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What is a Property Survey? Why Do You Need One?

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A property survey is an inspection into the condition of a particular building.

So, which type is for you? How much will it cost you? How does it all work?

Let’s delve a little deeper into the issue.

What is a property survey?

A house survey is a detailed inspection into the property’s condition. It usually takes place before a buyer parts with their cash, to ensure there are no nasty surprises later down the line.

It’s carried out to highlight any major repairs that are required, or issues such as damp. After all, it’s best to find out sooner rather than later. A survey is an important piece of armour when it comes to buying a home.

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Types of house survey

There are a few different types of property survey, each offering varying levels of insight. It’s vital you understand each one to work out what’s best for you, and how much house surveys cost. This is a vital step in the process of buying a house.

RICS condition report

Think of this type as the entry level; the most basic house survey. While it doesn’t go into as much detail as you may like, it’s also the cheapest, therefore can be popular with homebuyers.

It summarises the property’s defects and any potential issues that might rear their head while you’re living there. To do this, the surveyor will use a ‘traffic light’ system. Green means the condition of the property is fine, while red raises some serious warning flags.

However, it won’t include any advice. As well as this, while it can be used to complement a valuation, it doesn’t include one itself.

RICS homebuyer report/ home condition survey

You have two options here:

  • Survey only – home report
  • Survey and valuation – home condition survey

Naturally, the cost of the latter is higher. Both will inform you of any major problems, such as rot or house subsidence. Bear in mind that this is non-intrusive, e.g. no drilling into the walls.

The home condition survey digs deeper, providing information on broadband speeds, for example.

It’s also important to understand that these reports are thoroughly checked to ensure consistency.

RICS building survey

Also known as a full structural survey, this is the most in-depth type that can be carried out. For this reason, it’s the most expensive, but it can be worth spending a little more, particularly where older properties are concerned.

You’ll be given a detailed report at the end, including advice on particular repairs and maintenance, plus their timings or costs. It will also say what could happen if you don’t take action.

Your surveyor will look into the attic and between the floorboards, ensuring no part of the property is left unchecked.

New build snagging survey

Even recently-built homes can have their issues, which is why a new build snagging list is essential.

You can carry these out yourself, however it can be difficult if you’re unsure what you’re looking for. A surveyor can do the job for you.

This could be spotting anything from ill-fitting doors to more serious structural problems.

Property survey costs

So, how much does a house survey cost?

The price you’ll pay depends entirely on the type of survey you choose and the property itself.

RICS condition report £300-£400
RICS homebuyer report – survey only £350+
RICS homebuyer report – survey & valuation £400+
Building survey £500-£600
New build snagging survey £300-£600

When should you get one?

Once you’ve had an offer accepted, there’s plenty to do between exchange and completion. From legal processes to mortgage agreements, you need to have everything in check to ensure a smooth sale and reduce your risk of being gazumped.

Getting a survey is another step in the journey before contracts are exchanged. It’s vital you find a surveyor with experience with the type of property you’re buying.

Remember – after exchange the sale is legally binding, so you’ll want to know in advance if any nasty surprises are lurking. When making an offer on a house, you’ll want to know the facts.

How long will it take?

This entirely depends on the company you choose and what survey is carried out.

Some can be turned around in as little as 24 hours, sometimes it can take up to a month. It’s essential to book early to ensure completion isn’t delayed for this reason.

There are a number of elements that can affect how long it takes, such as surveyor availability and the seller’s diary.

Speed things up by ensuring you choose a dedicated, professional company and maintaining regular contact. Try not to simply go with the first surveyor your estate agent recommends.

House survey – what do they look for?

So, what does a surveyor do?

These professionals look for a variety of different issues – some minor, some very severe.

These include:

  • Damp
  • Mould
  • Subsidence
  • Any necessary repair work e.g. chimney, roof
  • Any required alterations
  • Cracks in the walls
  • Rot
  • Ill-fitting door and windows

The results can determine whether or not the sale goes ahead.

Why do you need one?

There are a variety of reasons why a house survey report is a necessary step in the process of buying a property.

A mortgage valuation isn’t the same

The mortgage valuation carried out by your lender won’t look at the structural stability of a property, or if there are any issues that could cause you problems living there.

This is all about protecting the security of their loan.

Saves money long-term

What’s more expensive, a survey, or the cost of fixing problems with the building later on down the line? It might well just be the latter.

While this is another upfront cost during an expensive time, it could save you money long-term.

Less risky

Peace of mind is invaluable when it comes to buying a house.

You’re about to make one of the biggest purchases any of us will make in our lives. Are you prepared to take the risk of not knowing whether the property is structurally sound?

How to get the most out of it

Being organised and staying on top of the process will help you get the most out of your survey.

First things first, inform your surveyor of any particular concerns you have with the property. We recommend you use a member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Plus, ensure you ask plenty of questions, including:

  • What are their qualifications?
  • What’s their process like?
  • Can you speak to the surveyor about the report?
  • Will your points of concern be listened to?
  • Does their report have photographs?
  • After booking, how long will it take them to carry out the report?
  • Once complete, how long can you expect to wait for the report?

What happens if you get a bad survey?

If a survey raises any serious points of concern – you have a vital decision to make.

For many, this can put them off proceeding with the sale completely. An issue like subsidence, for example, can be extremely expensive to fix, depending on how advanced it is.

However, for some, it isn’t an option to let their dream property pass them by, or waste the money already spent on the sale.

You could use any issues raised in the report to help you negotiate a house price down. It can be a useful haggling tool! Or, you could ask for certain fixtures and fittings to be included in the sale if the seller won’t budge.

Stay, pay, or walk away? The choice is yours – always seek advice from your conveyancer.

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How to find a surveyor

We can put you in touch with licensed, experienced professionals.

We have an approved panel of over 350 RICS surveyors, who can carry out a wide range of reports, including specialities like asbestos.

We’re here to ensure you don’t spend your money on a property without knowing all the facts. You wouldn’t buy a car without looking under the bonnet, after all! This is why we’re equipping hopeful homeowners with the tools they need.

Get survey quotes for free below.

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Last Updated: September 25th, 2023