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    Do I Need a Home Survey?

    By The reallymoving Team Updated 24th May, 2024

    Reviewed by Em Smith

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

    Do I Need a Home Survey?

    Getting a survey is one of the most valuable things you can do when buying a property and you could be taking a huge risk with the home you're buying if you choose not to.

    Here's why it’s important to get a survey before purchasing a property:

    Surveys identify any big problems

    Whichever type of survey you go for, it will identify any glaring issues with the property. Perhaps you’ve had your eye on a fixer-upper that looks like a bit of a project. A survey will detect when it’s not just superficial issues, but real structural problems.

    A survey could highlight that the property has got several problems that would make it very costly, or near impossible 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.

    They find smaller problems and tell 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 will need fixing. Perhaps drainage is an issue, and the system needs a flush through.
    These are all elements that a survey can not only identify, but also tell you how much they’ll cost to fix.

    Identifying these smaller issues means you can make an informed decision about whether to go ahead with the sale. It also gives you a bargaining chip for possible negotiations.

    Surveys can give 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. If it is identified 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. In some cases they may prefer to make the improvements or fix the issues themselves instead. Work out what your sticking points are and be prepared to go back and forth. The seller may decide they think they can get the full price from another buyer.
    However, 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.

    Types of house survey

    There are different types of house survey suited to different types of properties.  
    Condition Report - RICS Home Survey Level 1
    Used for new builds as a general assessment. Most properties will instead need a Level 2 report.

    HomeBuyer Report - RICS Home Survey Level 2

    Provides an overview of the condition of the property based on a visual inspection. This survey can highlight any important problems that will impact the value of the property. This is suitable for modern properties in reasonable condition.

    Building Survey - RICS Home Survey Level 3

    This is the most comprehensive survey. It offers a detailed report and analysis of the property’s condition. This report will also advise you on the costs of repairs. This survey is most suitable for older and unusual properties but can be applied to any age of property.  

    How long does a house survey take?

    As it is the most basic survey you can get, a Condition Report (Level 1) will take usually around an hour depending on the size of the property.

    A HomeBuyer Report (Level 2) will usually take between 90 minutes and 4 hours to complete.

    The detailed Building Survey (Level 3) is more in-depth than a Level 2 report and can take up to 8 hours to be completed depending on the size and complexity of the property.

    After the survey has been completed there will be a waiting period whilst the report is written up by the surveyor. This can take around 3-8 days depending on the type of survey.

    Once this stage is done, the surveyor will usually be happy to talk you through their findings so you can better understand the results of the survey.

    Expert advice

    You may have bought a home before, or you may be going through this process for the first time. 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 knowledge and feel confident that a professional has looked at the property and thinks it’s safe, secure and will still be standing in ten years!

    We might not recognise the same things surveyors do when assessing a home. For example, 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.

    How to get a house survey

    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.
    It’s important to research and compare surveyors to make sure you are choosing the right one for you. You should always choose a RICS regulated surveyor which is why we only use RICS regulated firms on reallymoving.

    Getting a home survey FAQs

    Do you really need a house survey?

    A house survey is an important part of the process of buying a home. It helps identify any major problems with the property and can save you from any unexpected costs in the future. If issues are found in a survey they can be used to negotiate on price.

    Can a house be sold without a survey?

    Although it is possible for a house to be sold without a survey it’s not recommended. To make an informed decision about the property you are looking to purchase, you should get a house survey.

    At what stage do you get a house survey?

    The best time for you to book a survey is after your offer has been accepted and before you exchange contracts.

    How much does a house survey cost UK?

    The standard cost of house surveys are:
    • Level 1 (Condition Report) £300-£700
    • Level 2 (HomeBuyer Report) £400-£550
    • Level 3 (Building Survey) - £500-£750
    Prices can depend on factors such as the size and complexity of the property.

    What happens if you don’t get a survey?

    If you don’t get a survey, there is a risk that you may run into unexpected costs and problems with the property you purchase. Surveys can identity issues that may not be obvious to the untrained eye.

    What are the red flags on a house survey?

    The red flags to look out for in a survey are problems such as:
    • Electrical issues
    • Damp
    • Asbestos
    • Woodworm
    • Dry rot
    • Subsidence
    • Japanese Knotweed
    • Faulty drainpipes
    • Roof issues
    • Insulation issues
    These are all issues that will need to be addressed and should be considered when going ahead with your purchase.

    Do I need a survey if I’m a cash buyer?

    Although it might not be necessary for a survey if you are a cash buyer a survey can still highlight any issues that may need addressing. It’s always useful to be well informed on any repairs and costs that may arise.
     

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