What exactly is a building survey report?

What exactly is a building survey report?

The building survey report tends to cause a lot of confusion and uncertainty...

People often don’t know what exactly it is, how much it costs or who it should be conducted by.

There are mixed messages over when you do require one and when you don’t require one.

There are also question marks over what the building survey report actually means and what should actually be done with it.

Well, we hope to provide some answers to the above questions, with the help of Sally Fraser from Stacks Property Search.

A building survey, which used to be known as a structural survey, is a comprehensive inspection of all accessible elements of your property.

The report also provides a detailed evaluation of the condition of your property and will suggest which parts of the property might be a problem.

In addition, the report will point out areas of concern that could need further investigation.

What the report doesn’t do, though, is provide a valuation of the property.

“Building surveys are conducted by chartered surveyors who should be regulated by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS),” Sally Fraser says.

Building surveys should not be confused with a HomeBuyer’s report, Sally adds. “The latter is similar to a mortgage valuation, and it may be required by any company you are using for finance for the property. The Building Survey is not required by mortgage companies, but it is most definitely required by you!”

According to Sally, there are few circumstances in which a buyer wouldn’t need a building survey report. For example, if you’re knocking down a property and starting from scratch, it’s not deemed necessary. It may also not be needed if you’re doing an extensive renovation or if the home you’re buying is brand new.

“The Building Survey report is a very useful item,” Sally continues. “Its primary purpose is to draw attention to anything unexpected, unusual or concerning that wasn’t evident when you inspected the property that might affect your decision to buy, or the price at which you buy.”

What of the cost, though? Well, this varies depending on the type of property.

For a small flat, a building survey report is likely to cost upwards of around £600, while it will be between £1,000 and £1,500 for a large house.

If buyers don’t know who to use to carry out the report on their behalf, they should ring their estate agent for a chat.

In some cases, especially if the property is very large, very old or listed, a surveyor who specialises in these properties will be needed.

There is also some confusion among buyers about what the main purpose of the building survey report is.

“Some think its main purpose is to find reasons to further negotiate on the price of the property,” Sally explains.

“Remember, your offer is based on the property in the condition in which it’s seen. So if it’s clear to see that a wall is falling down, and the window frames are rotten, there’s no point going back with a Report that itemises these issues, expecting a discount.”

She adds: “Issues that may indicate that some renegotiation is possible include things that you could not have known about or seen in the course of your viewing, things that will require substantial outlay in the short term.”

These include subsidence, a roof at the end of its life, unsafe building practices or building regulations that have not been complied with. Rather than jumping straight in with a tough renegotiation, it may be more effective to ask the seller to fix the problem before exchange.

For buyers, the building survey report can be an intimidating document. It’s usually at least 30 pages long and full of jargon.

As Sally points out, it’s sometimes difficult to work out what’s important and relevant and what isn’t.  “Almost without exception, every single Building Survey Report will say “electrics need updating” as regulations go out of date on a regular basis. So some of the content will need unpicking and explaining.”

It would be useful to get the surveyor to take pictures while they carry out the report, while you can even join the surveyor on site – if possible – as they are carrying out the inspection. They can then walk and talk you through the main issues.  

Buyers need to be realistic – all houses have issues and the need for ongoing maintenance, but the report will help you to get handle on your main priorities.

Sally has one last piece of advice for buyers: “The Building Survey Report is your friend! Use it to help you keep your property in perfect health.”