So you have made the decision to buy a house and have zeroed in on one which you think fits your budget. And like a vast majority of home buyers (yes, that includes first time buyers too) you would not carry out an independent survey, discounting it as an unnecessary expense. And why would you, when you feel that the mandatory Mortgage Valuation Report carried out by your mortgage lender would suffice. But it pays to remember that the Mortgage Evaluation Report is just a basic survey, usually carried out to ensure that the property does indeed exist and that it offers a reasonable security for your mortgage loan. It does not perform a ‘health check’ on your property to uncover defects or problems, if any, in the basic structure.
Predominantly for this reason, an independent survey carried out by a professional Chartered Surveyor is highly recommended, especially if you are purchasing an old property over 40 years. Especially, if you are planning to invest in a property which appears to be in a deteriorated condition, or where the basic structure has been converted or altered, it is advisable to go in for an independent survey to assess its general condition. Consider the statistics, uncovered by English Heritage in their latest survey “Buildings at Risk Register”, ‘1 in 30 listed buildings are at high risk in the south East of England alone.’ Shouldn’t alarm bells be going off in your mind right now?
What type of survey to go for and when?
There are mainly 2 types of surveys conducted by a Chartered Surveyor: A Home Buyer report and a Building Survey. A home buyer report is what you ought to opt for if you intend to purchase a property which appears to be in decent condition and which has not been subject to significant alterations since construction. The surveyor will only inspect visible areas which are reasonably accessible. The report which ensues will help you reach an informed decision on purchase of the property and whether it is priced appropriately.
Building surveys, also known as Structural surveys are more comprehensive. They provide a detailed assessment of your property, both its visual and non-visual aspects. This type of survey is strongly recommended if your property is old, or is made of unconventional material (like thatch or timber), or has had extensive alterations done to its structure, or if you intend to extend or renovate the structure. A full building survey entails a detailed inspection of the building structure, from both inside and outside.
It involves checks on all easily accessible areas such as roof or cellar space, underneath the floors etc. Also attention will be paid to any issues which compromise the structural integrity of the building like damping problems, dry rot, wood worm infestation or any potential hazards such as existence of large trees close to the structure. All this inspection will culminate in a report which would detail everything that the surveyor feels you ought to know about your property. It will include a list of all defects uncovered, their probable cause, level of significance (if they require immediate action or can be ignored for the time being), recommendations on what is needed to fix these defects and appropriate cost involved. It will also include technical details on construction of property, materials used and the like.
Apart from identifying defects and planning for necessary remedial work, both Building and Home buyer surveys allow you to potentially negotiate for a lower purchase price (if major structural defects are uncovered) and also prove useful for your insurance purposes.
So, what are the prices?
A Mortgage Valuation Report, the cheapest option is usually priced by your mortgage lender and falls between £120 and £350 (depending on the property type, number of bedrooms, purchase price and the particular lender) .A Homebuyers Survey done specifically for you, ranges between £250 and £1,000, once again depending on the property type.
A Structural Survey (or “Building Survey”) is the most comprehensive and hence the most expensive one. Fees can vary in the range of £500 to £1,500 plus VAT. While this might seem like a lot of money, it could also potentially save you a lot of cash in the future, had you invested in a problem-ridden property. It minimizes risks, helps you reach an informed decision on your property purchase and most importantly, affords you peace of mind.
Here is wishing you all the best in your property hunt.
More details about Anderson, Wilde & Harris can be found at www.surveyorsvaluers.co.uk The company has been working with reallymoving.com for several years during which time they have received excellent feedback for their work which can be found here.