So you’re about to spend an eye-watering amount of money on a property. You’ve probably got a thousand and one things to think about, and the last thing on your mind is commissioning someone to conduct a house survey or property survey on your dream home that’s perfect already.

But here’s the thing: Over time, there’s a shed load of things that can go wrong with a property. Some can be easily hidden behind a dollop of filler and paint. But it’s the things that aren’t yet a real problem, or that may not be visible, that you need to know about. And it’s these that an eagle-eyed chartered surveyor can – and will – spot on your behalf.

It’s common sense to know exactly what you’re getting before parting with your hard earned cash. It’s why doing a survey beforehand is such a good idea. No, it’s not a legal requirement- some people out there probably wish it was – but it should be at the top of your list before you sign on the dotted line. It may come back to bite you if you don’t.

Forewarned is forearmed.

Once you know the lay of your land, you’ll be in a position to ask the vendor to fix anything that’s fundamentally wrong with the property before you proceed. You could also renegotiate the sale price and get things made good in your own time – or just go and find something else altogether. A survey is crucial if you’re buying an ancient, old or listed property. They’re highly recommended for anything with a bit of character – although you probably won’t need a one if you’ve set your heart on a new-build home, which should come with a 10-year guarantee.

Remember, a survey isn’t a valuation.

A valuation is carried out by your mortgage lender to determine whether the property is indeed worth the sale price before handing over a wheelbarrow of cash to you.

So here’s a list of all the surveys you can commission, appearing in order of the peace of mind they offer.

Starting with a SNAGGING SURVEY. It checks for non-structural, minor issues linked to poor workmanship like skew tiling, patchy paintwork or leaky plumbing. Use it to make good any issues with your new-build builder before you move in.

Next is the CONDITION REPORT, an entry-level survey. Get one if all you require is a simple overview of a newish home or property. It’s a visual-only survey, so there’s no looking under floorboards or behind secured panels.  Click here to see an actual Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) condition report. Based on the purchase price and starting in the region of £250, it includes:

  • Flagging any issues or risks with the basic condition of the building, garage and  any outbuildings, and services like gas and water supply.
  • Providing a summary of issues for your solicitor or legal advisor to address, like  checking if any guarantees or insurance can be transferred, the ownership of  boundaries and that planning permission was obtained for any building work  undertaken.
  • A simple traffic-light scale for all areas within the property; red for serious  defects that need urgent attention, amber for defects that will require attention at some later date, and green for no repairs needed if property is maintained properly.

Better still is THE HOMEBUYER REPORT. It’s more expensive, starting at an additional £400 , because it’s far more detailed and you can opt for a professional market valuation for an extra £100. You’ll get all the features included in the Condition Report, plus the following:

  • A comprehensive list of issues that could affect the value of the property.
  • Advice on repairs and maintenance
  • A list of issues that require specific attention to avoid serious damage or  dangerous conditions.
  • An insurance figure for the property – called a reinstatement figure – of how much the property would be insured for were it to burn down.
  • Details about energy efficiency, pertaining to local environment and the area.

You can click here for an actual RICS homebuyer’s report. You’ll see that it’s perfect for detailing specifics about a property, and as comprehensive as you’re likely to need for most modern and older homes that are in good condition.

Top of the pile is THE BUILDING SURVEY, the most comprehensive report available. If it’s peace of mind you’re after, choose one of these. It takes longer to conduct and is more expensive, starting at about £750. But if you are buying anything unusual, old, listed or a building that was something else in its former life, this is a must. As well as a Homebuyer’s Report, it included the following extra features:

  • Notes, advice and considerations for your solicitor.
  • A thorough inspection and report on all aspects of the property, including  all defects and hidden flaws that could result in major and minor problems.
  • Comprehensive advice on repair options and their costs – and what the  potential consequences would be if left unaddressed.

Here’s an example of a RICS Building Survey. You’ll leave no stone left unturned with one of these.

In conclusion, it pays to spend a fraction of what you’ll be forking out to know the condition of your property. Remembering too that the onus will be on you to make good any repairs when you decide to move on. Choose the one that’s right for you, and you’ll come to appreciate why a survey wasn’t the hardest word, but one of the best decisions you’ll make.

GOTO Group

Author GOTO Group

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