The new Home survey standard forms part of RICS' commitment to promote and enforce the highest standards in the residential sector. It brings together the views of consumers, cross-industry stakeholders and RICS professionals with the aim of becoming the sector's best-practice benchmark for consistency and quality, to foster trust in the condition survey market.
In April 2019, RICS launched an industry and consumer consultation on its proposals, following a comprehensive review of existing guidance that began in early 2018. This identified the need for a professional statement with a set of mandatory requirements. These will help members conducting condition surveys to serve the changing needs of the marketplace and improve the homebuying and selling process.
As part of the review, the project team engaged extensively with members – corporates and small and medium-sized enterprises – and industry stakeholders. The team established leaders' forums to canvass the views of lenders, consumers and other relevant sectors to develop a fit-for-purpose document.
It also conducted consumer-targeted research to identify end users' requirements clearly and reflect these correctly in the document. Consumers' top priorities in a survey were receiving advice on property problems and likely repairs, highlighting potential legal issues, and seeing a home survey from the seller.
The document is designed to increase consistency, transparency and competency across all residential surveys in the UK. It will stand alone as the standard for home surveys, replacing and harmonising the previous practice notes, guidance notes and professional statements for all levels of condition survey.
Member consultation responses have been positive, with most respondents agreeing that clients' experience of home survey services provided by RICS professionals must be improved. Many confirmed the principle that the standard will offer greater clarity and understanding for the client on the condition of their property.
The mandatory requirements establish a clear framework that sets minimum expectations for residential property surveyors. It underlines the need for members to understand client needs fully, and have the appropriate knowledge, skills and experience to provide the agreed service. They address such issues as conflicts of interest, terms of engagement, document storage and retention and the minimum expectations for reports.
RICS members must take all reasonable steps to ensure consumers are advised on the options offered. They must make certain that potential clients understand the differences between the levels of service, including the extent and limitations of each option. They must ensure their service is benchmarked against the defined levels as a minimum. Any variations should be highlighted in accordance with client requirements. Chartered surveyors must be familiar with the subject property and area in which it is located.
They must also carry out appropriate research before inspecting in accordance with the benchmark. Then they must only recommend further investigation where it can be justified, and be very clear in the report about the scope of inspection, including limitations, caveats and actions available to the client.
The standard addresses the need for members or firms to have access to suitable equipment to complete the service, and looks at inspection methodology, scope and safety, and risk to occupants. It sets out a framework that enables RICS members and regulated firms to develop their own services that the public can trust, and which are consistent with the high standards expected of them.
RICS has already seen examples of products being developed in compliance with this standard, to focus on the importance of meeting consumer requirements.
The organisation is also developing tools and materials for members to support them and ensure consistency in the high level of service they provide to consumers.
These supporting materials will also be aligned with the redesign of the RICS Home Survey report forms and updated consumer-friendly content, materials and information. This will guide members in advising clients who are buying, selling or letting their home. As Home Reports in Scotland are a legislated product, key variations are described in the professional statement and separate guidance will be forthcoming for the nation. The professional statement now becomes effective on 1 December 2020.
Ana Bajri is associate director global property standards at RICS email@example.com