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Survey or valuation - which do I need?

You’ve probably heard of surveys and valuations, but what are they and which one do you need?

Survey or valuation - which do I need?

House surveys and valuations are frequently confused, but they’re actually very different. There are specific circumstances when you’d require one or the other.

What’s the difference between a survey and a valuation?

A property survey is an assessment of the condition of a property. There are several kinds with varying levels of detail, but the main two are the HomeBuyer Report (Level 2) and Building Survey (Level 3), both of which are defined and regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The purpose of a property survey is to flag up any issues, or potential issues, in a property before you buy it. The contents of the survey will vary depending on the type you get, but it will look at things like building structure, the presence of issues like damp or pests, and information on the local environment, such as drainage. A property survey is carried out by a qualified chartered surveyor.

A property valuation is an expert assessment on the value of a property. Whilst it will briefly consider the condition, it will mainly focus on the location, size and characteristics of the property. The report will solely be about giving an estimate of how much it is worth.

Property valuations can be carried out by an estate agent, but they have a tendency to inflate the figure, so it’s best to hire a qualified surveyor.

It’s important to note that a property valuation is not the same thing as a mortgage lender’s valuation. A property valuation is a relatively in-depth report about a property’s worth and the factors that determine it, whilst a mortgage valuation is a brief inspection that a mortgage lender carries out to check a property is worth what a buyer is going to pay for it.

When would I need a survey?

House surveys are a vital part of the buying process. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland you’d get a survey on a property you want to buy, after you’ve made an offer but before you’ve exchanged contracts. This way you can get expert advice on the condition of your potential new home. Sometimes problems can be severe but not easy to spot, so it’s good to be aware of them so you can either back out of the sale or renegotiate the price accordingly.

Read more about problems your house survey might find.

In Scotland the process is slightly different. A single survey is organised by the seller of a property as part of the report detailing all aspects of the property, known as a Home Report.

Read more about Scottish Home Reports.

When would I need a valuation?

You’ll need a valuation whenever you need to know the up-to-date market value of a property. There are a number of situations this might be, for example:
  • You bought a property with the help of a Help to Buy loan and you’re looking to repay the loan, remortgage or sell the property
  • You own a Shared Ownership property and you want to buy a larger portion of it (staircasing)
  • You’re going through a divorce and the shared property is part of the settlement
  • You’re the executor of someone’s will and their assets include property
Valuations are also sometimes included within property surveys when you’re buying a property, but you wouldn’t usually pay for one specifically at this point.
 
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