Getting a survey is one of the most valuable things you can do when buying a property. Skip the survey and you could be taking a huge risk with the home you're buying.
Here's why you shouldn't buy a property without getting a survey first:
Identifies any big problems
Whichever type of survey you go for, it will identify any glaring issues. Perhaps you’ve had your eye on a fixer-upper that looks like a bit of a project. However, a survey will detect when it’s not just superficial issues, but real structural problems.
It could highlight that it’s got several problems that would make it almost impossible (or very costly) to fix. In this case, a survey would save you thousands of pounds and stop you making a mistake on a property that could easily become a nightmare.
Finds smaller problems and tells you how much they’d cost to fix
It’s not just about the bigger problems – a survey will highlight those issues that aren’t necessarily deal breakers, but will cause you to pause. Perhaps the boiler is old and in bad condition. Maybe the roof is going to need fixing. Perhaps drainage is an issue and the system needs a flush through. These are all elements that a survey can identify, and they’ll tell you how much they’ll cost to fix.
Which means you can make an informed decision about whether to go ahead. It also gives you a bargaining chip.
Gives you a chance to renegotiate the price
Potentially the most useful element of a survey is that if an issue is found with the property, your survey can be used to renegotiate. So if it identifies that the roof will need to be completely redone in the next two years, costing you around £5000, you can ask the seller to take that off the price. After all, you’ve got proof from a professional, and you don’t want to spend lots of money you didn't budget for, fixing your property so soon after you’ve bought it.
Obviously, sellers aren’t obligated to renegotiate, and in some cases they may prefer to make the improvements themselves instead. Work out what your sticking points are and be prepared to go back and forth. They may decide they think they can get the full price from another buyer, but if the issues are there on the survey, the seller is likely to be in a similar situation with the next potential buyer.
Mortgage valuations aren’t about the structure of the property
People often get confused between mortgage valuations and surveys. A mortgage valuation just assesses whether or not the property is a good investment for your lender. After all, they’re giving you the money to buy it. They’ll look at a few basic factors, but they won’t go inside and look around. Most of the time it’ll be a quick assessment of the age, location and building materials.
A survey is much more in depth, and will pick up things a valuation would never mention. Also, your survey is for your information. Your mortgage valuation is just for your lender, concerning what’s in their best interest. They don’t care if you’re stuck with a £5000 bill for a new roof.
A mortgage valuation is not a survey, and it’s certainly not enough information for a huge purchase like a property.
You may have bought a home before, or you may be going through this process for the first time. But unless you’re an experienced builder or developer, there are likely to be things about property that you don’t know. Take this opportunity to get an expert’s opinion. Make use of their expertise and feel confident that someone in the know has looked at the property and thinks it’s safe, secure and will still be standing in ten years!
We don’t look for the same things surveyors do when assessing a home. You might be able to spot damp or mould, but things like Japanese knotweed, woodworm or subsidence are important and could easily be missed without a surveyor. Why take the risk?
Ultimately, getting a survey gives you peace of mind that you’ve done everything you can to ensure your future property is a great deal. It gives you all the information you need so you can decide whether to back out, go ahead, or renegotiate.
Now that you know you need a survey, pick between a Level 3 Survey (Building Survey) or Level 2 Survey (HomeBuyer Report). And have a look at how to pick a great surveyor to do your survey.
Updated December 2022 by Jeremy Greer