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Are you thinking of buying a flat or house for your family or as a rental investment? One of the most important steps in the home-buying process is getting an independent survey done on the property before exchanging contracts. But why fork out extra money on a survey when you've likely already viewed the property and checked it over yourself? What exactly does a survey entail and is it really necessary?
Spoiler alert – yes, an independent survey is essential due diligence for any property purchase. It may not be a legal requirement, but a survey helps provide vital information to make an informed decision on whether and how to proceed with the purchase.
There are various types of home surveys available in the UK, ranging from basic reports to detailed inspections. Selecting the right type of survey can help you avoid nasty surprises and costly repairs down the road. Though an added upfront cost, a survey is a prudent investment considering the value of the property and can potentially save you thousands in the long run.
In this article, we will outline the different home survey options available, weigh up the pros and cons, bust some common myths, and explain why a survey is money well spent.
There are a few different types of home surveys to choose from in the UK, each offering varying levels of detail and inspection. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is the leading professional body and their RICS-endorsed home surveys are carried out by qualified RICS members, experienced building surveyors whose findings will provide peace of mind.
The main types of surveys available are:
This standardised report follows a traffic light rating system of red, amber and green to indicate the condition of different parts of the property. Based on a visual inspection, the report provides a concise overview of any risks or defects found. A Condition Report is most suitable for new or nearly new properties in good condition.
The HomeBuyer report is one of the most popular surveys for buyers. It gives an overview of the property's general condition and highlights any urgent or major issues that need addressing and may also include a market valuation. A Level 2 Survey is “suitable for most conventionally built properties although it will likely be worth the additional expense of a Full Building Survey if the property is particularly run down,” advises one expert in the field.
A Building Survey, previously known as a full structural survey, entails a thorough visual inspection of all accessible parts of the property. The surveyor will assess the construction and condition of the interior and exterior of the building based on a non-invasive visual inspection. This type of detailed survey is recommended for older, unusual, or particularly large properties where a HomeBuyer report may not identify all potential defects.
While an upfront cost, a survey costing hundreds can save you thousands in the long run and is a prudent investment in such a major purchase. Here are 7 compelling reasons why you should never skip a home survey before you buy:
Provides vital information
A professional property survey can uncover issues not visible through the layman’s eyes, including structural problems, damp, roof defects, timber decay and more. This allows you to make an informed purchase decision.
Suppose serious defects should come to light in the survey findings. In that case, you can use this independent professional assessment to lend credibility to re-negotiations with the seller on the purchase price or request they carry out repairs prior to sale.
Avoids nasty surprises
Finding problems before purchase helps avoid potentially huge repair bills down the road. “The average buyer goes on to spend an additional £5,750 on repairs after they have purchased a property,” reports one industry source.
Provides peace of mind
The survey gives you confidence in your purchase knowing any major defects have been identified and, if renovations were recently done, knowing that the work was completed properly.
The only real drawback of getting a survey is the added cost to the home buyer and perhaps a slight delay in the transaction time frame. However, this is far outweighed by the many benefits a survey provides, as already mentioned above.
Unfortunately, many myths and misconceptions still exist about getting a home survey, and these must be addressed. Here are the main ones you should know about:
Reality: A professional home survey can uncover issues in properties of any age. Even new builds can have building defects that are not visible on inspection by an untrained eye.
Reality: A mortgage valuation purely assesses the property value and loan risk to the lender, and they’re conducted solely for the lender’s benefit. Only an independent survey examines the condition and construction.
Reality: A survey should be carried out before exchanging contracts, so you can make an informed decision about whether and how to proceed before the transaction becomes legally binding. Withdrawing later is usually not possible without losing your deposit.
Reality: In the UK, it is standard practice for the buyer to cover the cost of their own survey.
Reality: Surveyors can only inspect reasonably accessible areas. Some parts like drains, electrics or specific defects may require specialist reports.
Reality: Even the most comprehensive Level 3 survey typically constitutes well under 1% of the property value but can save much more long-term. Most buyers expect them.
Purchasing a home is one of the biggest investments most people will ever make. While no one wants unexpected surprises after moving in, many defects are impossible to identify through regular viewings alone. Obtaining an independent survey by a qualified professional prior to purchase is the only way to ensure that you know what you are letting yourself in for.
Even though an independent survey will incur extra costs at a time when the budget is no doubt stretched to the limit, it will provide you with invaluable insights that can save you money many, many times over. It’s a false economy not to pay for an expert opinion. The range of survey options available means there is a solution suitable for all property types and budgets. Any cons associated with surveys pale in comparison to the risks of buying a property blind.
Despite common misconceptions, surveys are strongly advisable for all home purchases in the UK, even new builds. The information gained allows you to make an intelligent decision and avoid nasty shocks further down the line. Ultimately, the relatively small survey fee is a minimal price to pay for the peace of mind and financial protection it affords. For most buyers, a property survey is an essential investment, not an unnecessary cost.
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