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A guide to homebuyer surveys

Getting a survey before you buy a new home is an excellent way of protecting your investment and getting a jump on potential issues.

4 min read

Often, major structural issues aren’t easy to spot unless you’re a trained professional, so having a survey carried out on a property you’re buying can be invaluable and can help you avoid any significant repair bills further down the line.

In fact, according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) the average buyer goes on to spend an additional £5,750 on repairs after they have purchased a property. But, by having a survey conducted before you purchase, you could reduce or even avoid this altogether. That’s because if a survey does highlight any issues, you then have the opportunity to flag them with your vendor and either request that they rectify them before you exchange or, using your survey as evidence, negotiate a discount on your offer price to cover the repair work needed.

Misconceptions about house surveys

The issue is, many buyers believe the valuation carried out by the mortgage lender is an assessment of the condition of the property - but that’s not the case. A valuation is on behalf of the mortgage lender and simply checks to ensure that the property is worth the amount of money you’re borrowing against it. This is purely for the benefit of the lender, not for the benefit of the buyer. So, if you want to find out the condition of the property in more detail, you’ll need to commission a survey.

Another misconception is that your mortgage lender will arrange your survey for you. That’s not the case either. If you decide that you would like a survey in addition to your mortgage valuation, then you’ll need to arrange and pay for this yourself. However, many solicitors and conveyancers are able to help. Just let them know as soon as you can – ideally when you first instruct them – that you’d like a survey as well as a mortgage valuation, then they’ll then be able to manage the paperwork and potentially help to find you a surveyor to instruct.

As with a mortgage valuation, the only person who can carry out a survey is a chartered surveyor. In most cases, they’ll be a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). There are actually four main types of surveys available, all of varying levels of detail.

How much does a house survey cost?

As a general rule of thumb, the more detailed the house survey, the more it costs, however, prices do vary depending on:

  • 1) Which firm you use
  • 2) The value of the property
  • 3) The type of property

What types of house surveys are available?

Condition report

This is the most basic form of survey and provides a high-level description of the condition of the property. It also highlights any major risks or defects which may require urgent attention, as well as any potential legal issues, however you won’t receive any advice on how to deal with them. A condition report is suitable for most conventional types of property and is the cheapest type of survey available. You can expect to pay from around £300 upwards.

HomeBuyer report

A step up from the basic Condition Report, this type of survey will help to identify any significant structural problems, for example, subsidence or damp, together with any other major defects with the interior or exterior of the property. Suitable for properties in reasonable condition, whilst this type of survey will highlight any significant issues, it won’t go into a lot of detail. For example, a HomeBuyer Report doesn’t include an inspection behind the walls or under the floorboards. However, it is the most requested type of survey by purchasers. You can expect to pay approximately £350 upwards.

New-build snagging survey

This is a relatively new type of survey, and as the name suggests, provides a professional and independent inspection of a new build property. As a result, it may highlight issues that the builder or developer needs to rectify before you complete your purchase. This type of survey could be worth considering to ensure that the purchase of your new home runs smoothly, as otherwise remedial works may need to be carried out after you’ve moved in. You can expect to pay around £350 upwards.

Building or full structural survey

The most detailed form of survey, this is a good choice if you’re buying an older property – particularly if it’s Listed – or a home that you already believe requires a significant amount of work. This type of survey will not only list any defects the surveyor finds but will provide detailed advice on the repairs required. It will also include the surveyor’s opinion on any potentially ‘hidden’ defects or areas of the property that may require attention in the future. Due to the level of detail included, this is the most expensive form of survey. However, if you’re spending a considerable amount of money on a property, or it’s very old and you’re concerned about future repairs and expenditure, it may be something to consider. Prices generally start at around £500 but can be significantly higher, depending on the size of the property and its value.

One final tip: if you decide to have a survey, do try to have it carried out as close to your mortgage valuation as possible. That’s because if it does highlight any issues, at least you’ll find out early in the process, which then gives you the opportunity to renegotiate the purchase price. In the worst-case scenario, if the survey highlights a defect that really puts you off, it’s best to find out sooner rather than later before you’re too far advanced with the process and have racked up a large solicitor’s bill. Hopefully, though, neither of these things will happen, and instead, you’ll have the peace of mind that you won’t be met with an unexpectedly large bill just after you move in.

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