What sort of survey should I have?
If you've had an offer accepted on a property, you'll be wondering whether you need a survey and if so which one. We look at reasons to get a survey, different types, costs and which one is right for your property, where to find a good surveyor and - most importantly - how to get the most out of your survey.
What is a mortgage valuation?
First up, please be aware that a mortgage valuation is not a survey – it is just a cursory look at a property to assess how much it is worth. It is required by your mortgage lender to ensure the property is sufficient security for the loan. Your lender will insist on using a company they trust and you will have to pay for it. Lenders charge varying amounts depending on the size of the property (from around £350) while others throw in free valuations as part of a mortgage deal; but don’t let that sway you. A deal with a lower interest rate is likely to save you far more over time, even if you do have to pay a bit more for the mortgage valuation.
So, what is a survey?
A survey is intended to be a detailed inspection of a property’s condition. The surveyor will inspect the property and tell you if there are structural problems like unstable walls or subsidence. The surveyor will also highlight if there are any major repairs or alterations needed, such as fixing the roof or chimney chute. The surveyor will also provide expert commentary on the property, from the type of wall to the type of glazing.
Who carries out a survey?
- Surveys should be carried out by qualified surveyors
- Most qualified surveyors are members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
- We recommend using a RICS qualified surveyor because they carry professional indemnity insurance
- If you can get a local surveyor they are likely to have a better knowledge of market values in the area
- Equally, if you are buying an unusual house, like a lighthouse or a castle, get a surveyor with experience in that specific field
- Costs vary from company to company, and depend on the size and location of the property.
Do I need to get a survey?
No a survey is optional. But they can help you avoid expensive and unwanted surprises, like an unexpected rewiring job, as well as giving you peace of mind by telling you that those hairline cracks don’t mean the house is falling down. Given the hundreds of thousands of pounds it costs to buy a property, a few hundred pounds on a survey to have the reassurance of an independent, expert surveyor looking over it feels like a good investment.
With the information from the survey you might reconsider whether to buy the property or use the unbiased information you have to renegotiate the price. If you find for example it needs £15,000 of roof repairs, it is reasonable to ask for £15,000 off the price. Alternatively, you might ask the seller to fix the problems before you buy.
We would particularly recommend a survey if:
- you have any specific worries about any part of the property
- you feel unsure about what sort of condition the property is in
- you are looking to buy an old or unusual property
- the property has a thatched roof or is timber framed
- the building is listed
What sort of survey should I get?
There are a number of different types of survey. What you choose depends on the depth of survey you want and your budget.
Condition Report (survey level one – £300 or more)
This is the most basic survey you can get, and the cheapest. It doesn’t go into much detail so may leave you wanting more:
- It is designed to complement the mortgage valuation
- It provides ‘traffic light’ indications as to the state of various parts of the property. Green means everything is ok, orange is some cause for concern, and red means serious repairs are vital
- It also provides you with a summary of the property’s defects and possible risks affecting the home
- It does not include any advice nor a valuation
HomeBuyers Report (survey level two)
These are a more detailed survey and the most popular option according to RICS. There are two options in this category – you can choose to have a survey with or without a valuation:
HomeBuyers Report (survey only – £350 or more)
- It will tell you any obvious major problems – obvious rot, subsidence, etc.
- But, the surveyor is non-intrusive: they will not look behind furniture, nor lift up floor boards or drill any holes, so any report they draw up is limited
- Furthermore, HomeBuyers Reports are usually so full of caveats and statements designed to cover the surveyor’s back that they can be pointless
HomeBuyers Report (survey and valuation – £450 or more)
- The second option includes all of the above, plus a valuation and an insurance reinstatement value (how much you would receive were the building to burn down)
Home Condition Survey (£400- £900)
Offered by the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) rather than RICS, Home Condition Surveys are:
- conducted by specialists in residential surveys and produced in a consistent, consumer friendly format
- include practical information such as broadband speed, damp assessment and boundary issues for the conveyancer to consider
- reports are independently checked to ensure consistency and quality
- Home Condition Surveys cost between £400-£900 depending on value of property
Building Survey (survey level three – £500 or more)
Building surveys (by RICS surveyors) are expensive, but can be a worthwhile investment:
- They range in price from under £500 to about £2000 depending on the size of the home
- They are extensive surveys and you will be given a detailed report at the end
- The surveyor will get into the attic, check behind walls, and look between floors and above ceilings
- It includes advice on repairs, and provides estimated timings and costs, and will tell you what will happen if you do not do the repairs
- Unless specified, it probably will not include an insurance reinstatement value estimate, or a market valuation.
Do I need a survey for a new build property?
For new build properties, we recommend a professional snagging survey is carried out. A snagging survey will identify defects or problems which need fixing before you move in. A professional snagging survey should spot minor issues like a door that’s misaligned and catching on the carpet to something more serious that could affect the structure of your home. These typically cost between £300 and £600.
If the new build you are buying is built and ready, you would ideally carry out a snagging survey before exchange. If it’s off-plan then try to carry out the survey pre-completion when you will have more negotiating power to get any problems fixed. This is assuming the developer lets you on site, which often they do not, in which case get a snagging survey carried out as soon as possible after moving in.
Given the number of complaints and calls for help we get from visitors to our website, the HomeOwners Alliance is proud to have teamed up with one of the best known snagging inspectors in the UK, New Build Inspections. Unlike many other snagging companies, they never work for developers or builders so can retain their independence. Get a free, no obligation quote from new build inspectors here.
How do I find a good surveyor?
- Going with the surveyor recommended by your bank, estate agent, mortgage lender or other property expert can end up costing you more.
- Get quotes from a few local firms and compare.
- We often hear complaints that survey reports come with so many caveats that it is difficult to know how to respond to them; ask if you can see copies of past reports – will that sort of report be useful for your situation?
- Check your surveyor is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) – he or she will have the letters MRICS or FRICS after his or her name. The RICS ensures that all its members maintain professional standards in their work.
How can I get the most out of my survey?
- When you appoint your surveyor tell them if there are any particular concerns you have about the property
- Walk through the house with them – make sure they look at everything, move furniture and have a good poke around
- Ask questions – point out things that worry you and ask about them. It’s your house so you should understand everything
What to do if issues are flagged in your survey
Take a look at our guide “What to do after a bad survey report” For more advice on what to do if the property you want to buy has problems flagged in the survey become a member of the HomeOwners Alliance to speak to our helpful team.