When buying a property you need to think objectively; the money spent on a survey could save you thousands by providing ammunition for negotiating a price reduction or by making you think twice about buying the property.
Prospective buyers are often guided by a common misconception that a surveyor works on behalf of both the buyer and a lender – but this is not the case at all. The buyer is entirely free to choose their own surveyor; a survey is for them, not the lender.
My mortgage lender is conducting a valuation report, is that all I need?
A mortgage lender’s Valuation Report is commonly confused for some form of comprehensive home survey.
In fact, it is merely a valuation carried out on the mortgage lender’s behalf.
The end result will determine whether the property you are buying is worth the amount you have agreed to pay for it, so the mortgage lender knows the loan will be covered if the property has to be repossessed and sold. It is done for the lender but you are entitled to see it.
Although it will show up any serious issues that are likely to affect the value of the property, it won’t give you a real picture of its condition. Relying on the information provided by this report will therefore leave you at risk.
A surveyor, on the other hand, acts wholly on your behalf and therefore offers the crucial service of impartial advice on your prospective property.
The survey then allows you to make an informed decision before committing to the purchase.
What sort of survey should you choose?
Not all surveys are the same, and the one you need will largely depend on both the type of property you are buying and its location.
This survey provides an objective overview of the condition of the property, highlighting areas of major concern, but without extensive detail.
It is useful for buyers purchasing a modern house in good condition – or for sellers and owners.
You will not, however, get a property valuation with a survey of this kind. This may not prove a problem if you are funding the purchase with a mortgage, as the lender providing the mortgage should carry out a valuation anyway.
A Homebuyer Report is more detailed and can often be carried out at the same time as a valuation report.
You can arrange this through your mortgage lender or with an independent surveyor.
However, if you’re going for a Homebuyer Report that includes a valuation and you’re commissioning this yourself, you’ll need to make sure that the surveyor you use will be accepted by the mortgage lender for the purposes of the valuation.
The results will give advice on any defects that may affect the value of the property, along with recommendations for repairs and ongoing maintenance.
It excludes cost estimates for repairs and any detailed description of the construction of the building or detailed advice on specific defects.
This is the flagship service providing a detailed report on a property. It is particularly useful for older properties, those that have been altered, or if the buyer is planning alterations or renovation of the building.
A Building Survey is a comprehensive report providing a full breakdown of the fabric and condition of the property, with diagnosis of defects, and repairs and maintenance advice.
An estimate of repair may also be offered as an optional service to be provided in the report, if it is agreed with the client in advance.
A full structural survey should provide you with all the information you’ll need to decide whether or not you want to proceed with the purchase or pull out because it has identified problems you hadn’t anticipated.
However, unlike the Home buyer Report, a full building survey will typically not include a valuation of the property – the mortgage lender would usually commission the valuation and you’d be free to arrange your own survey.
Why a Building Survey could be your best option
Yes, it is more expensive. But it will throw up all of the unknowns – a Homebuyer Report is not comprehensive, and if you are unlucky some problems could slip through the net.
Your decision will ultimately come down to your budget and the type of property you’re buying. However if you’re going to spend such a large amount of money on a house, you want to know if there are any problems with it.
If you’re buying an older property, a listed property or one of non-standard construction then it is certainly worth getting a full building survey done.
The survey is designed to highlight defects and once you know the faults of the house you should reopen negotiations with the seller – particularly if you find that you have to carry out some unexpected costly work.
If the seller isn’t open to discussion on the price, think carefully about whether to go ahead. If the property is already at a bargain price, it may still be worth proceeding. If they won’t negotiate down, ask yourself if you can afford to carry the full cost of the repairs.