The ins and outs of house surveys

“Property or house survey” is one of the terms bandied about when you enter the property market. It can be confusing to suss out what exactly a property survey is, especially with all the other paperwork and admin you have to attend to. It’s also an added expense and you might not be sure that it’s worth it. So consider this:

  • House surveys save you significant costs in the long run.
  • House surveys are designed to protect you as the buyer, so it is your responsibility to make the necessary arrangements.

But my mortgage lender has already offered to conduct a Valuation Report? Isn't that the same thing?

Unfortunately not, but you wouldn't be the first home buyer to make that mistake.

The Valuation Report may involve a property inspection, but it's for the purpose of determining whether or not the property is worth the loan amount. This report is being carried out in the interests of the lender, not you. Since the loan is being secured against the property, the lender wants to ensure that the value of the loan is covered by the property.

If you want a report designed protect your investment as well as the lender's, you will have to hire a professional building surveyor who the necessary expertise to identify various cosmetic and structural issues.

So what property survey should I get?

There are two types of surveys recognized by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). They are the Homebuyers Survey and Valuation (HSV) (or Homebuyer's Report), and the Building Survey.

Standard Option: The Homebuyers Survey and Valuation (HSV)

At the bare minimum, you should have an HSV conducted on the property you're looking to purchase. It provides an overview of the condition of the property, including suggestions as to what repairs may need to be done, and estimates as to what the recommended repairs will cost. It will also look to find structural flaws or defects that affect the value of the property; evaluate the drainage, insulation and damp-proofing facilities; and make recommendations regarding any further inspections that need to be conducted.

Premium Option: The Building Survey

This is the option you go for if you want the most thorough inspection possible. It will cost more and take longer, but it will provide an in-depth breakdown of the condition of the property. All accessible areas of the property will undergo a rigorous inspection. Although the higher price means most home buyers will only choose this option if the property in question is particularly old, it is suitable for all types of property.

Estimated survey costs:

  • Homebuyers Survey and Valuation: £250 to £400
  • Building Survey: Around £1,000

Where can I find building surveyors?

Your best bet is to use an RICS surveyor, as they are closely regulated and any faults that they fail to detect are covered by professional indemnity insurance. You can find an RICS building surveyor on the website.

Alternatively you could hire an independent building surveyor through the Independent Surveyors Association (ISA). Either way, you should look for building surveyors that are familiar with the area in which you're looking to buy.

What can I do with the information provided by the property survey?

The property survey provides an accurate estimate of how much you will need to invest in repairs and maintenance after purchasing the property. This information can be used to renegotiate the property’s value, as you can try convincing the lender to subtract the amount required for repairs from the value. If they refuse to do so, it's up to you to decide whether the property is still worth the purchase price with repairs and maintenance factored in.

Tepilo offers free valuations, which are a great starting point for more in-depth house surveys.

Get Started with Sarah Beeny's Tepilo now.