What type of survey do I need?  Building Survey or Homebuyer Report 

What type of survey do you need before buying a house?  Surveys come with a variety of names such as Building Surveys, Structural Surveys, Homebuyer Reports, and Condition Reports.  Whatever the name, and whatever the type of survey you choose to have, you need to know that the contents of the report are going to give you the information you need to decide whether or not to proceed with your proposed purchase.

A survey isn’t only necessary to advise on the condition of the property and whether there are any defect.  The surveyor may also note issues which require input from your solicitor, or further enquiries or investigations.

Most house buyers would like to know the following:

  1. Are there any defects which need urgent attention?
  2. Are there any defects which require costly repairs which may exceed their budget?
  3. Are there any “unseen” items which are likely to require attention, e.g., wiring, drains, cavity wall ties?
  4. Are there any legal issues such as trespass, eg, overhanging gutters, overhanging eaves, trees, etc?
  5. Are there any factors which may affect buildings insurance such as a flying freehold?
  6. If any recent works have been carried out do they have Local Authority consents? This not only applies to extensions, but other works controlled under Building Regulations including formations of openings in walls, works to kitchens and bathrooms, works to service installations such as wiring and heating.
  7. Does the property contain asbestos? Asbestos can be found in many common materials in residential properties including textured coatings to walls or ceilings, floor tiles, sheet board materials, rainwater goods, some water tanks, man-made slates, etc.   The presence of asbestos containing materials is likely to increase the cost of any repair and alteration works if these need to be disturbed.
  8. Whether there are any known issues in the area such as subsidence, black ash mortar, pitch fibre drains, etc.

 

A mortgage valuation is not a survey

If you are taking out a mortgage on the property then be aware that the mortgage valuation is not a survey.  The purpose of the mortgage valuation is to confirm to the mortgage lender that the property offers sufficient security for the loan.  It is not intended to inform the buyer of the condition of the property and some mortgage lenders do not even pass a copy of the valuation to the applicant (the buyer).

For an average 3 bedroomed house a mortgage valuer is likely to spend around 20 to 30 minutes  carrying out the inspection, compared to around 3 hours for a survey (possibly more or less depending on the age and condition of the property).  For a mortgage valuation the valuer does not normally enter  into the roof space (head and shoulders inspection only) whereas for a survey the surveyor will carry out a detailed inspection of the roof space (subject to safe access being available).

Visit  http://www.rics.org/Global/RICS-HomeSurveys-a-valuation-is-not-survey-REVISED.pdf

The governing body for Chartered Surveyors is The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.  The RICS has produced information aimed at home buyers about the importance of getting a home survey.

View the following video entitled The Importance of Getting a Home Survey  https://youtu.be/LER9SPvdmRs

What type of survey should I have?

One of the most common types of survey is the RICS HomeBuyer Report.  This is a standardised report format suitable for most types of traditionally built property and is based on a visual inspection.  The Homebuyer Report will be carried out by a surveyor with one of the following qualifications – FRICS, MRICS or AssocRICS.

The Homebuyer Report was revised during 2016 and is now available either with or without a Market Value (Valuation) and an insurance rebuilding cost. The Homebuyer Report was previously only available with the Market Value and insurance rebuilding cost.

The Homebuyer Report includes a description of condition, colour coded condition ratings, comments on defects, advice on maintenance, an overall opinion and summary of condition ratings.  However, the Homebuyer Report does not include a detailed description of the construction of the building or detailed advice on specific defects.  It also excludes cost estimates for any repair works.

However, many Chartered Surveyors produce reports in their own format as an alternative to the Homebuyer Report, many of which offer more detailed information.  When you request a quotation for a survey ask what type of survey she they offer.  Also, ask for a sample report and the surveyor’s terms of engagement to make sure the service you choose meets your needs.  The inspections for some types of survey will be visual only, while others may be more detailed and include lifting a sample of floorboards to inspect the floor structure where this is possible without causing damage.

If you plan to carry out any alterations then inform the surveyor prior to the date of the survey so that these can be considered during the inspection.   For example,  if you plan to build an extension it is useful to know where the drain runs are located, also, if you plan to remove any walls you will need to know whether they are load bearing or not.

Decide whether you require any additional services to the basic survey, such as an insurance rebuilding cost or valuation, prior to instructing a surveyor.  There may be additional  costs if the surveyor has to return, for example to take measurements to calculate the rebuilding cost.

View the following video produced by the RICS entitled Choosing the Right Survey (for consumers)

https://youtu.be/9r92bTZYrvA  h https://youtu.be/9r92bTZYrvAttps://youtu.be/9r92bTZYrvA

The different types of RICS surveys are described in the following 13 page document entitled A Clear, Impartial Guide to Home Surveys

http://www.rics.org/Global/RICS-Home-Surveys.pdf

Choosing a surveyor

It is a good idea to ask friends, family or your solicitor for recommendations before instructing a surveyor.   Remember you do not have to have the survey carried out by the person who carries out the mortgage valuation, you are free to choose a surveyor of your choice.

Obtain quotations from Chartered Building Surveyors but remember that the level of detail within reports may vary and so choosing a surveyor is not solely down to cost.

The governing body for Chartered Surveyors is The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.  They hold a register of all Chartered Surveyors and their fields of practice.  To find a suitably qualified surveyor in your area visit RICS Find a Surveyor  http://www.ricsfirms.com/

Finally, whatever the name of the survey report, and whatever type of survey you decide to have, ensure the surveyor you instruct is local and experienced.  Also, ensure that the survey report will provide you with the information you require, in the detail you require.

See also What should I do after having a survey?

Source:  www.rics.org

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Buying a house with an extension: what to check – Local Authority approvals, substandard construction

When buying a house with an extension there are a number of issues to consider.

Local Authority Approvals – buying a house with an extension

The purpose of Building Regulations is to ensure that construction works are carried out to the required standard, are safe and have a satisfactory level of insulation.  If you are buying a house with an extension which does not have Building Regulation approval then its construction may be substandard or even dangerous.   It is possible that a lack of Building Regulation approval may affect the buildings insurance policy and/or mortgagability (and saleability) of the property.

If you plan to buy a house with an extension then you/your solicitor must make enquiries to establish whether the required Local Authority approvals have been obtained.  Obtain copies of all documentation and keep these with your other purchase documents.

However, you may find that the works were carried out without the required Local Authority approvals.  If this is the case then the Local Authority may choose to take enforcement action against the owner of the property (even if the works were carried out by a former owner).  In other words,  if you purchase a house with an extension which does not have the required Local Authority approvals then there is a risk that you will be required to rectify the works at your own expense.  The owner of the property may apply for retrospective approval, however, this may delay the sale of the property.  A speedier solution may be to take out an indemnity policy.  Your solicitor can advise on the suitability of an indemnity policy for your particular situation and can advise on the policy details and any limitations.

For further information on what works require Planning Permission, Building Control Approval and Listed Building Consent visit the Planning Portal using the link below:

https://www.planningportal.co.uk/

 

Half brick rear additions

Many older properties have additions (often at the rear) which are of half brick (single skin) construction.  Some were former outbuildings which have been incorporated into the living space.  This form of construction is substandard, may allow rain penetration, high heat loss and condensation.  If you are seeking a mortgage then it is possible that a retention may be made (or an undertaking to upgrade the walls) until works have been carried out to a satisfactory standard.

 

Lack of a cavity tray where conservatories and single storey extensions are provided

Where a single storey part is provided there is normally a cavity tray in the cavity wall immediately above the lower roof.  With cavity walls it is normal for rainwater to pass through the external leaf and into the cavity. A cavity tray is needed in this position to help water entering the cavity to pass to the outside instead of causing the inner face of the wall below to become damp.  In other words, if a cavity tray is not inserted into the cavity wall where a single storey extension or conservatory are added then there is a risk of dampness to the wall internally, ie, inside the house.

Damp patches may be noted to the wall or wall plaster in the area close to the new abutment to the outside wall.  If you are having a survey then your surveyor can check this area with a moisture meter.  A moisture meter can detect dampness which may not be visible to the naked eye.  If you are having only a mortgage valuation but no survey then the valuer may not check this area with a moisture meter.  See also – is a mortgage valuation the same as a survey?

If dampness is noted due to a lack of a cavity tray then it will be necessary to insert a cavity tray at this position.

 

Low pitched roofs to single storey extensions

Many people would prefer to have a pitched rood rather than a flat roof over an extension as they consider it will have a have a longer life and need less maintenance.  Also, many pitched roofs have a better appearance than flat roofs.  But many home owners do not consider the pitch of the roof and the type of tile.  In many cases the pitch is determined by the size of the extension and the position of any upper windows. In some cases there may only be sufficient height for a relatively low pitched roof.

Each type of tile has a minimum pitch for it to be watertight, ie, roofs below the minimum pitch for the type of tile may not be watertight.  For instance, Redland 50 Double Roman tiles should be used at minimum pitches of 17.5, 22.5 or 30 degrees depending on whether the tiles are through coloured or have a granular finish, and also depending on headlap.  Therefore, if a pitched roof has a low pitch it is possible that it may not be watertight unless a suitable type of tile has been used such as Forticrete Centurion which can be used for pitches as low as 10 or 12.5 degrees depending on headlap, lap of underlay, etc.

 

The list above is for general advice and is not exhaustive as further issues may require investigation and enquiries, depending on the property you propose to buy.

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Does my solicitor need a copy of my survey report?

 

The answer to this question is simple.  Yes, your solicitor should have a copy of your survey report.  Some solicitors may ask for a copy as a matter of course but many do not.  Your solicitor is not likely to have visited the property you plan to buy but your surveyor will probably have spent several hours carrying out an inspection before preparing the survey report.

It is likely that there will be items in the report which will need the input of your solicitor including:

  • Checking whether any extensions to the property (including loft conversions) have Local Authority approvals (Planning Permission, Building Regulation approval and Listed Building consent where appropriate).  Your surveyor is likely to note any recent extensions which your solicitor may not otherwise be aware of.
  • During the course of the survey your surveyor is likely to note any works which appear to have been carried out recently which would have required Building Regulation approval. Your solicitor should check whether Building Regulation approval has been obtained for any alterations to the property or any other works controlled under Building Regulations including formation of new openings in a wall, works to the drainage installation, etc.  Also, if cavity wall insulation has been installed then this will be noted by your surveyor and your solicitor should obtain the installation documentation to confirm that this has been carried out satisfactorily.
  • If any parts of the property trespass, ie, gutters, satellite dishes, trees, opening windows along a boundary, etc, then your solicitor can provide advice before you commit to purchase the property. Similarly, if any parts of a neighbour’s property trespass then advice can be obtained prior to purchase.
  • Confirming ownership and responsibility of boundaries.
  • Confirming ownership and responsibility for drain runs.
  • If you are buying a flat then your solicitor will need to check the lease and confirm your responsibilities for repairs and maintenance, including external and communal areas.

Your solicitor may be happy with a digital copy of the report rather than a hard copy.  This can easily be forwarded by email so can be read and acted upon a day earlier than a hard copy would be received by post.

So, even if a property looks to be in a good order, it is worth having a survey in the event there are issues which need to be checked by your solicitor.

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