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What is a Condition Report?

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Question

I am a first time buyer who is looking to buy a new property and I am wondering whether or not to pay for a property survey? I know that this is not a compulsory part of the home-buying process, but it is worth obtaining a survey?

Answer

As part of the mortgage application process your lender will arrange for a surveyor to provide a valuation figure for the property. It’s estimated that more than half of all homebuyers accept this as an assurance that the property has been surveyed and is of satisfactory condition. In fact, a mortgage valuation is not the same as an actual property survey, and its main purpose is simply to allow the lender to make an informed lending decision based on the surveyor’s estimated market value for the property.

Property surveyors in the UK are regulated and accredited by an organisation called RICS – the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. RICS surveyors provide three different levels of house survey for residential properties, and the first of these is known as a Condition Report.

The RICS Condition Report was first launched in 2011, although a similar report had previously been proposed as a component of the earlier Home Information Pack. It is intended to provide a concise and easily understandable description – using a traffic light system – of the condition of various aspects of the property, and an indication of any defects which are likely to require urgent attention.

Although Condition Reports provide a good overall indication of the condition of a property, they are limited in scope and don’t include any advice or recommendations on the repair or maintenance of any defects identified, or the likely costs. It also doesn’t cover less serious defects which, though minor, may also lead to repair costs. The RICS Condition Report is mainly intended for relatively new and conventional properties, and in most cases we would recommend that it’s better to opt for a more comprehensive HomeBuyer Report or Building Survey.
The RICS HomeBuyer Report is the most popular type of residential survey, and is based on the same clear report style as the Condition Report, with traffic light condition ratings for each element of the property. The HomeBuyer Report is based on a more detailed survey of the property, typically including notes on timber assessment (for example, if there are signs of rot or woodworm), damp testing, insulation and drainage.

It also incorporates guidance on any defects likely to affect the value of the property, including advice on repair or maintenance options. HomeBuyer Reports currently also include both a market valuation and a rebuild cost for insurance purposes, however it has been reported that these may be removed from reports in the coming months.

If you intend to buy an older or larger property, one of non-standard construction, or if you are planning to carry out extensive refurbishment or renovation works, you may be best opting for a full RICS Building Survey. This is the most comprehensive type of residential survey and includes advice and recommendations on both visible and potential hidden defects. Although the surveyor won’t pull up floorboards or check behind walls, a Building Survey typically includes comments on roof space and drainage, grounds and services, as well as guidance notes on factors such as planning, guarantees and building control issues.

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