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Commercial Surveyor vs Residential Surveyor – what’s the difference?

Many people think that the work of a Chartered Surveyor solely involves visiting residential properties to carry out a Valuation Report or a Building Survey Report relating to the purchase of a house.

Whilst residential surveys form a large part of the work our firm undertakes, it is by no means the only area in which we specialise.

Another of the main areas we work is commercial building surveys, which depending on the commercial client’s requirements, can often be more detailed and complex than residential surveys. 

Here are some of the main ways that the work of a residential Chartered Surveyor varies from that of a commercial Building Surveyor.

Types of report

The choices of report for residential needs generally fall into one of three types – a Valuation Report, or a Homebuyer Report, or a Building Survey Report. The reports available can vary somewhat in scope – for example, a Building Survey Report is considered to be more ‘in-depth’ than a RICS Homebuyer Report, although the latter is more than suitable for most homebuyer needs.

When it comes to commercial properties, there is a wider range of reports that may be chosen, depending on the client’s commercial needs. To name a few, these include Commercial Property Valuations, Schedules of Condition, Pre-Lease Assessments, Pre-Acquisition Surveys and Schedules of Dilapidations.

Depending on whether we are representing a purchaser, landlord, a tenant, or another interested party, we may also be brought in to advise in a variety of other ways, which again will be highly-specific in respect of the client’s commercial needs.

Experience of working with commercial properties

Due to the nature of commercial buildings as places of work vs residential properties as places to live, the way in which commercial buildings are constructed often varies significantly from the way a conventional home would be built. This is the case for many features of the building, and is also often apparent in the materials and methods of construction used. This is typically true of purpose-built commercial properties, such as offices, industrial units, factories etc. Although inspecting a building from a surveyor’s point of view will often involve the same principles regardless of its purpose, frequent exposure to one type of property can make it easier to spot the types of issues that may be present in the building.

In addition, the Building Regulations required in commercial and residential properties can vary significantly and one cannot be applied to the other setting. Familiarity with working with these regulations on a daily basis can make potential issues easier to identify.

Additionally, the legal requirements and obligations for commercial property owners differ from those that are relevant to residential property ownership.

Due to the different types of experience required when undertaking residential and commercial surveys, Lea Hough has specialist teams who are deployed to work on only residential or only commercial buildings.

Helping to inform decisions

One of the things that both residential and commercial surveys have in common is that they help clients to make informed decisions. Lea Hough prides itself on being approachable; making our Surveyors available to explain any of our findings with clients should they require. Where residential reports often relate to a highly personal and sometimes emotionally invested transaction, commercial reports and our interactions with company clients usually come down to commercial viability and interests.  The type of information we present to clients and the tailored way in which we communicate it may therefore differ slightly across our residential vs commercial Chartered Surveying teams.

In summary, depending on the type of property involved and the nature of the transaction, the report required and the type of surveyor you therefore need to appoint will vary.  Ensuring you get the right advice will come down to doing some research and selecting a Chartered Surveyor with suitable capabilities and experience.

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“We had a Schedule of Condition carried out on a Commercial Property. From vacant possession to our proposed completion date we were really tight on time. Gary managed to carry out the inspection and write a very thorough report in the time needed to ensure we hit our completion date. The price of the report was also extremely competitive. I would recommend Lea Hough to anyone looking for a Professional Surveyors with excellent service & communication at a competitive price.”

Danny Ambler - Fuse Contract Furniture, Blackburn