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What types of surveys are there and which is best for me when buying a house?

Jun 21, 2021 by Alan Aksenenko

Having a survey carried out when buying a house is a good way to avoid any unexpected additional costs after completion. It’s also one of the key aspects of the house-purchasing process, and one that should by no means be overlooked. 

A survey carried out at the prospective property will give you a better idea about how much further investment may need to be put into the property after the initial purchase (if any). Carrying out a survey may seem like further financial burden, but it can be quite the opposite: any issues that a survey highlights could give you a basis on which to negotiate a lower price with the seller. 

And yet, it’s crucial for you to choose the appropriate survey depending on the type and location of the property: it would make little sense to get a full structural survey on a newly built property. There are a variety of surveys, which, depending on your property type, will be more or less appropriate. 

Ultimately, it’s vital that you choose the right survey based on the condition of the property itself and not limit yourself by the cost of getting a professional to carry one out, instead opting out for a cheaper but less useful survey. 

Different types of surveys

A valuation survey is, as its name suggests, a survey which evaluates and calculates whether the property you are looking to buy is indeed worth the money you have decided to pay for it. It is also known as the mortgage valuation survey, as it will allow the mortgage lender to see whether or not the loan they give out can be recovered if you default on the mortgage repayment. 

This type of survey will however fail to identify any structural or condition issues. Therefore, if you need more than just a valuation of your property, a comprehensive survey could be the way to go. It can be useful to note that if you will be funding the purchase of the property through a mortgage, you will almost never need to carry out a valuation survey as the lender will carry it out anyway. 

Property condition report

A picture of a man holding a report

A property condition report is most suitable for new build homes, or homes that are in good condition. The survey identifies risks and legal issues as well as serious defects to the property. With a cost of around £250 the condition report survey is considered to be the most fundamental and cheapest option and gives you no advice or valuation for the property. 

The simple nature of the survey means that some property issues which are less easy to spot could be missed, thus it would be reasonable to use this survey if you are confident about the state of the property and do not suspect any issues.

HomeBuyer Report

One of the other surveys available to a prospective property purchaser is the HomeBuyer report, which has a starting price of around £400. The HomeBuyer report looks into a number of issues within the property including structural problems such as mould or damp formation as well as subsidence of the ground. 

One of the let-downs of this report, however, is that it does not look beyond the interior of the home (i.e. further than the walls or floorboards). The HomeBuyer report, however, will be useful to negotiate a new home price if the results of the report indicates that you will need to carry out any or significant repairs. In other words, if the report shows that there are £10,000 worth of repair work to be carried out, you can use this as evidence for the seller to lower the purchase price.

Full structural survey

A picture of a survey on ipad

Finally, the last main test that you can use to survey your prospective property is the full structural survey. It is the most extensive survey and can be used for all types of residential property and is especially useful for older property that you are worried about or suspect will need repairs. The usual fees for this survey start at around £600 and go up to £1,200. The survey will provide you with detailed advice on needed repairs, and although as with the HomeBuyer report, the full structural survey cannot look under floorboards or behind walls, it does have the additional opinion of the surveyor on the potential for unknown defects in the house as well as the potential repair options. 

Ultimately this comprehensive survey will allow you to not only potentially negotiate the price of the property, if for instance significant repairs are required, but also give you a better understanding of the state of the property, which will either make you go ahead or pull out of the purchase of the property.

Summary

Ultimately choosing the correct survey type, out of the four principal ones touched upon above, will largely depend on the property type you are thinking of purchasing. A survey which unearths any issues at the property can ultimately save you a significant amount of money and grief while sparing you from hidden and unwanted repair costs. It’s an integral part of the house-buying process. 

Resources for house buyers
Jun 21, 2021 by Alan Aksenenko

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