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:
- Are there any defects which need urgent attention?
- Are there any defects which require costly repairs which may exceed their budget?
- Are there any “unseen” items which are likely to require attention, e.g., wiring, drains, cavity wall ties?
- Are there any legal issues such as trespass, eg, overhanging gutters, overhanging eaves, trees, etc?
- Are there any factors which may affect buildings insurance such as a flying freehold?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
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 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)
The different types of RICS surveys are described in the following 13 page document entitled A Clear, Impartial Guide to Home Surveys
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.