Buying a Property - Home Surveys


Looking beneath the surface

It’s essential to instruct a chartered surveyor to carry out a home survey once your offer has been accepted – however great the property looks to you. A home survey uncovers potential issues and establishes whether the property is worth the price you’re paying. Read our guide to find out why home surveys are so important and which type of survey is right for you.


Is a home survey necessary?

A home survey tells you about the condition of the property you’re buying. It identifies any potential problems or significant defects which could be costly to repair in the future. A home survey isn’t a legal requirement and you might be tempted not to have one done. After all, home surveys are expensive. However, this is often a false economy. You could end up paying out thousands of pounds at a later stage to put right a major fault you didn’t know existed. You could be paying too much for the property initially. If the home survey unearths major problems, you might even think about withdrawing your offer or renegotiating the price. Remember, a new home is a huge investment and it really is worth paying a couple of hundred pounds now to avoid unexpected costs and a lot of hassle in the future.


Will a mortgage valuation do instead?

Don’t confuse a mortgage valuation for a home survey. A mortgage valuation simply confirms to the lender that your new home is worth the money you’re borrowing and will only show up very obvious issues that you have probably noticed yourself. An independent home survey carried out by a qualified surveyor is much more detailed and covers the buyer for problems in a second-hand home.


Which type of home survey do I need?

There are several types of home surveys. The one you require depends very much on the property you’re buying. A full building survey (formerly known as a structural survey) is suitable for all residential properties. However, if your new home is old, of non-standard construction (for example, timber) or has had extensive alterations, this is the survey you’ll need. If the property was built after 1945 and is of standard construction, you can opt for a homebuyer’s report, which is a cheaper option. If your new home is a new build, you may want a new-build snagging survey.


Homebuyer’s report: what do I get?

The homebuyer’s report is an economy service designed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to keep costs to a minimum. It usually takes between two and four hours to complete and provides an overall option of the general condition of the property, focusing on significant matters that are likely to have an effect on the property’s value. A homebuyer’s report enables the buyer to make an informed decision as to whether to proceed with the purchase or not and to assess whether the property is a reasonable purchase. The report highlights:

  • Urgent matters that are a threat to the fabric of the building

  • Significant matters which could affect the price of the property

  • A market valuation of the property

  • Rebuild costs for insurance purposes

    Building survey: what do I get?

    A full building survey is more detailed than a homebuyer’s report and is therefore more expensive. It involves a thorough investigation of the property and can take a day to complete. The result is a comprehensive report which includes detailed technical information on the construction and condition of t he property and a listing of minor and major defects. A building survey doesn’t include a market valuation, although this can be requested for an additional charge. A building survey highlights:

  • Serious structural defects – defects that threaten the stability and safety of the property’s structure

  • Essential repairs – repairs that require attention within six months

  • Guideline budgets for serious defects and essential repairs

  • Matters for your solicitor

  • Rebuild costs for insurance purposes

    New-build snagging survey: what is this?

    Warranties issued by the National House-Building Council (NHBC) on newly built homes do not guarantee that potential problems will be sorted out. If you are buying a new-build property, we advise that you exchange contracts subject to a new-build snagging survey. This is a specialist survey that identifies defects from incorrect plumbing to poorly finished paintwork. Your surveyor should be able to arrange for the developer to rectify any defects found as a result of the new-build snagging survey.


    Top Tip

    Assist the surveyor by passing on details of any potential problems that you noticed when you viewed the property.



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