property survey

Getting a property survey

A survey is a report on the condition of a property, which you can organise once you have had your offer accepted on a property you wish to buy. They are carried out by licensed professionals and can be used to determine what, if any, repairs are needed on a property, any structural damage or faults such as damp in the property and, in some cases, the cost of rebuilding the property (for insurance purposes) and an estimate of the property’s value.

Do you need a survey?

If you’ve had an offer on a property accepted, then it is advised you organise a survey before taking any further steps. But a survey is not a legal requirement for buyers; they exist to offer you further advice and information about the property.

However, mortgage valuation surveys are usually required by your mortgage provider or lender. Mortgage valuations help your lender determine the accurate price of the property, to make sure the amount they are lending you matches the actual cost of the property.

Just because a survey is optional, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one. They can help you save time and money, by letting you know what might need repairing in a property, meaning you won’t have any nasty surprises after you’ve bought it.

What survey should I use?

The age and type of property you want to buy may affect what kind of survey you wish to get. Newer properties tend to require less work and may only need a basic survey to highlight any issues that need urgently fixing. For older or larger properties, or those that are unusual in their architecture or building material (such as a castle, timber-framed home or thatched-roof property), a more in-depth survey may be required, to ensure you are aware of any major issues with the property.

The types of surveys and what properties they are suited to are as follows:

Condition Report

This is the most basic form of survey, which will highlight any serious or urgent risks or defects in the property that need to be fixed. It doesn’t go into as much detail as other surveys but is usually advisable for homes that are newer or in good condition.

Homebuyer Report

A more in-depth report that highlights issues which could affect the property’s value and its ongoing maintenance, such as damp or subsidence (when the property sinks into the ground). It is important to remember that the report will only cover what is initially visible to the surveyor; they won’t drill into walls or lift floors to inspect hidden aspects of the property. If the report suggests any repairs and the surveyor offers an estimated price for them, you could use this to lower the offer made on the property; this can mean that having a survey can save more than the cost of the survey itself. 

There is sometimes the option to have a valuation with a Homebuyer Report as well, which estimates the value of the property on the open market. If this is lower than the offer you have given for the property, you can use always lower your offer to the seller, with the information from your survey valuation as evidence.

Building Survey

This is the most detailed survey you can get on a residential property. The surveyor will inspect and assess the whole structure and condition of the property, listing the defects and advising any repairs and maintenance that should be made. Since it is more in-depth, the surveyor will inspect all accessible parts of the property, including any chimneys, attics, cellars and even walls and under floors.

Although the most expensive survey, it is ideal for older, listed or dilapidated properties, or a property you intend to renovate extensively. By having a thorough knowledge of the condition of the property, you will be able to understand to extent of work needed to maintain or repair the property, and the potential costs involved.

Selling a property

If you are selling a property, having a survey conducted before you put it on the market may be a benefit, especially if you’re unsure of the property’s current condition. By finding out about any defects or issues, you can get them fixed to potentially advertise a higher price for your property. You can also make buyers aware of any defects to ensure they are well informed to make an offer, rather than them discovering issues later and withdrawing any offer they made.

Who should carry out a survey?

You should always use a registered surveyor who is part one of the following bodies:

Doing so will ensure you are using a certified professional to conduct the survey.

Your estate agent, lender or solicitor may recommend a surveyor to you, but you also look for one yourself. It is usually best to search around for one, using comparison sites or those recommended by friends and family.

Make sure the surveyor you’re using is local, with good reviews and membership to one of the above organisations.

How much do surveys cost?

Although the price you pay for your survey depends on which surveyor you use, it is important to remember that the more detail your survey offers, the more it will cost. But the argument is that the cost of a survey is massively outweighed by the potential costs involved in maintaining a property that the survey may reveal and the potential drop in your offer price you can put forward as a result. Therefore, a survey could save you money in the long run.

Condition reports are the cheapest and can cost approx. £300

Homebuyer reports cost slightly more at approx. £400

Building surveys are the most comprehensive and expensive, being approx. £600+

Please note: the price of your survey will depend on the size and cost of the property; the larger or more expensive the property, the more expensive the survey will be.

Home Report (Scotland)

If you’re buying a home in Scotland, the seller must provide a Home Report.

This involves a survey of the property; a valuation; a questionnaire that covers the property’s council tax band, past issues and alterations; and an energy report in the form of an EPC.

If you’re a seller who needs a Home Report, your estate agent may organise this for you, otherwise you will need to provide the report yourself and hire a surveyor for the survey and valuation. This can cost around £500.

Since the seller must provide a Home Report, a buyer may avoid having a survey, although you can hire your own independent surveyor if you wish.

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