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The main types of property survey

What is a property survey?

A property survey assesses the condition of the property you’re looking to buy. An inspection is carried out and, depending on the type of survey you choose, you are notified of any structural damage and potential issues that you need to consider when proceeding with the transaction. While this is an extra cost to you at the start of the purchasing process, it’s worth it in the long run as it could potentially save you a lot of money.

Types of survey

There are a few different types of surveys to consider and you may be confused about which one to choose. This should be determined by the type and age of the property you’re purchasing. Here, we’ve detailed the differences between a mortgage valuation and the types of property surveys available to help you decide which one is the best option for you.

When buying your property with a mortgage, your lender will require a mortgage valuation to be carried out. This is to ensure that the property is worth the agreed price so that they are happy to lend you that amount and only obvious defects with the property are noted. This valuation – which is not a property survey – is mandatory and always carried out by the lender.

However, it’s recommended that you have a more in-depth inspection carried out on the property at an additional cost. The main property surveys you can choose from include a condition report, a homebuyer report, a building survey and a snagging survey. Despite being optional, it’s well worth having a property survey carried out to avoid any unforeseen issues in the future, which could end up costing you a lot of money and even make you regret your purchase.

A mortgage valuation

Different to a property survey, this is a report carried out for the lender’s benefit and you might not even see a copy of it. The lender instructs a surveyor to carry out a brief property inspection to confirm that the property’s value is the same as the value you’re asking them to lend you. This is so the lender is reassured that the mortgage can be recouped if the property has to be repossessed and sold.

While a mortgage valuation doesn’t cover the condition of the property, it may flag up that the price you’ve agreed to pay for it is too high compared with similar properties in the area. In this case, you can go back to the vendor with a lower offer.

RICS Condition Report

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Condition Report is a basic survey that summarises the property’s condition. This is done at a superficial level rather than looking in-depth at the property’s structure. It’s the cheapest survey and the most basic, being suitable for a conventional property that’s fairly new, such as under 5 years old.

RICS HomeBuyer Report

The RICS HomeBuyer Report is the most popular survey carried out. It’s more in-depth than the RICS Condition Report so it’s more expensive. The surveyor will check the soundness of the property, noting major defects, such as subsidence and damp, as well as work that might need to be addressed in the future, such as rewiring.

This type of survey is non-intrusive and doesn’t involve the surveyor checking beyond what is visible. This means the surveyor won’t drill into the walls, check under the floorboards, or move furniture to look behind it — only accessible areas are checked, which includes the roof. It’s advisable to get this survey done if the property you’re buying is over 10 years old.

RICS Building Survey

The RICS Building Survey is also known as a full structural survey and is the most expensive and in-depth type of survey. It can take several hours for the surveyor to complete. It’s an extensive survey that’s particularly recommended for large, dilapidated, older or listed properties. It’s also ideal for unusual properties or if you’re looking to carry out renovation work.

The surveyor checks the types of materials used, the attic, the cellar, the condition of the flooring and the roof, the wall structure, the chimneys — every part of the property is checked. Not only does the report detail the structure and condition of the property but it also provides details of repairs that need to be carried out, the costs and timings involved as well as what will happen if the repairs are not made.

A snagging survey

This is a basic survey that’s only needed if you’re buying a new build or a property that’s just been renovated. When all the work has been finished, it’s used to check that there are no outstanding issues that need to be dealt with. These can range from checking that the doors open and close correctly to the surfaces being flat as well as ensuring there are no structural problems.

Is a property survey necessary?

Once a survey has been carried out, you will be aware of any works, either immediate or in the foreseeable future, that need to be attended to. This allows you to obtain quotes to ascertain what costs you’re looking at and then to renegotiate the price with the vendor, which is best to do via your solicitor. If the negotiated price isn’t acceptable to you or the works needed are too extensive for you, you may decide to withdraw from the transaction altogether.

If you decide not to get a property survey carried out, any issues that arise after exchange of contracts become your responsibility. You will have no recourse whatsoever with the vendor. Therefore, while a property survey is optional and another expenditure, it is worth having one done to avoid unexpected and possibly huge costs further down the line. It will give you peace of mind, put you in a position to negotiate on the price if need be and allow you to plan ahead if issues are detected by the surveyor.

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