Homebuyers survey: what you need to know

Homebuyer surveys are essential to avoiding issues further down the line. Find out what they are and why you should get one

What is a homebuyers survey?

A homebuyers survey is a series of checks on your property that can save you from potential repair costs. The last thing you want to do when looking to buy or sell a home is deal with a long list of repairs, making getting a homebuyers survey done a decision you should definitely consider. 

Homebuyers surveys are, in a nutshell, a means to give you an idea of how much you might need to invest into a property you’re buying. Conversely, it works for potential property sellers looking to get proof that their property is in good working order. This guide explains the different types of surveys, how to find a surveyor, and how OneDome can help.

Why conduct a homebuyers survey?

Conducting a homebuyers survey is essential to avoiding issues with buying or selling property in the future. Say you buy your dream home, you move in and everything seems fine. Then barely a few months later you start noticing things going wrong; cracks appearing in walls, pipes bursting regularly, maybe even something as dramatic as subsidence. These are all issues that a homebuyers survey would spot, which makes it an essential part of any home mover’s plan.

The types of homebuyers surveys

Once you’ve had an offer accepted on a property, you might be wondering what type of home survey you need. We break down the different home surveys; what they are, why you need them, and how to get the most out of your survey.

RICS condition report

This is a report the describes the overall condition of the property. It examines and identifies potential risks and legal issues, as well as highlighting urgent defects. As a general rule, it is best suited for new builds and conventional homes. You won’t receive any advice or valuation in this survey; it is purely to make sure you aren’t buying a property with major, easy-to-identify problems.

Expect to pay around £250 for an RICS condition report.

RICS HomeBuyer report

RICS HomeBuyer reports are surveys designed for conventional properties in average-to-good condition. They help you work out if the property in question has any structural problems (subsidence, damp, etc) as well as any issues lurking under the surface (either inside or outside).

It isn’t a completely thorough check however, rather a ‘surface-level’ overview of the general property. The survey doesn’t go underneath the floorboards or within the property walls (literally and metaphorically), for example.

You should check if the report comes with a valuation, which they often do but it’s still worth making sure. This is because a valuation can identify issues that should reduce the overall value of the property. That is, if the report discovers a structural issue with an outside wall, and the cost of repairing is £4,000, the report will help you argue that £4,000 should be cut off the property’s value.

The price for an RICS HomeBuyer report is approximately £400.

RICS Building survey

This is very similar to a standard building survey, but it is broken down into manageable chunks that can be easily digested and understood. It uses a simple 1-2-3 rating system that helps you work out what issues are present, including the most serious issues.

RICS Building Surveys deal with older and/or larger properties. Subsequently, it is much more thorough than RICS HomeBuyer report, but this isn’t to say that a RICS HomeBuyer report isn’t what you need. Rather, it is just that larger and older properties require substantial inspections because of the higher chance that things might go wrong.

The report will give you a thorough analysis of property in question’s condition, with issues such as repairs needed and defects highlighted. You will also be informed about the effects of not fixing the issues brought to light, making getting the RICS Building Survey an important thing to consider.

Expect to pay between £400-500 for the report.

Building or full structural survey

Of all the surveys, this is by far the most extensive. It is a good option for all residential properties, but it is particularly good for older properties that might otherwise need substantial repairs. The breadth of the survey is reflected in its cost (£600), though if you want the absolute clearest picture of your property’s condition, this is the survey to choose.

You can use this survey’s report on defects etc. to potentially negotiate the property’s value with the seller. You could argue that any repairs required should be either fixed, or factored into the value of the property (which would be lowered to reflect this).

New-build snagging survey

This independent inspection surveys new-build properties. It is cheaper in general (around £300) than other surveys because as a general rule, new builds are less likely to have significant issues. However, the developer should fix any faults found in the survey.

Mortgage valuation survey

The mortgage valuation survey is purely to convince the lender that the property you want to buy is worth the price offered. This survey will not highlight any structural issues or necessary repairs.

As for the cost of the survey, it differs more so than other surveys because it is based on the value and size of the property in question (prices typically range between £150-1,500).

Occasionally, lenders may decide to offer the valuation for free and it’s worth checking beforehand to see if they will.

What if the property I want to buy is valued lower than the seller’s offer?

If the mortgage valuation survey produces a different property value than the seller’s, you may be able to negotiate the price offered by the seller. You can return to either the seller or estate agent and offer a lower price based on the valuation survey’s recommendation.

If I’m the seller, what do I do if the valuation is less than what I offered?

Alternatively, if you’re the seller, you can dispute the valuation by comparing other valuations for similar properties in the same area that have been valued higher. In order to properly dispute the valuation, you will need evidence that your property has been valued lower than others in the surrounding area.

Steps to take if the survey finds issues

It’s more unlikely for a survey to not find any problems with the property than it is to find them. This means preparing to address potential issues should be your default position.

If you want, it is possible to attend the survey and ask the surveyor about any issues they encounter that may cause concern. Don’t ever worry about asking questions, because after all this is potentially your new home and it will be you dealing with these issues if you choose to ignore them.

Some of the most common issues found in the survey include:

  • Roof issues
  • Insulation
  • Faulty drain pipes
  • Damp
  • No smoke or carbon monoxide alarms
  • No approval for extensions and alterations
  • Electrical faults

Something important to remember, it isn’t just the cost of potentially necessary repairs, it’s the time needed to complete them. If a survey turns up more than you’re comfortable with, you can always walk away. Searching for a new home again might be annoying, but not as much as dealing with excessive repairs.

Finding a surveyor

OneDome can help you find a surveyor on our online property platform. You can sign up here and completeHow else can OneDome help? every step of your move, including finding a surveyor. Alternatively, get in touch with us on 020 3868 6262 and we’ll guide your through the process of finding a surveyor.

How else can OneDome help?

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