A guide to choosing the right property survey

Should you choose a homebuyer’s or a full structural survey? Here Fine & Country explain the importance of home surveys and what’s available

You’ve found the home of your dreams but before you get swept away, it’s important to ensure the property is not going to crumble around you. People are often seduced by the way a property looks and feels and then ignore peeling paint, crumbling bricks or gurgling pipes. But a few hundred pounds spent on a property survey could save thousands of pounds later on. A survey should also highlight potential flaws in a property, which could help when negotiating the price.

Where do I start?
Most buyers rely on a mortgage lender’s valuation. This will reveal serious defects that are likely to affect the property’s value but it is only a cursory look at a home by the mortgage lender, to ensure it is worth the money.

What is the process?
A valuation is usually a straightforward process. The surveyor will check the property and assess the value based on its general condition, the value of homes recently sold in the area and the buoyancy of the housing market. The report will contain a summary of the condition and comments on any general faults that may exist. This valuation is probably enough if purchasing a new build but if you are buying an older property, then it is worth having a more comprehensive survey carried out.

What sort of survey should I have?
There are two main kinds of survey, which are recognised by The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (www.rics.org) – a homebuyer’s or a building survey. Both are carried out by chartered surveyors. A homebuyer’s survey is more detailed than a valuation report. Like the valuation, the survey will check the general condition of the property and any major faults, as well as urgent problems that need specialist advice. It will test for damp in walls, damage to timbers and the condition of damp-proofing. It also covers insulation and drainage, plus the estimated cost of rebuilding the property for insurance purposes, along with the value of the home on the open market. This survey is not suitable for properties needing renovation or major alterations. For these kinds of projects, a full structural survey or building survey is required, although an in depth building survey can be performed on any property. It highlights major issues, as well as minor defects and the cost of repairs, technical information on the construction of the property, the materials used, plus the location.

Should I have a survey?
A survey is similar to a health check for your new home. While it may seem like an unnecessary cost, it’s the equivalent of a full check-up, so you know exactly what you’re buying and its value. It is worth paying a few hundred pounds now to save on unexpected expenditure and hassle in the future. Some homeowners will invest in a survey before putting their property on the market. This is an effective way to identify any issues that might need to be addressed before the property is listed with an estate agent and may accelerate the sale process. It also shows potential buyers that you care about your home and have done everything possible to ensure it is ready for the new owner.

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