When you’re buying a new home it really is advisable to have a professional survey conducted on the property. This is in addition to the market valuation required by your mortgage lender. There are three main types of homebuyer survey – the Condition Report, Homebuyer Report and Building Survey – as well as a snagging survey for new builds. The one you choose will depend on the type of property you are buying.

homebuyer survey

Why do I need a survey?

The average cost of a property in Wimbledon Village is more than £1.6 million. You’d imagine that such a major purchase would come with extensive legal protection, but this usually isn’t the case. The Consumer Rights Act, which requires any product or service to be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose, does not apply to the sale of houses.

A Wimbledon property may look stunning on the surface. But, it’s not always easy to judge whether there are unseen structural problems, of which even the vendor isn’t aware.

If something goes wrong further down the line, and the property requires unexpected and extensive repairs, there may not be much you can do. This is the reason every buyer is strongly advised to commission a professional property survey before contracts are exchanged.


Why can’t I rely on a mortgage valuation?

According to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), one in five buyers fails to commission a survey of their own. Many, who are using a mortgage to help fund their purchase, rely on the valuation provided for their mortgage lender as the only inspection of the condition of the property.

The problem is that this is merely a market valuation, designed to confirm the property’s worth and highlight obvious defects. It won’t tell you everything you need to know about any potential pitfalls.

Unless you are purchasing a new-build home that comes with a 10-year warranty, you’re advised to commission a survey.


How to choose the survey level that’s right for you

1 If you’re buying a modern conventional property

If the home you are buying was built recently and seems in reasonably good condition, you may wish to opt for the most basic survey – the RICS Condition Report, which will cost you around £250.

The report includes risks and potential legal issues and will highlight any defects, which urgently require attention. The report will not offer advice or provide a valuation.


2 If you’re buying a well-maintained older property

The RICS Homebuyer Report is suitable for conventional properties which are less than 150 years old and will cost you around £400. The report’s analysis of the property should reveal most major issues. However, be aware that the surveyor will not look behind furniture or lift flooring. The survey may be supplied with caveats, limiting the liability of the surveyor, which could be an issue if you later discover a major problem.

The Homebuyer Report will include:

  • an assessment of the location
  • the estimated insurance rebuilding costs
  • an assessment of any drainage or damp-proofing in the building
  • the condition of timbers and whether rot or woodworm is present
  • the identification of subsidence or damp
  • information highlighting urgent problems that require attention
  • details of faults in easy-to-access parts of the property that could affect its value.

Some Homebuyer Reports include a property valuation.


3 If you’re buying a period property or one which requires work

Previously known as a full structural survey or full building survey the RICS Building Survey is the most comprehensive choice, and the most expensive. You should definitely choose this survey if the property is more than 150 years old, if it has been substantially renovated or if you know it requires major work. You may also decide on this option if you want greater peace of mind about the property you are buying.

The cost of a RICS Building Survey usually starts at around £600 and can reach as much as £3,000 for larger properties.

The surveyor will conduct a full assessment of the property, both internally and externally, and the report could be a lengthy document. It will cover everything from subsidence to invasive weeds and will highlight repairs and maintenance, which you will need to undertake.

A Building Survey can take up to a day to complete and it may be two weeks before you receive your final report. It will explain what could happen if you don’t carry out the repairs and might also include an estimate of the costs involved.

Unlike a Homebuyer Report, the Building Survey does not have a standard format. Instead, the surveyor will tailor the assessment to the individual property and include anything you specifically want looked at.

The survey will present the information clearly, using a rating system to make it easy to interpret.

You can expect the survey to cover:

  • the estimated insurance rebuilding costs
  • all defects of the property and its general structural integrity
  • the results of tests for damp in the walls
  • an assessment of woodworm, dry rot and any other damage to timbers
  • the condition of existing insulation and damp-proofing
  • information on the materials used to build the property
  • the identification of invasive weeds and their location
  • the condition of the electrics
  • recommendations for further investigations on the property.

If possible, accompany your survey during the visit. You may get more information this way and better understand the points in the report.


4 If you are buying a new-build

A new-build snagging survey is an independent inspection, which you can commission before you buy a new property. The results will enable you to insist that the developers fix any faults before you move in. Costs usually start from £300 depending on the property.


How to find a surveyor

Make sure your surveyor is a member of a recognised professional body such as the RICS or the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA). Find out more on the RPSA or RICS websites.

At Robert Holmes estate agents we specialise in property in Wimbledon Village, Coombe and surrounding areas of south west London. If you are looking to buy a house locally, we can offer expert advice on the type of home survey to opt for as well as other issues connected with buying and selling. Please contact us today.

About the author

Nicolas Holmes

Nick joined Robert Holmes to inject fresh ideas and help grow the New Homes department of Robert Holmes as well as helping to inject technology into the business and to grow its client base. Together with one of the Directors Nick is in charge of all Development opportunities that Robert Holmes deals with along with sales. Aged 40, he provides succession together with the two existing directors. Nick has always been focused on building client relationships and sales. He built up his own gallery in Chelsea, where he had a loyal following of customers and artists.

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