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House Surveys - Are They Worth the Cost?


Why get a homebuyers report?

Getting home buyers survey on your property makes a lot of sense. For most people, a property is going to be their most expensive asset. Before you embark on purchasing something that is potentially going to take you 20+ years to pay off and own outright, it would make sense to look for potential problems.

A good survey could save you a fortune in repair costs down the line.

There are three main reasons why a Home buyers Report is a good idea.

  • Peace of Mind
  • Bargaining
  • Budgeting

Peace of Mind

You want to be sure that there aren’t any hidden surprises that are going to cost you to repair at a later date. Having a survey carried out will give you an insight into actual or potential issues with the property..

Bargaining

You want to ensure that the property is worth what you are paying for it.

If the report comes back with potential problems a buyer may be able to use this to negotiate on prices. Alternatively, the report could come back with a clear bill of health. At least you then have that peace of mind .

If you are purchasing the property with a mortgage it is likely your mortgage lender will insist on a Mortgage Valuation Report. THIS IS NOT A SURVEY. This report is for the benefit of your lender. It enables them to determine if the property is adequate security for the money they are lending you. It protects their investment, not yours.

A Home Buyers Survey or report doesn’t just benefit buyers. If you are selling your property it could be worth getting a report on your own home before it goes to market. If you are aware of issues beforehand you can price accordingly, or get a number of quotes from tradespeople to rectify. That way you know what an appropriate reduction would look like.

If the report comes back clean, then provide it to interested parties so they are aware the property has no structural problems and requires no major works. Having that information available will be useful to buyers, particularly first time buyers new to the property market.

Budgeting

You might be aware the property needs some work, but you are unsure of the scope. Having a report will allow you to identify potential problems, which gives you a chance to plan your finances and works accordingly.

Types of Homebuyers Reports

If you are looking for an industry standardised home report it may be in your interests to look for an RICS registered surveyor. They will be able to provide three types of RICS Homebuyer Reports, so you know what you’re getting for the money.

Homebuyer surveys are a good way to avoid unexpected repair costs further down the line. Getting a survey for a house or flat will give you an idea of just how much you might need to invest in a property after you buy it. This guide examines the different types of survey available and their costs, including RICS Condition Reports, RICS HomeBuyer Reports and more.

It’s important that you choose the type of survey based upon the condition of the property, not necessarily on the price of the report.

The three surveys available through an RICS Registered Surveyor are:

  1. RICS Condition Report (Level one) - Approx £250
  2. RICS HomeBuyer Report (Level two) - Approx £400
  3. RICS Building Survey (Level three) - Approx £500

The house survey costs mentioned in this article are a guide. They could change depending on provider and size of the property they are surveying.

RICS Condition Report (Level one)

Best used if your home is a new-build, or conventional home that looks to be in good condition. The survey will not include a valuation, though your surveyor may be able to include this for an additional fee.

The Condition Report is designed to provide an easy to read summary of potential issues, using a traffic light system. This traffic light system will cover the different parts of the building, services, garages and other outbuildings (where relevant)

It will also highlight any future risks to the condition of the building. FInally, it will go some way to investigating legal issues surrounding guarantees, planning and building control that might be in place.

The report will present the issues without any advice. You would need to seek expert advice should the report flag something up major.

The report will cost somewhere in the region of £250.

RICS HomeBuyer Report (Level two)

This report would be suitable If you have a conventional property (i.e. built using typical materials and construction methods) that is in reasonable condition.

It covers everything in the Level one report and will also look for structural issues such as damp or subsidence.

This report will often include a market valuation of the property (but check to make sure) and an insurance reinstatement figure. This would be the rebuild cost to restore the property in the event of a catastrophe.

Not only is this report more extensive in the inspection, but it also comes with advice on repairs and ongoing maintenance.

Should the report highlight something major that is going to cost to repair, you can use this as a bargaining tool to reduce your offer.

This report would cost around £400.

RICS Building Survey (Level three)

Aimed at larger or older properties, or where the type of property is built using non standard materials. This is a different type of survey compared to levels one and two. It would also be useful if you were considering extensive remodelling of the building once you move in.

This report will give detailed information about the structure and fabric of the property. It uses a 1 2 3 system to quickly identify areas that need attention.

It involves a thorough inspection of the building, covering a wider range of issues in much more detail.

It will highlight visible defects AND potential issues caused by hidden flaws. This could be subsidence, damp, dry rot etc.

It should also include a breakdown of problems, costs of repair work and the consequences of inaction.

This report would cost £400-£500 and DOES NOT include a valuation. This would be an additional cost if needed.

Other types of Property Survey

Full Structural Survey

You don’t have to opt for an RICS regulated survey. There are other options out there. Just remember, no survey will be able to look under floorboards or behind walls, unless this is agreed with the vendor. All surveys will look for evidence of problems that are visible or measurable.

A full structural survey should include everything you would expect in an RICS Building Survey (Level three). If you are opting for a non RICS member to conduct the survey look at the RICS surveys as a comparison to make sure everything is covered.

New Build Survey

If you are looking at buying a new build you may think that a survey isn't’ needed. This may not be the case depending on the developer. It is always a good idea to look for reviews on your developer and see if there are issues reported by previous buyers.

A New Build snagging survey would cost around £300. THis would be an independent assessment of the property and will highlight any issues with the property. These issues can then be rectified by the developer BEFORE you move in.

The Most Common Problems Found on Surveys

  • Electrical issues: particularly on older houses; is everything up to code?
  • Roof issues: Leaks, dry rot, structural instability.
  • Damp and other timber issues: We don’t get termites in the UK but we do have woodworm.
  • Structural issues: Subsidence / Walls bowing / Cracked Supporting Beams
  • Central Heating Problems.

If your report find any of the above what next?

Find out if any of the problems are covered under a guarantee. If the property has had a new roof, windows, or damp proofing in the last ten years it could be covered by a guarantee from the supplier. It may be this can get rectified under that guarantee.

Get an idea of the extent of repairs needed from your surveyor.

If the problems are extensive get quotes to find out how much it will cost to repair.

If you are still keen to go ahead with buying the property, use the above as a bargaining tool to reduce the price. You could also request that the issues are fixed by the seller before you exchange.

Remember you can always walk away from the sale. Don’t feel obliged to continue because you’ve paid out for a survey. It’s not just the cost of repairs you need to consider. Building work can be quite lengthy and disruptive to a household, and can be particularly troublesome if you have small children.

To find a surveyor you can visit the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) or Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) websites.