maconnais house with typical high terraced roofs for shadow around the house

Finding a qualified chartered surveyor in France doesn’t have to be a wild goose chase says John Snell

Q. How do I find a good surveyor in France?

A. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has a global presence and its website, has a ‘Find a Surveyor’ search facility. In France, a similar function is provided by the Compagnie Nationale des Experts Immobiliers. The CNEI and RICS, amongst others, are joint signatories to the ‘Chartre de l’expertise’. Social media platforms such as Facebook are often a useful source of information when it comes to finding professionals, traders, artisans and suchlike. Some circumspection is advised as there are some individuals describing themselves as surveyors who are neither trained, qualified nor accredited.

Q. How much does a survey cost on average?

A. There are many different types of survey – from a simple walk-over inspection to a fully invasive building survey. Site visits can be made to address a single matter without undertaking a comprehensive inspection of the property. Offering a guide, a comprehensive property survey covering all the areas of normal concern for a 20th-century four-bedroom house of around 150m2 habitable surface would be in the region of €650. Travelling expenses would apply, as appropriate. A ‘live’ survey (joint inspection with the client but lacking a detailed written report) is charged on a day rate – mine is currently €500 plus travel costs, but others might have different rates.

Q. I hear people in France use a builder to get a quote for all the potential work needed before buying instead of hiring a surveyor (as far as I understand the profession of surveyor doesn’t exist in France). What’s the advantage of hiring a UK surveyor versus a French builder?

A. The broad scope of a surveyor’s work is not fully understood in France due to the various disciplines and skills having never been grouped into a single professional activity. A surveyor investigates, identifies and advises; a contractor/builder provides costings. A surveyor’s report contains a schedule of repair recommendations based on the findings of the survey inspection which are fully explained together with the underlying pathology – not all building defects are straightforward and visible. A surveyor’s role is not simply to identify building defects; there can be legal and town planning issues, third-party rights, environmental issues, land encroachments etc. – all of which need to be considered before agreeing to buy a property.

Q. What sort of things does a survey cover?

A. A standard survey should include placing the property in its environment (noisy neighbours, busy roads, intrusive noise, smells, local infrastructure). It should also address property issues such as the implications and liabilities of owning/occupying it (boundary issues, third-party rights, encroachments, overshadowing, topography, rainwater runoff – even mowing the grassed areas).

Then it looks at building issues, which cover both the condition and anticipated repair needs, but also the practicalities of internal arrangements, quality of fit-out, ‘trip ‘n’ slip’ hazards… In layman’s terms, when they reach the end of the surveyor’s report the client should be fully conversant with all the matters affecting or likely to affect the property. It is a balanced appraisal of the suitability of the property, whether it is likely to be an asset or a liability and (a key phrase) is “capable of immediate use and occupation”.

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