Scottish Household Survey 2022: methodology and fieldwork outcomes

Details of the methodology and survey fieldwork outcomes relating to the 2022 Scottish Household Survey

Physical fieldwork and physical survey form

Physical survey team

The physical survey team comprised 69 surveyors and 4 Regional Managers. The Regional Managers also acted as surveyors.

Surveyors are required to be fully professionally qualified. They were recruited from a variety of different dwelling-related professions: chartered surveyors, architects, civil and structural engineers, environmental health officers and building control officers.

New recruits attend a five-day residential training course, including fieldwork practice, so that they are fully proficient with the methodology used in the SHCS.

The role of the Regional Manager is to ensure the quality of the surveyor data. They oversee the work of each of their surveyors, and accompany all new surveyors on at least two inspections.

Types of physical survey

There are usually three different types of physical survey:

  • Full surveys - A visual inspection of both the inside and outside of a property. The surveyor is required to complete all parts of the physical survey form. Surveyors take four photographs to accompany each full physical survey: one each of the front and the back of the property, and two of the surrounding area.
  • Dwelling description - A short physical survey that provides a summary of the property only, and one photograph. This is carried out if the dwelling is vacant or a second/holiday home, if no contact with the householder has been possible, or if the householder completed the social survey but after at least 4 attempts a full physical survey cannot be completed.
  • Abbreviated dwelling description - Collects information on the age and type of dwelling only. This is carried out if the householder refuses to take part in the social survey.

The type of survey required by the surveyors was determined by the outcome to the social interview (see Figure 1) and also which survey stream the household was allocated to. Only households in two of the four SHCS streams underwent dwelling descriptions or abbreviated dwelling descriptions.

Figure 1: Relationship between social outcomes and type of physical survey required

Physical survey administration

The administration of the physical survey was as follows:

  • At the end of the social interview, interviewers attempted to arrange a firm appointment for the surveyor inspection. Appointments were generally made for between 7 and 14 days after the interview date. Interviewers were asked to make appointments in batches, as far as possible, at intervals of one hour plus travel time between addresses. Interviewers left an appointment card with respondents that gave the appointment time and the telephone number of CA Design Services in case they wished to reschedule the appointment.
  • When a respondent was unable to commit to a firm appointment time, interviewers were instructed to put in a dummy appointment time, collect the respondent's contact details and indicate that this was not a firm appointment. CA Design Services would then attempt to arrange a surveyor appointment.
  • Following download of the CAPI data, details of the appointments were automatically transferred to CA Design Services secure web-based surveyor appointment system. Information sent included the date and time of the appointment, contact details, whether it was a firm appointment, and any other information that the interviewer deemed helpful to the surveyor (such as directions to the property).
  • Details of addresses that did not result in a social interview were communicated to the CA Design Services website for allocation for an appropriate type of survey.
  • CA Design Services staff then allocated appointments to surveyors. In advance of each of the fieldwork periods, surveyors were required to supply details of their general availability through CA Design Services' web-based surveyor appointment system to help with the allocation.
  • In cases where the initial appointment was not met, surveyors were required to make a further three repeat visits.
  • Completed surveys were uploaded onto the SHS physical survey validation system, checked by the surveyor, and then sent to their Regional Manager for sign-off.

Staff at CA Design Services' Edinburgh office managed the day-to-day fieldwork process for the physical survey. Helpdesk staff managed communication between respondents and surveyors, booking or re-arranging appointments as necessary. Respondents, social survey interviewers and surveyors were able to contact CA Design Services using a dedicated telephone helpline and an SHS survey email address.

The web-based surveyor appointment system was central to organising and monitoring the progress of the physical survey fieldwork. The website was used by surveyors, Regional Managers, CA Design Services staff and Ipsos MORI. All website users had their own password and were given access to different parts of the site, depending on their requirements.

Surveyors used the survey website to check the appointments that had been made for them, record outcomes of each appointment, record mileage, and to calculate payments due. The progress of individual cases could be viewed on the website by entering the unique case identification number. Additionally, the website system provided information on the progress of the fieldwork overall. Most appointments resulted in a full survey at the first surveyor visit.

Surveyor variability

In order to minimise the effect of variability between surveyors in completing the physical survey form, and to minimise the bias that this may have on estimates at local authority level, the physical survey fieldwork was subject to a set of allocation rules. These were developed by Communities Scotland around 2001 and comprised the following rules relating to full surveys:

Rule 1: Each surveyor must work in at least two local authorities in each year of fieldwork and in at least 3 local authorities over the three-year fieldwork period. There were no breaches of this rule.

Rule 2: No surveyor should do more than 25% of the (full) surveys issued in any local authority in any one year, with the exception of the Highlands and the three island local authorities, where no one surveyor should exceed 33%of all (full) surveys. Most of the breaches were just over the threshold (see Table 1 in the supporting tables).

Rules 3 and 4: Each surveyor's allocation should contain a mixture of dwelling types and a balance of urban/rural properties that approximate the profile of the area in which they are working in over each year of fieldwork. Table 2 in the  supporting tables shows the proportion of full surveys conducted by surveyor and property type. It confirms that each surveyor undertook surveys in a mixture of different dwelling types.

Rule 5: Each surveyor should conduct no more than a maximum number of 1.5 times the average number of full surveys issued to each surveyor each year. For 2022, the maximum was set at 69. There were two breaches of this rule with surveyors exceeding this number by just a few surveys. The maximum number of surveys completed by a single surveyor was 75.

Compliance with surveyor allocation rules

Most of the surveyor allocation rules relating to the physical survey fieldwork during 2022 were met, tables evidencing the extent and nature of breaches to rules 2 and rules 3/4 can be viewed in the  supporting tables.

Physical survey form

The SHS physical survey is a dwelling-based survey of the home and surrounding area and uses a paper form formatted for use with digital pens.

The physical survey form can be found in the technical reports section of the Scottish House Condition Survey webpage. The survey form included sections relating to:

  • type, age and size of the dwelling
  • types of defects
  • basic amenities
  • heating systems and insulation
  • dwelling measurements
  • external construction and materials used
  • external repairs required
  • Statutory Action and Tolerable Standards



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