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Surveys explained: a guide to different survey options

If you’re in the process of buying a new property, it's probably been recommended that you organise a survey for your new home. If you've not bought a property for a while (or ever!), this can be confusing as there are several survey options to choose from. To help you decide which survey would be best for your home, we have broken down the most common types of home surveys and how to get the most from it.

What is a home survey?

A residential survey is a detailed inspection of a property’s condition. A surveyor will inspect the property and report on any structural problems, such as unstable walls or subsidence. They will also highlight any major repairs or alterations needed, such as fixing the roof or chimney chute. The report from the surveyor provides expert commentary on the property, from the type of wall to the type of glazing.

The two most commonly requested residential surveys are a HomeBuyer Report and a Building Survey.

What is a HomeBuyer Report?

A HomeBuyer Report is a detailed survey and, according to RICS (Registered Institute of Chartered Surveyors), it’s the most frequently requested.

A RICS qualified surveyor will attend your new home and perform a detailed visual inspection. They will then share the report with you, using an easy-to-understand ‘traffic light’ key alongside their comments, so that you can quickly identify any areas of concern.

The report will include detailed comments on the overall condition of your new home, plus highlight any obvious major problems – obvious rot, subsidence etc. They will also provide a market valuation, insurance rebuild costs (how much you are likely to receive in the event that the property needed to be rebuilt should it burn down), advice on defects that may affect the value of the property with repairs, and ongoing maintenance advice.

You are able to arrange a HomeBuyer Report with an independent surveyor.

What is a Building Survey?

A Building Survey is the most comprehensive type of home survey and is more expensive than a HomeBuyer Report, however it is recommended for older properties, listed homes or if you’re planning major rebuild or refurbishment works.

The report includes all of the information provided in a HomeBuyer Report, apart from the market valuation, but also includes a more in-depth analysis of the property’s condition – the surveyor will evaluate the basement and loft (if applicable), check behind walls and look between floors and ceilings.

The summary you receive will include detailed advice on defects, repairs and maintenance options, including estimated timings and costs. It will also outline the potential consequences of suggested works not being completed.

What is a mortgage survey?

If you require a mortgage to purchase your new property, the mortgage lender will need to book in a mortgage valuation, which is sometimes referred to as a ‘mortgage survey’. This is not a survey – instead it is a brief overview of the property to assess how much it is worth. Your mortgage lender requires this assessment to ensure the property is sufficient security for the loan, essentially meaning that your new home is not over (or under) valued.

Do I need to get a survey?

In short, no – a property survey is optional. However, they can help you avoid expensive and unwanted surprises, such as an unexpected rewiring job, as well as giving you peace of mind by confirming that those hairline cracks in the kitchen 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 seems a fair investment.

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

Once you’ve decided what type of survey your require, get in touch as we can put you in contact with our tried and recommended surveyors.

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