Should You Instruct A Surveyor Before Buying A Property?

How Valuable Is A Survey During The Homebuying Process?

Is a survey just another moving cost you could do without, or a valuable report which could save you thousands in the long term?

With average UK property prices hitting £253,274 during December 2020, home buyers currently going through the property purchase process are making an enormous investment. To be sure that you’re buying a home that is built as well as it looks, a chartered surveyor will examine the property and check for structural problems. But with the cost of surveys ranging between £300 to £2,000 or more, is this a necessary step to take or a moving cost you could do without?

Understanding Surveys

An estate and letting agent in Romford explains that a property survey conducted by a chartered surveyor is not the same as the mortgage valuation survey carried out by your lender when arranging your loan. Your mortgage valuation simply looks at the value of the property to check it is enough security for them, whereas a property survey will look closely at the structural integrity of the building.

There are different levels of property survey including:

  • Condition Report – designed to complement your mortgage valuation, this will provide you with a traffic light review of the property, with green areas having passed the test, orange meaning there are some concerns and red highlighting significant faults which need addressing before your purchase.
  • Homebuyers Report – this can be split into a survey only, or survey and valuation combined. This level of survey is non-intrusive, so you shouldn’t expect the surveyor to lift up floorboards or move furniture. However, they should be able to report obvious problems such as subsidence or rot.
  • Home Condition Report – a step up from your homebuyer report, this will include practical information such as boundary information, your typical broadband speed and damp assessments.
  • Building Survey – the top level of reporting provides the most thorough and investigative survey and will range in cost from £500 to £2,000 depending on the size of the property. You can expect the attic, ceilings, and space beneath walls and floorboards to be assessed.

Are Surveys Necessary?

A survey isn’t compulsory, so you don’t officially need one. Yet, despite the benefits and peace of mind that a survey can bring to property owners, there are as many as four in five buyers who won’t instruct a surveyor before the purchase. Why? The cost is largely off-putting to those who have saved hard to afford a move. With the cost of conveyancers, estate agents, stamp duty and removal firms, a survey can really eat into the budget. There are concerns also that the lower level surveys are so non-intrusive that they don’t really find anything useful for the buyer to act on before the purchase.

Inheriting Problems

On the flipside, there is an enormous risk if you’re unwilling to pay a few hundred pounds for a survey and then find yourself with a five figure bill to fix a problem damp for example. The latest survey technology includes drones which can provide an aerial view of your property and identify issues with the roof. Where a survey reveals substantial structural defects, you can decide whether to pull out of the sale, or negotiate a lower price before the point of sale.

Only you will know whether you’re able or willing to afford the cost of a surveyor, but ask yourself this: can you afford to inherit your property’s problems if you don’t book a survey?