House Buying Surveys: What Types Are There and Are They Necessary?

There are numerous house surveys which can help buyers to discover if there are any potential problems with the property they are interested in purchasing.

If you are in the process of buying a house, it is a good idea to look into house buying surveys as they can highlight potential issues and save you repair costs further down the line. It can be difficult to know which survey is best suited for you, so this guide will explain what a survey is, the different options available and whether they are really necessary.

What is a survey?

A house survey is a way of assessing any potential issues or costs that might arise when purchasing a property. This involves bringing in a property surveyor who is impartial to either party, who can make expert judgements on any issues or provide potential fixing costs.

Types of homebuyer survey

There are different types of homebuyer surveys, so depending on the property you are looking to buy, one type may suit your needs more than others.

Surveys are typically carried out by members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), who are professionally qualified surveyors.

RICS Condition Report

The RICS Condition Report is the most basic survey available, however it is also the cheapest – usually costing around £300. This report gives an overview regarding the condition of a property and highlights any potential issues without going into detail.

The report uses a traffic light rating to indicate the condition of different areas of the property. Green indicates there are no issues, orange indicates there may be some cause for concern, and red indicates that repairs will be necessary.

A Condition Report is most suitable if you are looking to buy a new build or a modern home that looks in good condition. The Condition Report does not include any advice or any type of valuation.

RICS HomeBuyer Report

According to RICS, this is the most popular type of survey. The RICS HomeBuyer Report is suitable for conventional properties that are in relatively reasonable conditions. The price for the survey starts at £350, however there is also the option to include a valuation – which usually starts at around £450.

The HomeBuyer Report is more in depth than the Condition Report and will tell you any obvious major structural problems, including issues such as damp and subsidence. The surveyor however stays non-intrusive, so they won’t go looking under floorboards or behind furniture.

You can also get a valuation with the RICS HomeBuyer Report, meaning you will have a figure which you can compare to the mortgage lender’s valuation.

RICS Building Survey

A Building Survey is usually used for larger or older properties or may be used if you are planning big structural change. A Building Survey can range in price, but it is usually around £500 or more.

Building Surveys are more extensive and provide a more detailed report. The report will include advice on repairs and give an estimate of timings and costs. It will also explain what will happen if the repairs are not completed.

With the Building Survey, the surveyor will look more deeply at the property by going into the attic, looking between floors and checking behind walls.

New-build snagging survey

New builds obviously shouldn’t have any glaring property damage or issues, so it is recommended that a snagging survey is carried out. A snagging survey highlights minor issues such as misaligned doors or other small faults. Snagging surveys typically start from around £300

Mortgage valuation survey

A mortgage valuation survey is used to satisfy the mortgage lender that the property you are looking to buy is actually worth the price you are paying. This is necessary in order for them to approve your mortgage. The valuation surveys can cost between £150 to £1,500 depending on the size of the property. Mortgage valuation surveys are sometimes included in the offer made by lenders, but if not, it is something you will have to pay for.

The mortgage valuation simply puts a value on your property that you can compare to the price that you have offered.

What to do if your survey uncovers problems

House wall displaying some damage

The likelihood is that the surveyor’s report will almost always find some kind of issue. It is recommended that you go with the surveyor whilst they carry out the survey, so you can ask questions about any concerns you have.

The most common issues that are usually uncovered by surveys include: damp and timber issues, electrical installation, issues with the central heating and problems with the roof. So each issue will need handling differently.

It is recommended that you ask your surveyor to give you an indication of how much it will cost to solve the issues with the property, as this needs to be factored into how much you are offering for the property. You then have the choice to try renegotiating the price of the property, or to request the seller fixes the issues you have found before the deal goes through.

If the property has too many problems then you always have the option to back out, as at this point you shouldn’t be committed to purchasing the property.

Do I need to get a survey?

Buying a property can be an expensive purchase, so it can be tempting to consider optional costs as unnecessary expenses. However, a survey is almost always a good idea as it is likely to save you a lot of money in the long run if there are any problems with the property.

The money you spend on a survey will likely be much smaller than the cost of fixing the issues that are uncovered. So it is better to discover these issues beforehand and decide whether to try ask for a reduction on the price or ask the seller to sort the issues. For example, if the survey costs £500 but uncovers £5000 worth of issues, you can then ask for this amount to be knocked off the asking price.

The older a property is, the more it should definitely be surveyed. Newer builds are less likely to have serious issues – but it is still recommended to get some kind of survey just in case.

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House being surveyed