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House Condition Survey - Methodology

Updated: 07 Dec 2016
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We ask a range of questions about the property and the family's housing needs
Old Warren, Lisburn
The application of up to date technology, in relation to the data collection and validation elements of the HCS, has been considered for more than ten years. In England, Wales and Scotland parallel developments are underway. In England, the new electronic approach makes use of a camera pen on specialized paper which uploads the data via a website to a database. Scotland’s approach uses a hand held device – a UMPC (ultra mobile p.c.) and Wales is currently undertaking an option appraisal. In Northern Ireland the approach, being used for the first time in the 2009 Survey, is a full electronic form on a tablet p.c. (Motion 5) with built in field validation and uploading of data via a website to a database.
It is envisaged that there will be significant savings in delivery of the HCS. The main areas of cost savings will be in the elimination of the manual punching of the survey forms (including double punching), scanning and secondary validation and the design, production and printing of paper survey forms and their subsequent transport and storage during the survey period. In addition, there will be lower administrative costs by reducing time spent investigating missing data and punching errors and by removing the need for special cameras with disk drives.    
The new e-survey will permit a faster turn around of survey results due mainly to the omission of the time consuming data punching and secondary validation.    

The sample

In 2009 the total number of dwellings selected for participation in the HCS was 3,000. This included 220 properties in each of Northern Ireland’s 10 new council areas outside Belfast with 800 selected for the Belfast area (200 in North, East, South and West Belfast).
The overwhelming majority of dwellings in Northern Ireland are in good condition. Resources need to be concentrated on those in need of improvement and/or repair. This is reflected in the sample design. The Survey uses a disproportionate stratified random sample design.
The sample is in two parts. A fresh sample which consists of a stratified random sample of properties from throughout Northern Ireland, drawn from the sampling database held at NISRA. Dwellings were stratified by council area and Capital Value band to reflect the fact that properties in poor condition tend to be concentrated in lower CV bands.
The second part of the sample is the resample element. Approximately 1,500 were selected on the basis that they had been surveyed in 2006 and indeed some were also surveyed in 1996 and 2001. This allows a longitudinal analysis of properties and provides an indication of flows in and out of unfitness, disrepair, energy efficiency and tenure change.
The process of weighting and grossing will ensure final figures reflect the actual housing stock.

The E-Survey form

The E-Survey form broadly remains the same as previous paper surveys and can be divided into two components: The physical survey and the social survey or household interview.

The physical survey

A detailed technical survey form is filled in for each property where the surveyor has gained access. The surveyor completes an inspection of the interior and exterior of the house. The surveyor also inspects the front and back plot of the survey dwelling and makes an assessment of the local neighbourhood.
Key information is gathered in the physical section which will allow measurement of repairs costs, the Fitness Standard, The Decent Homes Standard, Fuel Poverty, SAP and the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.

The social survey

The surveyor also carries out a short interview with the householder or partner (if applicable). Information is gathered on a range of issues including:
  • housing history
  • home improvements
  • heating in the home
  • household demographics including information on members of the household with a disability
This information will help assess the housing needs of particular groups such as the elderly, families with young children, single person and low income households. Information from the social survey will be cross referenced with elements from the physical survey.
This will give an indication of the types of households living in dwellings which are in the poorest condition, in those which fail The Decent Homes Standard, The HHSRS or in those designated as fuel poor.



A total of 18 surveyors were employed to work on the Survey. All of whom worked on the 2006 HCS. The surveyors employed are either Environmental Health Officers or chartered surveyors. Four supervisors have been appointed and are responsible for quality assuring the work of the surveyors.


A training course will be held in June 2009 and will be conducted by staff from the Research Unit, the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and by the HCS supervisors. The aim of the training will be to update the surveyors on changes to the form and in particular the change to the new electronic collection of data and validation and to provide in-depth training on the HHSRS and energy features.

In the field

Letters and leaflets are sent to all households selected a few weeks before the surveyor calls.