Why do I need a survey?

Investing in a home is probably the largest purchase you will ever make in your life. It is a time when cash is often short and some people try to cut corners in an effort to save some money in the short-term.

One of the ways people try to save money is to ‘make-do’ with the mortgage valuation done on behalf of their mortgage company at the time of their purchase and skip their own survey altogether. This omission can end up costing a lot more in the long run.

A survey is a detailed inspection on the condition of the property, but there are multiple kinds of surveys available that vary in the level of detail they provide to prospective owners.

Why should I get a survey done?

If you are getting a mortgage, your mortgage company will instruct (although you will probably pay for) a mortgage valuation. THIS IS NOT A SURVEY. All this does is tell the mortgage company that the property is structurally sound and confirms the price being paid is reasonable. Many people, purchasing a home, rely on this valuation report even though it will not give them any information on the condition of the property. We recommend you that you get an actual survey.

Surveys can be helpful for a number of reasons. They can help you avoid potential major expenses, like an unexpected rewiring job, or reassure you as to the condition of the building’s structural integrity.

It can also help you in your negotiations. For example, if the roof needs replacing/repair at a cost of say, £10,000.00, then it makes sense to ask for this amount to come off the asking price. The older the property is, the more beneficial a survey is. A new build is probably not going to need any significant work before buying, whereas a Victorian-era house might have some expensive surprises lurking in the cellar.

Watch an RICS video on why you should get a survey here.

What kind of survey should I get?

It really depends on the kind of property you are looking to buy.

Home Condition Report:If they get a survey at all, most buyers settle on getting a condition report, which is the most basic survey you can get. It essentially determines if there are any serious concerns regarding the condition of the property and is designed to complement the mortgage valuation. If you are looking to buy an older home, this report will not do much to help you avoid unforeseen expenses.

Home Buyers Report:
This is more detailed than the condition report and will advise you of any obvious problems with the building, like structural defects and timber and damp issues. It will also include building reinstatement cost, which can be used when purchasing buildings insurance, as well as giving a market valuation.

While this is a more thorough inspection, it is still non-intrusive, meaning the inspector won’t be lifting up floor boards or moving furniture to check out the state of the building. This is a popular report and should be used if you are buying a property which is unaltered (or has minimal alterations) and is of standard construction of less than, say 100 years of age.

Home Condition Survey:
Most surveys are undertaken by members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) but these surveys are offered by the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) and are conducted by individuals who specialise in residential surveys.

These are consumer-focused, and include information like any problems with damp, boundary issues between properties and even things like broadband speed. These are somewhat more expensive – between £400 – 900 depending on the property, but can save money in the long run.

Building Surveys:
These are the most expensive kinds of surveys, ranging anywhere between £500 – 2000, depending on the size and value of the residence. These are extensive surveys. The inspector will get into the attic, move furniture, may lift floor boards and even look above ceilings.

The information included is valuable. It will include advice on the costs and timings of repairs, estimates for what happens should you decide to skip the repairs, and any major problems. However, it probably won’t include a valuation of the home and will also not include an insurance valuation unless you specifically request these.

If you are purchasing an unusual property for example if it is thatched, has been extensively altered, is more than 100 years old, listed or of non-traditional construction we would suggest this would be a very useful survey to have.

Surveys are an effective way of heading off any major surprises that can be expensive to you down the line. When looking to purchase property, remember that it is a huge investment that will take you decades to pay off. You do not want to be caught unaware of anything that could threaten the soundness of your investment. At Baldwin & Robinson Law we advise all of our clients to protect themselves by obtaining a survey of their property – so get a survey if you can!


Photo by Olivier Collet on Unsplash