It’s estimated that on average only 20% of all purchasers commission a professional survey. This is somewhat surprising considering that buying a property is probably the biggest purchase in most people’s lives. One explanation for this low take up, is that many buyers believe the mortgage lender’s survey is sufficient.
In fact, the lender’s survey is simply a mortgage valuation, a property inspection to establish the amount and terms of the loan. This survey will not tell you if the property is worth the price you’re paying for it, nor point out any structural defects. To obtain this vitally important information you’ll need to get a professional opinion by commissioning a chartered surveyor before you sign any contracts.
There are two main types of survey – the ‘Homebuyer’s Report’ and the ‘Building Survey’.
This type of survey is designed to keep costs to a minimum and is likely to be the best choice if the property you are buying is conventional in type and construction, is apparently in reasonable condition and built within the last 30 years. The survey focuses on defects and problems that are urgent and likely to have an effect on value. According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the main objectives of the Homebuyer’s report are to:
Make a reasoned and informed judgement on whether or not to proceed with the purchase.
Assess whether or not the property is a reasonable purchase at the agreed price.
Make clear what decisions and actions should be taken before contracts are exchanged.
This type of survey is suitable for all residential properties and provides a full picture of the property’s construction and condition. Because the level of detail is higher than the Homebuyer’s Report, a Building Survey is more expensive. This type of survey is required when a property is of an unusual construction or has had extensive alterations, if it’s old, in need of serious structural repair or if you’re planning a major conversion or renovation.
The final report will include detailed technical information on the construction of the property, materials used and a listing of all major and minor defects. The report does not provide a valuation, however this can be arranged as an agreed extra.
The cost of this survey is from £400 upwards and will usually take one to two days to complete. You can expect the final report within three working weeks of the original survey.
Choosing a surveyor
Once you’ve worked out which type of survey to go for, the next task is to find a suitable surveyor. Your mortgage lender or estate agent may be able to offer a recommendation, also don’t forget to ask any friends who’ve recently purchased a property. If these options fail to find someone suitable, contact the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), who currently have over 80,000 members working to the highest professional standards.
It’s a good idea to assist your surveyor by passing on information about the locality, including any information you’ve gathered about properties that are for sale or have recently been sold in the area. Also, inform the surveyor of any potential problems that you noticed when you viewed the property.