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Do I need a survey?


Only 20% of people get a professional property survey before buying a new home.

What is a mortgage valuation?

  • Mortgage valuations are not surveys – they are just cursory looks at a property to assess how much it is worth, with a note about any major works that might be necessary and would affect its value
  • If you get a mortgage, the lending company will insist on using people they trust to conduct the mortgage valuation, to ensure the property is sufficient security for the loan. They are only interested in whether their loan is safe.

So what is a survey?

A survey is a detailed inspection of a property’s condition. The surveyor will inspect the property and advise you if there are:
  • Structural problems like walls almost falling down or subsidence.
  • Major repairs or alterations needed like roof or chimney chute repairs, or damp.
  • Expert commentary on the property, e.g. from the method of building, types of walls to the type of glazing.

Who does the survey

  • Surveys should be carried out by qualified surveyors members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
  • If you can get a local surveyor they are likely to have a better knowledge of local market values

Do I need to get a survey?

Surveys can be very useful – they can help you avoid expensive surprises (like an unexpected rewiring job), as well as giving you peace of mind by telling you that those hairline cracks don’t mean the house is falling down. For those who have never owned a property before, a survey can be immensely reassuring.

With the information from the survey you might reconsider whether to buy the property or try and renegotiate the price – if you find it needs £15,000 of roof repairs, it is reasonable to ask for £15,000 off the price. Alternatively, you might ask the seller to fix the problems before you buy it.

However, it can be particularly worthwhile getting a survey if:
  • you are looking to buy a very old or unusual property
  • the property has a thatched roof or is timber framed
  • the building is listed
  • you have any specific worries about any part of the property
  • you feel very unsure about what sort of condition the property is in

What sort of survey should I get?

There are a number of different types of survey. What you will want depends on the condition and age of your house, and how much you decide to spend.

Condition Report

This is the most basic survey you can get.
  • It is designed to complement the mortgage valuation.
  • It provides ‘traffic light’ indications as to the state of various parts of the property. Green means everything is ok, orange is some cause for concern, and red means serious repairs are vital.
  • It also provides you with a summary of risks to the building, but is rarely useful
  • It does not include any advice nor a valuation.

HomeBuyers Report

This is a more detailed survey:
  • It will tell you any obvious major problems – obvious rot, subsidence, etc.
  • It includes a valuation and an insurance reinstatement value (how much you would receive were the building to burn down).
  • But, the surveyor is non-intrusive: they will not look behind furniture, nor lift up floor boards or drill any holes, so any report they draw up is limited.
  • These are the most commonly used reports.

Building Survey

Building surveys are expensive, but can sometimes be worth the investment:
  • They range between under £600 for a property worth £100,000, to nearly £2000 for a property worth £2 million.
  • They are extensive surveys and you will be given a detailed report at the end
  • Building surveys are valuable if you are looking at a very old, unusual, listed, timber framed, or thatched property.
  • It is also good to have a full building survey done if you want to do some serious building works.
  • The surveyor will get into the attic, check behind walls, and look between floors and above ceilings.
  • It includes advice on repairs, and provides estimated timings and costs, and will tell you what will happen if you do not do the repairs.
  • Unless specified, it probably will not include an insurance reinstatement value estimate, or a market valuation.
If you would like Howells to put you in touch with a RICS surveyor please email info@howellslegal.com and we can recommend a local company to you.


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