Types of Property Survey

You wouldn’t spend thousands of pounds on a used car without checking it over first, so why would you spend significantly more on a house without doing the same?

If you are applying for a mortgage to buy the property, then your application is likely to be subject to a survey, so that the lender knows that the property is worth what you are paying for it, which makes it a lot less of a risk for them. But it also means you knowing exactly what you're buying.

So what types of survey are available and which is the best one to go for?

Compulsory Valuation Survey

This is the most basic of the surveys available and will do just enough to satisfy your lender's criteria: that if you were unable to make your mortgage payments, they’d be able to make their money back by selling the property.

The cost of a valuation survey can depend on the size/value of your property - some lenders may even offer this type of survey for free as part of their mortgage package.

The downside to the valuation survey is that it will not point out any major faults with the property so if you want to be sure what you’re getting yourself in for, then it may be worth having a more thorough survey done.

A compulsory valuation survey is useful for those who are buying a brand new property or for homeowners who are remortgaging the same property but with a different lender that requires a valuation as part of the mortgage deal.

Condition Report

This report usually costs around £250 and offers a very basic ‘traffic light’ evaluation of your property. It doesn’t usually include a valuation and it won’t offer any advice, so don’t expect any problems to be spotted.

Homebuyer Survey

This will be more expensive than the basic valuation or condition report – the actual cost may depend on the value of the property, but on average is around £400-£500. However, it is much more thorough and should reveal any serious problems with the house.

If there are obvious problems such as subsidence or damp, this should be revealed in the homebuyer report, however please note that the survey doesn’t go beyond the walls and the floorboards in the property. If there are any underlying issues that aren’t so obvious, these might not be discovered as part of the homebuyer survey.

If the report uncovers major faults then you could use this to negotiate the price of the property with the seller – either ask the seller to rectify the issues before you buy or knock the price down to reflect the money you’d have to pay to cover this yourself.

If serious issues are uncovered that are going to be too expensive to rectify, then as long as you haven’t already exchanged contracts, you can still pull out of the deal.

Full building survey

A full building survey or structural survey is the most comprehensive available – which is reflected in the cost. It’s suitable for all residential properties, but it’s particularly good if you are looking to buy an older property, or one that’s obviously in a state of disrepair.

It will provide a very detailed report of any issues with the property, and will offer advice on repairs. It should also include the surveyor’s opinion on potentially hidden defects within the property that aren’t necessarily clear from the survey results.

In some circumstances, it’s worth paying the extra money to have such an extensive survey done as it could save you a great deal in the long run.

Next Steps

If the survey uncovers any problems, then you’ll need to decide what to do next. Some issues may easily be resolved or repaired but you should ask the surveyor to give you an estimate of how much things are likely to cost.

You can use these estimated costs to try and renegotiate with the seller, either asking them to fix the issues before the sale is completed or knocking money of the sale price in order that you can pay for the repairs yourself.

Try to remember that it’s not all about the cost – certain problems can take a long time to repair and could cause major upheaval. If it’s all going to be too much work and hassle, then you can still walk away from the deal – you’re not committed until contracts have been exchanged.

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