The terms "Accredited Marine Surveyor®" and "AMS®" are registered trademarks of the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors. It is not unusual to find non-accredited surveyors claiming this accreditation. Check the Society's web site at www.marinesurvey.org to ensure the accreditation of your surveyor.
Surveying is an unregulated profession and surveyors are no different than the practitioners of any other trade; some are better than others. Find the one you feel most comfortable with and do not hesitate to ask questions.
A good place to start is asking about qualifications. You may notice several acronyms after a surveyors name, many of which you may not recognize. Ask what they stand for, check out the organization on the web. There are several outfits that sell "acronyms" to anyone who sends a check.
The Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors(r) requires minimum degrees of education, experience, exams and a commitment to continuing education before conferring the AMS(r) designation on a surveyor. SAMS(r) surveyors follow a Society "Survey Report Content" format that includes a "Scope of Survey" statement that informs clients of precisely what will be covered in the survey report and which standards are applied.
Ask to see a sample survey. Review samples of several surveyors and read carefully between the lines. Buyers name, valuation and hull I.D. numbers should be blanked out. A survey belongs to the person who commissioned it and confidentiality is expected. Ask for references but don't expect to be given any bad ones.
Think twice about the 20 page survey that goes into great detail about the "tastefully appointed" upholstery but mentions nothing about the substandard engine compartment ventilation system or the seized seacocks.
Recommendations are the most important part of any survey and should cite the standards on which they are based. To remain current a surveyor must be a member of American Boat And Yacht Council(r) (ABYC(r)) and subscribe to their primary publication.... "Standards and Technical Information Reports For Small Craft" which includes standards for construction, electrical, fuel and fire safety systems among many others. The USCG Rules and Regulations for Recreational Boats are largely derived from this publication. Membership in BoatUS Technical Exchange is also important as this provides access to a forum for marine professionals which includes a database of technical, structural and safety issues for specific vessels.
A survey is a systematic examination of the vessel and it's systems. Many surveyors prefer that you not be present during the survey as they may be distracted and miss something. This is a valid concern, but you are the customer and have every right to be present during the survey. All I ask is that you don’t interrupt me during the survey. If and when I find a deficiency with the vessel I will point it out. At the conclusion of the survey I will review and discuss the deficiencies observed with you. Some things that can appear serious on paper may assume a lesser status when they can be pointed out and discussed in person.