If you have had an offer accepted on a property, it is advisable to have a professional survey conducted. We look at the different types of survey available, the costs and which survey might be best for the property you are buying.

home survey

What is a survey?

A house survey is an assessment of a properties condition. It is conducted by a qualified surveyor who visits the property, carries out the inspection and prepares a report of their findings. A survey will tell you if there are any structural problems, highlight any major repairs and provide an expert commentary on the property.

There are three levels of homebuyer survey:

  • Level 1 – Condition Report
  • Level 2 – Homebuyer Report
  • Level 3 – Building 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.

The 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 property’s condition.

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 long warranty, you’re advised to commission a survey.

What sort of survey should I get?

Which of the three main types of survey is right for you will depend on the age, condition and price of your prospective purchase. We explore them all in more detail…

Condition Report

A Condition Report uses a traffic light system to describe the condition of the property. The report includes risks and potential legal issues and will highlight any defects, which urgently require attention.

Suitable for: Properties that were built recently and are clearly in good condition.

Cost: Price starts around £250

condition survey

Homebuyer Report

A Homebuyer Report is an analysis of the property, which will reveal most major issues. It does have limitations, though; the surveyor will not look behind furniture or lift flooring. It may be supplied with caveats, limiting the liability of the surveyor, which could be an issue if you later discover a major problem.

It will include:

  • an assessment of the location
  • the estimated cost of rebuilding the property for insurance purposes
  • 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.

Suitable for: Conventional properties, which are less than 150 years old

Cost: Price starts around £400

Building Survey

Previously known as a full structural survey, a Building Survey is the most comprehensive choice.

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.

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 cost of rebuilding the property for insurance purposes
  • 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.

A Building Survey involves an in-depth investigation of a property’s condition, which means it can take up to a day to complete and it may be two weeks before you receive your final report.

However, it may well be worth the wait; by digging deeper into the property’s current state and its history, a Building Survey report can uncover any structural problems that would otherwise be missed.

Suitable for: Older properties and those which have been substantially renovated or which you know require major works.

Cost: Price starts at around £600 and can reach as much as £3,000 for larger properties.

buildings survey

Do I need a survey for a new build property?

If you are buying a new-build home, you’ll need a different type of survey. A 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 a quickly as possible and within your warranty period. Costs usually start from £300 depending on the property.

What to do if your survey uncovers problems

A survey report will nearly always find some issues. If possible, accompany your surveyor during the visit. You may get more information this way and better understand the points in the report.

Find out from your seller whether the problems identified are covered by a guarantee. If not, your surveyor should be able to give you an idea of how costly it would be to fix. For significant works, you could ask a builder to provide you with a quote. Use these estimates to negotiate with your seller on price or ask that they have the problems resolved before you complete on the sale.

How do I find a good surveyor?

Ensure your surveyor is a member of a recognised professional body such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA).

Get quotes from at least three different surveyors. Ask to see examples of their past reports so you can determine if that sort of information will be useful to you.

Your mortgage lender or estate agent will be able to recommend a surveyor, but you should always do your research to make sure you are getting the best deal.

We can help

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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