There are many things that set residential surveyors apart from other professionals.
The ability to be excited over a new ladder is one, as is spending a lot of time thinking about where you’ll next be able to go to the loo, a result of spending all day in other people’s houses (I don’t think it’s professional to use their facilities, but the profession is split on the matter). But I think what sets us apart particularly is a constant awareness of uncertainty.
I was taught at university that there are approximately 40,000 components of a typical Victorian terraced house, including bricks and so on, of which only (approximately, of course)10,000 are visible.
Any one of those 30,000 unseen parts can cause problems – uncertainty in home surveys can therefore never be eradicated entirely, even assuming that we accurately analyse the visible 10,000 components (not individually, I must add).
The more I consider Donald Rumsfeld’s famous quote – “there are known unknowns…there are some things we do not know, but there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know” – the more convinced I am he was describing residential surveying precisely.
With uncertainty abounding at the moment (and I write this on the day of the inauguration of the new President of the United States of America) more and more of my clients are also asking me – is the house I am buying going to drop in value?
It’s so important to stress that, although I can give you authoritative and considered professional advice on its current market value, I don’t know what the market value will be in the future. It’s just too uncertain.
There are many other uncertainties which we face every day, and on every house inspection: is there Radon gas? Has there been recent structural movement? Is there someone asleep in the house I am surveying that the estate agent didn’t tell me about?
Is there evidence of rot? Will they wake up and be quite upset to have a stranger in the house? Is there any material containing asbestos? And should I go and ring the doorbell again, loudly, just to be safe?
There can be so much uncertainty in surveying that it can feel as though you might go a bit mad. But to quote Nietzsche, possibly for the first time in a property blog, madness is the result not of uncertainty, but of certainty.