Buying a property is one of the biggest and most expensive decisions you will ever make, so getting a structural survey before you commit is essential!
It is important that you research the property you are planning to buy thoroughly, and gain access to as much information as possible. If a property appears in good condition, it can be tempting to assume there will not be any problems, but this has the potential to lead to nasty and costly surprises after you have moved in.
One of the things you can do to protect yourself when buying a new home is commission a property survey. If you are using a mortgage to buy your property, it is likely your mortgage lender will insist upon a property valuation report as a minimum requirement. This is to prove that the property is worth the amount you claim it is and reassure them that they would be likely to get their money returned to them should they have to repossess the property as a result of you failing to make your mortgage repayments.
As the prospective buyer, it is up to you whether you choose to have just the valuation report carried out, or upgrade to a more thorough survey that will offer substantially more information on the property. So, what is a house survey and how would it benefit you to have one carried out on the property you are planning to buy?
What is a house survey?
A house survey is a report that contains information about a property and any potential issues. A house survey will be carried out by a what is a structural survey.
How does a residential survey help buyers?
A residential survey gives a potential buyer a great overview of the property they are planning to purchase. It covers a wide range of areas, including the age and condition of the property, any potential legal issues and any urgent problems with the property.
Along with a formal valuation, mortgage lenders often require a home survey before they will agree to release money to purchase the property.
Are there different surveys when buying a house?
There are several different levels of home survey that you can choose from when buying a property. Which one you choose will depend on the property and its history, how much you already know about the property, any concerns you have about any potential issues, and the level of survey required by your mortgage lender.
What is a RICS condition report?
A RICS Condition Report will provide you with basic information on the condition of the property, highlight any potential issues or legal problems and alert you to any work that will need urgent attention when you move into the property.
If you feel confident that the property you are planning to buy is in good condition with no hidden surprises, you may consider a RICS Condition Report. It is a very basic form of home survey, and will not include any sort of property valuation or property advice.
How much does a RICS condition report cost?
A RICS Condition Report is a very basic level of survey, and at around £250 the price reflects this.
What is a RICS HomeBuyer Report?
A RICS HomeBuyer Report goes into a little more detail than the RICS Condition Report. It will look for any structural issues, including damp and subsidence, and give the property a more thorough review, both inside and out.
A RICS HomeBuyer Report may also offer basic information regarding work you might need to carry out in the short, medium and long-term. This will give you a good overview of the condition of the property and alert you to any costly work that may be required once you have purchased the property.
A RICS HomeBuyer Report may or may not include a property valuation.
How much does a RICS HomeBuyers Report cost?
A RICS HomeBuyer Report starts at around £400.
What is a RICS building survey?
A RICS Building Survey is the more thorough survey. It is a useful survey for older, larger and more complex properties. Offering an in-depth analysis of the property, its condition and any issues that may arise. A RICS Building survey will go further than a HomeBuyer Report by offering advice and information on any work that is required or that would benefit the property. The only survey more detailed than a RICS Building Survey is a Structural Survey.
How much is a RICS building survey?
If you choose a RICS Building Survey you can expect to pay between £400 and £500.
What is a full structural survey?
A full structural survey is the most comprehensive survey you can have carried out on a property. As the name suggests, a structural survey offers a full and detailed report about all aspects of the home, including the structural condition of the property and any work that may benefit the property.
What does a full structural survey include?
As the most comprehensive type of home survey, a structural survey offers an in-depth analysis of the property you are planning to buy. It is suitable for all property types, but will prove to be a particularly useful document if you are considering buying an older property, one in a poor to moderate condition, or a home where you are planning to carry out considerable work or build an extension. The report will offer extensive advice on any repairs or work required, and will also advise on any common hidden issues affecting properties in the area.
How much does a full structural survey cost?
As the most extensive survey available, you can expect to pay £600-plus for a full structural survey.
What does a structural survey report look like?
The information included in a structural survey will usually be presented in several different sections. These are likely to include:
General information – this outlines the agreement between you and the surveyor, basic information about the property (location etc.) and the conditions under which the property was inspected.
General description – this section will include a basic physical description of the property and its location and also give details of the property layout.
Construction and condition – this section will provide details of the property’s construction and whether it is in good condition.
Services – does the property have access to mains gas, electricity and water? Are the drainage and sanitation services adequate?
The site – this section of the report will include information about the plot the property sits within, including any boundary concerns.
Matters to be referred to your conveyancer – here, the surveyor will advise you of any matters that should be raised with your solicitor. This may include any guarantees or warranties for work previously carried out at the property, such as double-glazing, and any paperwork associated with previous extensions or property renovations.
Limitations – this section will include any limitations to the report, such as areas that were not accessible for inspection.
Conclusions – this will offer a summary or the report’s findings.
The report will also include several photographs to support the surveyor’s findings.
What happens if the survey values your property for less than you are buying it for?
If the survey values your property at less than you were planning to purchase it for, do not panic.
The first thing to do is contact the estate agent you are purchasing the property through and explain the situation. If an independent survey has down-valued the property you have got a pretty good case for renegotiating the purchase price; anyone relying on a mortgage to buy the property is likely to face the same valuation level, and therefore the vendor would be silly to refuse to drop the price.
If the vendor does refuse to drop the price, or is unwilling to reduce it sufficiently for the mortgage offer to cover the purchase, how you choose to proceed will depend on your financial circumstances and how keen you are to purchase the property.
If you have been saving for a house for a significant amount of time and therefore can afford to pay a larger deposit to make up the shortfall, you will still have the ability to purchase the property at the originally agreed price. It is important, however, to bear in mind that if you need to re-sell the property, without adding value to it, any future survey may give the same valuation and therefore you run the risk of suffering a financial loss.
What happens if the survey identifies a problem with the property you want to buy?
There are some issues that tend to appear in property surveys more often than others. Some of the more common problems identified include:
- Asbestos, particularly in garage construction
- Advisory warnings about a flat roof
- Risk of flooding
- Freehold/Leasehold status
- Concern regarding level of insulation
- Japanese Knotweed
- Any concern about structural movement
- Damaged gutting and drainpipes
Many of these common issues can be resolved relatively easily, but it is important to read the home survey report thoroughly to get a clear understanding of how severe the problem is. Depending on how detailed your survey is, it may be advisable to carry out further research in order to assess how difficult and costly the problem will be to resolve. You will also need to consider whether any issue identified will have an impact on your mortgage offer.
Property surveys play a vital role in the home buying process, and it is important that you choose the level of survey carefully. Failing to invest in a thorough enough survey can lead to upsetting and costly discoveries after you have moved into the property. Any unexpected work required can be unsettling and inconvenient, so it is important that you have as much information as possible before proceeding with the purchase of the property.