartment. If you only start trying to find an acceptable company at the last minute, the company of your choice may not be able to schedule your survey in the required time frame. This will leave you with only two choices: to either appoint an engineer that is not your first choice, or to run the risk of not getting the apartment professionally surveyed at all (which could void any chance of having the seller take care of repairs). Neither choice is an acceptable alternative!
Q: Why do I need an apartment pre-purchase building survey?
A: The purchase of a home is probably the largest single investment you will ever make. You should learn as much as you can about the condition of the property and the need for any major repairs before you buy, so that you can minimize unpleasant surprises and difficulties afterwards. Of course, a building survey will also point out the positive aspects of a home. After the inspection, you will have a much clearer understanding of the property you are about to purchase and will be able to make a confident buying decision.
If you have owned your home for a long time, an apartment survey can identify problems in the making and recommend preventive measures which might avoid costly future repairs. In addition, home sellers may opt to have a survey on their own home prior to placing it on the market. This will help them to gain a better understanding of conditions a buyer’s building survey report may point out. Doing this provides an opportunity to make repairs prior to going to market, that will put the apartment in better selling condition, and contribute to a quicker sale.
Q: Is a mortgage valuation report the same as a building survey?
A: No, the two reports are very different, and have different functions. A mortgage valuation report or ‘valuation’ as it is often called is carried out by your mortgage lender to only check the value of the property and its suitability for a mortgage.
Q: How much does an apartment survey cost?
A: The apartment survey cost for a typical single-family residence varies. It will depend upon the size and its age of the apartment. Our online quotation service will provide you with a quotation on screen today.
However, do not let cost be a factor in deciding whether to have an apartment survey, or in the selection of your engineering company. The knowledge gained from an inspection is well worth the cost, and the lowest priced report is not necessarily a bargain. The company’s experience in the area of pre-purchase apartment surveys, along with their professionalism should be the most important considerations. If you require a bank valuation you should consult local auctioneers.
Q: Can I do the survey myself?
A: Even the most experienced home owner lacks the expertise, knowledge and experience that a company has gained from inspecting thousands of homes. A building engineering company would be familiar with all the elements of home construction, their proper installation, and maintenance. They understand how the home’s systems and components are intended to function together, as well as how and why they fail.
Above all, most buyers find it very difficult to remain completely objective and unemotional about the apartment they really want, and this may affect their judgment. For the most accurate picture, it is best to obtain an impartial third-party opinion by an expert in the field of building surveys.
Q: Can an apartment fail a survey?
A: No. A professional building survey is an examination of the current condition of the property being inspected. The report will not pass or fail an apartment, but rather describe its physical condition and indicate what may need to be repaired or replaced.
Q: How do I find a good company to perform my apartment survey?
A: The best source is a friend, relative or business acquaintance who can recommend a company that they have used and with whom they were satisfied with. Solicitors and estate agents are also generally familiar with the service and should be able to provide you with a list of companies from which to choose. Whatever your referral source, be sure to verify the building engineer’s professional qualifications and experience. Always make sure you see a sample copy of a building survey report, and the terms and conditions covering the survey before you make your selection.
Q: When do I call in a building engineering company?
A: Typically building engineers are called in right after the contract or purchase agreement has been signed and are usually available within a few days. However, before you sign be sure that there is a building survey clause in the contract, making your purchase obligation contingent upon the findings of a professional building survey report.
Q: How do I get a quotation?
A: Getting a quotation from Property Health Check is very quick and easy, just fill in a short form and click “Get quote now”. The form is easy to complete and asks a few simple questions about the size and age of the apartment. (The age of the apartment complex or block is generally shown in the BER). After clicking “Get quote now” the price will be displayed on screen and a quotation is emailed to the client. Clients can advise us online that they would like to make a booking. Our Customer Care Team will then call to finalise the booking.
Q: How do I book a survey?
A: There are several ways to book in a survey:
- Start the booking process while viewing their quote online by just clicking “Yes – I would like to book now”. Customer Care will follow up to finalise the booking.
- Click the “book now” link in the quotation email and Customer Care will follow up to finalise the booking.
- Call Customer Care with your quotation number and they will guide you through the process.
Q: Can I request a recommended engineer for my survey?
A: It is always good to hear that a Property Health Check engineer has been recommended. However, all Property Health Check engineers are experienced and professionally trained. You can be confident that our clients are provided with the same level of quality service regardless of which engineer provides the inspection. Due to scheduling availability a different engineer may be scheduled to perform your inspection.
Q: How soon can you inspect the property?
A: This is dependent on availability at the time of booking and accessibility to the property however a survey can usually be scheduled in approximately 3 workings days after the booking date. Customer Care will provide a more specific idea when a booking is made.
Q: How and when do I pay for the survey?
A: Payment can be made by credit card, debit card, and Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). Customer Care will ask for payment details when the survey is booked in, however credit or debit card payments are not actioned until the day of the survey. Payment in full is required on the day of inspection.
Q: Who arranges access for the survey?
A: All access arrangements are organised by Property Health Check. We will contact the agency or vendor directly. Sometimes this can take a little time as the contact person is not always immediately available, and dates and times must be confirmed before scheduling can be completed. Clients are emailed confirmation of the date when scheduling for the inspection is completed.
Q: Do I have to be present at the survey?
A: It is not necessary for you to be present for the survey.
Q: Can I attend the survey if I’d like to?
A: We have no objections to a client attending a survey. It is best to attend towards the end of the survey. The engineer will have had time to inspect the property without distraction and give the survey his full attention. With this knowledge he can then discuss your queries with you. You should however contact the agency directly to request permission to attend as the property is their responsibility, and we are not at liberty to provide this permission.
Q: How long will the inspection take?
A: Generally, an apartment inspection takes between 1 and 3 hours depending on the size and age of the property.
Q: Can the land registry compliant map be compared to the property at the time of inspection?
A: During the conveyancing process your legal adviser will probably forward onto you a land registry compliant map or title map showing the legal boundaries around the property. They will ask you to confirm that the map matches the property that you are buying. They may advise you to forward these maps to your engineer so that he can confirm that the map boundaries match with the property in questions boundaries. However, the map is often only provided by vendors much later in the process, subsequently in most cases this request does not take place until the latter part of the conveyancing process, long after the survey has taken place.
If you can provide a relevant map by email 2 days before the inspection, then the engineer can compare the boundaries on the map with the property boundaries as part of the survey fee. If the map cannot or is not provided in time a revisit will be required to compare the map with the physical boundaries of the property, and to report on the findings. This service will incur an additional re-visit fee.
To try and save clients additional costs and avoid unnecessary delays and inspection cancellations we provide a few suggestions:
- Clients obtain a copy of the map from their solicitor if it is readily available and supply it to Property Health Check Ltd at the time of booking in the survey.
- Clients obtain/purchase a copy of the necessary map themselves from third parties, e.g. www.landdirect.ie or www.osi.ie or www.prai.ie or PRAI – FAQ’S or www.elra.eu and supply it to Property Health Check Ltd at time of booking in the survey.
Q: Do you inspect the whole apartment complex or block?
A: The apartment survey is limited to the inspected apartment only. A walk through of common areas that are safe and accessible on the day of the inspection will also take place, and any relevant comments will be included in the report. However, it is important that purchasers always contact the management company and find out if there are any known defects to the apartment block structure.
Q: Do you inspect the roof of the apartment?
A: If there is safe accessible stair access available at the time of inspection the engineer will include a visual inspection of the apartment block roof coverings. If the apartment is on the top storey and there is an attic, again if there is safe access, an inspection of the attic space will be included.
Q: Do you inspect underground parking spaces?
A: Where there is access available at the time of survey the location of the space will be inspected and commented on. It is important to let us know that there is a parking space connected to the apartment and what the space number is so that it can be included in the report. The underground area will be included as part of the common area walk through, again if access is available at the time of the survey.
Q: What if the report reveals problems?
A: No building is perfect. If the engineer finds problems it doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t buy the apartment, only that you will know in advance what to expect. A seller may be flexible with the purchase price or contract terms if major problems are found. If your budget is very tight, or if you don’t wish to become involved in future repair work, this information will be extremely important to you.
Dependent on the issue it is also advisable to check that there is a sinking fund for the block or complex and that the fund is large enough to cover any future necessary repairs e.g. replacement of a roof, replacement of a lift.
Q: What if I find problems after I move into my new home?
A: A building survey is not a guarantee that problems won’t develop after you move in. However, if you believe that a problem was already visible at the time of the survey and should have been mentioned in the report, your first step should be to call and meet with the engineer to clarify the situation. Misunderstandings are often resolved in this manner.
All companies providing building surveys should carry professional indemnity liability insurance. The minimum amount of insurance coverage should cover the cost of re-instating your apartment if the engineer misses something that he should have reported on.
Q: If the apartment proves to be in good condition, did I really need an inspection?
A: Definitely. Now you can complete your home purchase with peace of mind about the condition of the property. You will also have learned a few things about your new home from the pre-purchase survey report and will want to keep that information for future reference. Above all, you can feel assured that you are making a well-informed purchase decision, and that you will be able to enjoy your new home the way you want to.
Q: Do all apartments have to meet fire safety regulations?
A: Building regulations for apartments were introduced in 1992. Buildings that were constructed or have undergone improvement or development after this date should have a fire safety certificate. Apartment blocks constructed before 1992 do not have to have a fire safety certificate. The apartment survey report will comment on the current fire safety status of the apartment unit.
Q: Can I talk to the engineer after the inspection?
A: Whenever possible our engineers contact clients on the evening of the survey to provide a quick rundown of how the survey went and flag any key issues found. Clients are invited to call the engineer back to discuss the report once it has been issued and the client has had an opportunity to read and digest the information provided. It is important to us that our clients understand what has been reported on.
Q: When will I receive my report?
A: The full report, including annotated photo’s, is emailed to clients 3 working days after the inspection date. The email will contain a link to a secure site, where the report can be viewed and downloaded. The reports are provided in colour PDF format.
It is most important that the report is accurate and well written and does not have errors or omissions. We therefore do not make commitments to have the report emailed to clients within 24 hours. We are very aware that clients are working within a strict timeline and that it is important that they receive their reports in a timely fashion. We provide an efficient service and always provide our reports within the quoted time scale, as client reviews confirm.
Q: Can you share a copy of my report for me with anyone?
A: Good communication and sharing of information between Solicitors and Estate Agents can significantly help prevent unnecessary holdups in the purchase or sale of a property. Some clients find it very helpful and like their report to be shared with their solicitor and/or the estate agent. If instructed, we will share an abbreviated version of your report with the advisors that you specify in the quote form. The shortened report contains information that pertains to:
1) The Overall Property Rating gives a general rating for the condition of the property.
2) The Pre-Contract Investigation of Title (PCIT) provides information and recommendations relevant to the completion of PCIT, such as:
- Potential changes carried out to property
- Site boundaries
- Property overhanging / encroachment
- Water supply observations
- Waste water discharge observations
- Garage / Sheds within site
3) The Checklist provides a list of items that should be attended to and checked off before closing.
The abbreviated report will be issued to the chosen advisors the same day as the report is issued to the client. We will communicate as required with these chosen advisors about the shared report. However, if other services are required by your solicitor or estate agents we will liaise with you before any additional work is carried out.
Q: Do planning issues form part of the apartment pre-purchase survey?
A: Planning searches, reviewing planning documentation, other files, maps, etc and/or making inquiries with statutory agencies or local Planning Authorities are not included in the pre-purchase structural survey. We provide for this through our “Detailed Planning Search” service. However, your structural survey report includes a dedicated “PCIT” section to assist your legal advisor in better understanding the property they are advising you on. For example, based on a visual inspection the engineer may make comments and observations on extensions that have been made to the original property, changes to the property that may be exempt or would require planning permission, interior alterations, observed rights of way, over sailing encroachment issues and physical boundary issues. The engineer’s comments will be limited as they do not include an examination / search or review of any existing files or documents relating to the property. This section is provided to assist the client and their legal advisor when requesting certain certificates or consents from the vendor as part of the property conveyance.
Q: What is PCIT?
A: PCIT stands for Pre-Contract Investigation of Title. On 1st January 2019 the new PCIT system was introduced in Ireland with the intention of “improving the conveyancing process by ensuring questions relating to the property’s title are raised and resolved before the contracts are signed” (Law Society Ireland).
Q: Where can I find out more information about this survey?
A: If you have further questions, please read our terms and conditions. These are written in layman terms and will explain what is included and not included in your report. Viewing the sample survey video will provide a visual illustration of how your survey will look and what will be included in it. Our Customer Care team will provide any additional direction required.
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