You’ve found your dream house and agreed upon a price with the seller. With the offer accepted, all you need to do is wait for handover. You could get a survey, but with all the other fees and services you’re doling out for, you might be wondering if you really need one.
When it comes to buying property you may think that you don’t need a survey done in addition to all of the other precautions you’ve taken before closing the deal. After all, you’ve had a mortgage valuation done. Isn’t that enough? One in five homebuyers rely solely on a mortgage valuation report, but this is in no way equivalent to a full survey. You’ll need a valuation report to secure a mortgage offer, but this is entirely for the lender’s benefit, confirming to the lender that the property is worth at least the value of the loan. It might put your mind at ease about the selling price, but the mortgage valuation won’t note any repairs that need doing when, or before, you move in.
At a time when you’re already spending a lot of money, a survey can seem like just another expense, but a survey helps avoid the stress and cost of making repairs further down the line and gives you a good idea of any issues that are likely to arise from your purchase. It allows you to budget for repair work and you may even be able to use the information in the survey to negotiate with the vendor. If your survey concludes that you will need to undertake repairs, you could ask for the cost of repairs off the price, or request the repairs to be made before you move in.
There are three main kinds of survey: a condition report, a HomeBuyer's Report and a building survey. There are no real rules about which one you should opt for – it depends on the level of detail you’re after and the age of the property you're buying.
A Condition Report is a basic survey and the cheapest. It will provide you with an overview of the property's condition and highlight any significant issues, but it doesn’t go into detail and includes no advice or valuation. It is most suitable for conventional homes in good condition or new-builds, although there’s also a specialist survey for new homes called a New-build Snagging Survey that will pick up mistakes and arrange for the developer to remedy any defects found.
A HomeBuyer’s Report is suitable for conventional properties in reasonable condition. It’s far more detailed than a condition report and will highlight problems with the property, such as damp or subsidence and anything that doesn’t match current building regulations. It also includes advice on necessary repairs and ongoing maintenance. What it doesn’t do is look behind furniture, behind walls, or under floor boards, so it will only identify surface-level problems
A Building Survey is the most comprehensive survey available, suitable for all residential properties, particularly older properties, including those that are Listed, or ‘fixer uppers’. It includes a comprehensive breakdown of the structure and condition of the property, listing defects and detailed advice on repairs and maintenance. The surveyor will do things like check the attic and look under floorboards and you can request that the report include projected costs and timings for repair work.
If you would rather avoid a potential deal-breaker down the line, you might want to consider taking out a survey on your own home before it is valued. This will ensure that the future buyer’s survey doesn’t reveal any unwelcome surprises. If your own survey does reveal something drastic, like a roof that will need replacing, you can drop the asking price accordingly.
Before you choose a surveyor, seek out several quotes as prices can vary considerably. Try to find someone with a good knowledge of the local area and properties within it. If you're buying a particular type of property, such as a listed building, it’s worth sourcing a specialist in that kind of property.