Which home survey do you need?
Filed under: House Prices
That's fine if your money saving plan is to make your own curtains or shop around for home insurance, but if you intend to scrimp on your home survey, you need to think twice.
Unless you are a chartered surveyor, or are lucky enough to have a close family member who is, paying for a survey is the only way you can find out the real state of the property you are about to buy.
Your mortgage lender will insist that you get a valuation, but this is for their benefit alone and doesn't give you any information about the state of the property.
Do you really want to take such a massive gamble on what is probably your biggest ever purchase?
Know your property
A survey is basically an inspection of your potential new home, and getting an expert to check over a property before you pass the point of no return on a purchase is clearly a smart idea.
Because while your dream home may have perfectly painted walls and impeccable interior design, it could hide a wide range of serious and expensive problems, ranging from damp to woodworm, or worse..
Of course, surveys cost money – and that cost varies depending on the type of property and how thorough you want the survey to be. But be prepared to pay hundreds of pounds for a survey, and over £1,000 for larger, older homes.
Should you get one?
It may seem like a lot of money, but many consider it a price worth paying. If the survey shows that the property is sound, you can buy it with peace of mind. If it throws up some problems you may be able to negotiate a lower price to cover the cost of repairs.
Or if it highlights some really serious defects, you can walk away, knowing that you may have spent a few hundred pounds, but you have potentially saved thousands, and a whole lot of worry, further down the line.
There are four different surveys available and it's up to you which you choose, but ensure you choose a surveyor that is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, as they adhere to a strict code of conduct.
The lender's valuation
Your mortgage lender will insist you get a valuation and you will probably pay for it (they start at around £200), although they sometimes cover the cost.
It is important to realise that the valuation is done for the lender's benefit not yours – it simply needs to know if the property is worth over and above the amount it is lending to you. It isn't a survey on the condition of the property and won't tell you if there are repairs that need to be made, even serious ones.
Home Condition Report
This basic survey can offer a useful middle ground if your finances are limited but you don't want to rely on the lender's valuation alone – they cost roughly between £200 and £400. It will tell you about the overall condition of the property and should spot any major problems that you can then decide whether to get checked out in more detail.
However it isn't suitable for older or unusual homes and it does offer less information than a Homebuyer Report. It also doesn't include a valuation or an insurance rebuild cost.
A Homebuyer Report is highly recommended if you want to know more about the condition of your potential property and have any serious problems picked up.
A Homebuyer Report is suitable for properties built in the last 150 years though if you want to renovate a property or make major alterations it may not be adequate.
According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) a Homebuyer Report includes:
- The general condition of the property
- Any major faults in accessible parts of the building that may affect the value
- Any urgent problems that need inspecting by a specialist before you sign a contract
- Results of tests for damp in the walls
- Damage to timbers – including woodworm or rot
- The condition of any damp-proofing, insulation and drainage (though drains aren't tested)
- The estimated cost of rebuilding the property for insurance purposes
- The value of the property on the open market.
A Homebuyer Report will start at around £300 for a modestly priced home but costs rise to £1,000 on more expensive properties.
The Rolls Royce of surveys – if you can afford a full survey, get one. This is a thorough inspection of the property and is suitable for all types of homes.
It is highly advisable if you are buying a very old property, a listed building, or a home with unusual construction (such as timber). Equally if you plan a major renovation, or the property has already had one, a full survey is a smart idea.
The surveyor will examine all accessible parts of the property and they will go into the loft and cellar if they can, but they won't pull up carpets or move very heavy furniture.
According to RICS a full survey will include:
- Major and minor defects and what they could mean
- The possible cost of repairs
- Results of damp testing on walls
- Damage to timbers – including woodworm and rot
- The condition of damp-proofing, insulation and drainage (though drains aren't tested)
- Technical information on the construction of the property and the materials used
- The location
- Recommendations for any further special inspections.
- A Building Survey doesn't include a valuation, but your surveyor can provide this separately if you need one.
Full surveys will set you back at least £600 and the price increases the more expensive the property up to around £2,000. Surveys on unusual or older homes can also cost more.