House Surveys – What should you have?

Posted on May 19th, 2021, 10:30 am

If you’ve just had an offer accepted on a property, you’ll be wondering whether you need a house survey and if so, which one?

What is a survey?

A property survey is a detailed inspection of a property’s condition. The surveyor inspects the property and tells you if there are structural problems like unstable walls or even subsidence. They will highlight any major repairs or alterations needed, such as fixing the roof or chimney chute. The report from the surveyor will also provide expert commentary on the property, such as the type of wall to the type of glazing used.

Homebuyers generally have a survey done on a property after their offer has been accepted by the seller. There are three main accrediting bodies for surveyors – you should check that your surveyor is a member of either:

Rics – the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Rics surveyors offer three ‘levels’ of survey: a Condition Report (level one), Homebuyer Report (level two) and Building Survey (level three).

Sava or RPSA – the Residential Property Surveyors Association. Sava and RPSA surveyors offer different surveys, including the Sava Home Condition Survey, which is a level-two report (similar to the Rics Homebuyer Report.)

Different Survey Types

Mortgage Valuation
A mortgage valuation is not to be confused with a survey. When you buy a house and require a mortgage, a lender (HSBC, The Halifax etc.) will commission a mortgage valuation. This valuation takes approximately 20 minutes and advises the lender of the value of a property and of any characteristics of the property including significant or serious defects which might affect its value as security for the loan. They are not surveys (which have more detail) and are for the benefit of the lender, rather than you.

Condition Report Survey
A condition report is the most basic survey you can get and the cheapest, costing around £300 or more. The report doesn’t go into much detail but will highlight any obvious defects before you (the buyer) commit to the purchase. Like the other property surveys, it uses a ‘traffic light system’ to highlight any defects or damage to the building that needs attention or future repairs. It does not include advice, recommendations or the cost of the expected repairs. It also doesn’t include a valuation of the property which is essential when applying for a mortgage.

Homebuyers Report / Home Condition Survey
A homebuyers survey, often called a home buyers report, is the most common type of property survey available and can be used on many different property types. It’s not as in-depth as the building survey so it’s more suited for properties built less than 50 years ago and will flag major issues and defects in the property you’re buying.

The homebuyers survey will include a thorough external and internal inspection of the property, resulting in a report which provides an overview of the properties condition. The surveyor will inspect all the visible and accessible areas of the property and can also take your specific concerns into consideration, paying particular attention to those worrisome areas – this will then be reflected in their report.

A homebuyers survey will cover the following points:

Internally:

  • Woodworm and rot
  • Dampness and condensation
  • Ceilings
  • Walls and floors
  • Chimney breasts and joinery

Externally:

  • Roof space: Full inspection of the roof
  • Chimneys
  • Gutters
  • Main walls
  • Windows and doors
  • Drainage and boundaries

Other:

  • Garages
  • Conservatories
  • Tenure
  • Services

Building Survey
A building survey, previously known as a full structural survey and sometimes called a structural survey, is one of the most comprehensive property surveys you can have when buying a house.

It’s similar in many ways to the homebuyers survey in that it looks at certain aspects of a building and gives details of its condition and any potential concerns, but a building survey is more suited to older or unusually constructed buildings.

The building survey is a type of property survey that’s much more detailed and will look into areas that are hard to reach. It will outline any defects of the property, their apparent cause, the urgency at which repairs are required and in most cases, cost considerations for making those repairs.

A building survey will usually cover the following:

Internally:

  • Woodworm and rot
  • Dampness and condensation
  • Ceilings
  • Walls and floors
  • Chimney breasts and joinery

Externally:

  • Roof space: Full inspection of the roof
  • Chimneys
  • Gutters
  • Main walls
  • Windows and doors
  • Drainage and boundaries

Other:

  • Garages
  • Conservatories
  • Tenure
  • Services

Do I really need a house survey?

When you’re already spending a lot of money on buying a house or flat, a survey can feel like an unnecessary expense. But it’s far better to be aware of any problems before you buy a property, so you can make an informed decision about how much you’re willing to pay for it and, if necessary, budget for any repair work that needs doing. You may also be able to use the information in the survey to negotiate with the seller. For example, if your survey finds that you’ll need to carry out repairs costing £10,000 you could ask for a £10,000 reduction on the property price or ask the seller to make the necessary repairs before you exchange contracts. Find out more about negotiating on price in our guide to making an offer on a house or flat.

House surveys vs mortgage valuations

When you apply for a mortgage, the mortgage lender will carry out a valuation on the property to make sure it’s worth roughly what you’re planning to pay for it. This mortgage valuation is sometimes called a valuation ‘survey’, but this can be misleading. A mortgage valuation is nowhere near comprehensive enough to take the place of a proper house survey. In fact, it sometimes won’t even involve anyone visiting the property in person. So you should always arrange your own independent survey after you’ve had an offer accepted, to make sure you’re not overpaying for your new home or about to buy a property with significant problems.

When will I get my house survey report?

This depends on the individual surveyor and the complexity of the report.  Your surveyor will inform you how long they’ll take to provide the report, but it shouldn’t be longer than five days (level one or two) or 10 days (level three).

If you have any further questions about surveys and would like to discuss with one of our property professionals, please feel free to reach out to our team on 01279 898 383 or info@forgehomes.co.uk.

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