So, you have found your dream home and your offer has been accepted. What’s the next step? You are about to make one of the largest financial commitments of your life and borrow money that might take 25 years or more to pay back. It’s certainly worth doing some “due diligence” to make sure that you understand exactly what you are getting for your money.
Many home buyers are understandably working within a limited budget and will look for ways to be as cost efficient as possible when buying a home. Indeed, current data suggests that only 1 in 5 home buyers have an independent survey performed before they buy a property. But saving money on a survey can quickly become a “false economy” if there are hidden issues with the property you are buying.
Let’s clear this up straight away. A mortgage valuation is NOT a survey. If you are applying for a mortgage, then the lender will carry out a valuation to ensure that the house is worth enough to act as security against the loan they will provide. Many buyers think that this valuation is actually a survey of the property. However, it is important to understand that a mortgage valuation is nowhere near as comprehensive as a survey. On some occasions, a mortgage valuation will merely “drive by” the property or have a superficial and cursory look around. These valuations typically take only 15-30 minutes to complete.
A survey is an independent inspection and “health check” of the property that is undertaken by a specialist, typically a Chartered Surveyor. By having a survey performed, you will better understand the condition of the property and whether there are any significant issues that might cost a lot of money to rectify. The report will provide you with relevant information about the property so that you can make an informed decision. Based on the information you obtain, you can decide whether you want to proceed, or whether you can use the results to negotiate a reduction to the purchase price or request that certain works are completed by the seller before the sale is completed.
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) offer a number of different types of survey as follows;
This is the entry level survey and will provide a description of the condition of the property. This kind of report is typically used for a conventional house, flat or bungalow that is built with standard materials and in reasonable condition. The report will provide information on the condition of the property, a summary of any risks to the condition of the property, any urgent defects and any issues your solicitor should furether investigate. You should only opt for a condition report if you feel confident about the state of the property, as some issues could be missed due to the simplicity of the survey.
The homebuyers report offers a more extensive inspection of the property and will assist in the identification of any structural issues with the property. The report will include all items presented with the condition report together with a list of problems the surveyor thinks could impact the value of the property. The Homebuyer report doesn’t look beyond the floorboards or behind the walls.
Typically, the building survey is reserved for larger or older property, or any property suspected of having structural issues. The report provides a greater level of detail about the structure of the property including any visible defects and potential problems that might be caused by hidden flaws. This kind of survey is also useful if you are planning any major development work on the property.
The exact survey that you should choose will be determined by the size, condition and build quality of the property you are considering. The location of the property should also be taken into account, especially if the property is located in an area known to have caused previous problems due to issues like subsidence. A chartered surveyor should be able to assist you determine what is right given the circumstances. A list of surveyors can be found on the RICS website.
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Please read our further blogs to understand all the "jargon" involved in buying, mortgaging, surveying property, to learn more about the home buying process and to get the answers to frequently asked questions about buying a property.