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Why do I need a home survey?

It's easy to think you can skip getting a survey but it's one of the most important parts of a property purchase.

Why do I need a home survey?

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.

Expert advice

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 Building Survey (Level 3) or HomeBuyer Report (Level 2). And have a look at how to pick a great Chartered Surveyor to do your survey.

Updated Feburary 2020

Comments (3)

  • Richard

    posted on 25 Feb 2018

    I've recently had a homebuyers report done on a house we're looking to buy which came back with a 1 for everything (minus things they couldn't find a certificate for). As the property is 200 years old a lot of friends/family are saying I should also get a building survey, but this seems silly to me as the homebuyers report stated no problems. Are they correct given the age of the property or will I just be wasting my money!?

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Richard,
    This really is up to you - Building Surveys are the correct survey for a house of that age, and a HomeBuyer's Report would not have assessed certain elements that may be critical. It is surprising that the Chartered Surveyor did not suggest a Building Survey instead of a HomeBuyer's Report upon seeing the property.
    If you'd like to know more about what a Building Survey may consider that a HomeBuyer's Report does not, you can have a look at our articles.
    Best of luck,

    Keith Husband

    posted on 5 Dec 2018

    Hi, when do I organise an RICS survey? Is it before or after the acceptance of an offer ?

    Reallymoving response

    You will organise a RICS survey after your offer is accepted. The surveyor will then assess the property and you can decide if you still wish to go ahead, or whether the terms of the offer need to be changed (ie whether you wish to renogiate to cover costs of issues discovered in the survey).

    All the best with your move,

    the reallymoving team

    Mrs Wilson

    posted on 28 Feb 2020

    My daughter is purchasing a shared ownership top floor 1 bed apartment, which is about 11 years old. Do you think she would need to worry about get a home buyers survey done?

    Reallymoving response

    Hi Mrs Wilson,

    We always recommend getting a survey - even for a property relatively young, there's still a considerable amount to assess with a property that's 11 years old. If the previous owner hasn't dealt with minor issues that might get worse with time, for example, a survey would bring that up.

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