When buying a house, it is essential that you commission a suitable house survey to help you understand the condition of the property before committing to its purchase.
Arranging a house survey is a normal part of the house-buying process and shouldn’t be anything to worry about. This first time buyer’s house survey checklist will answer all your questions, including what a house survey is, the different types of survey, how much a house survey costs and how long it should take.
So, if you’re a first time buyer and worrying about the property survey for your new house purchase, this house survey checklist should help put your mind at ease. Here are a few useful tips to help you understand and prepare for buying a house surveys.
A house survey is an expert inspection of a property’s condition and aims to identify any issues to the prospective buyers.
A property survey is conducted by a chartered surveyor who visits the property, carries out an inspection and prepares a report outlining any problems they’ve found.
The type of house survey carried out determines how thorough it is and what kind of areas will be inspected within the property.
Eventually, the person who arranged the survey (buyer or seller) receives a report detailing the building’s exact, current, structural state, as well as all the findings of the survey.
For many buyers, the results of a house survey will help to either confirm or adjust their offer on a property or cause them to re-evaluate whether they want to continue in the sale at all. Sometimes, the identified problems are not worth the time, disruption or the cost.
There are a few different types of house survey, and which one you choose will depend on how thorough you want the inspection to be. Generally, there are 3 different types of property survey, sorted into different levels, and these include:
The Condition Report is the most basic type of house survey, simply giving an overview of the property’s condition and highlighting any significant issues. But it doesn’t go into much detail.
This type of buying a house survey is suitable if you’re looking to purchase a standard, modern property that’s in good condition, and just want to check that everything looks ok.
The report uses a traffic light rating system to illustrate the condition of different parts of the property. This will help you find out if there are any serious defects that need to be fixed immediately or anything that might affect the safety of the property.
This tends to be the most popular type of house survey, and the standard choice for most properties in reasonable condition.
This type of property survey looks at everything that would be covered in the Condition Report, as well as providing you with some additional information that might prove useful.
A Homebuyer report lists any problems that might affect the property’s value, whilst also outlining the surveyor’s advice on repairs and ongoing maintenance. This report should also highlight any problems such as damp and subsidence, as well as pointing out anything that goes against current building regulations.
A Homebuyer Report can also include information on how much the surveyor thinks the property is worth on the market, and how much it would cost to completely rebuild the property if it was destroyed and couldn’t be repaired.
Also known as a Full Structural Survey, a RICS Building Survey is the most thorough type of house survey. It provides a comprehensive analysis of both the property’s structure and condition.
A Full Structural Survey is the best option if you’re purchasing a property that’s over 50 years old, of unusual design or in poor condition. It can also be worthwhile if you’re planning to do significant work or have major concerns about a property.
The surveyor will perform a fairly intrusive check, doing things like looking in the attic and looking under floorboards. The final report will then list any defects and advise on repairs and maintenance. The surveyor can even include projected costs and timings for any repair work recommended in the Buildings Report.
So, what does a surveyor do?
House surveyors can range from local one-man bands to much larger companies. Regardless of which type of surveyor you choose, you should check that they are registered with a trade association such as RICS. Find a RICS accredited surveyor here.
In some cases, the estate agent or mortgage lender might recommend a surveyor. However, before opting for their recommendation, you should conduct your own research to check you’re getting the best deal.
Also, bear in mind that if you use your lender’s surveyor, any problems they find might lead to them lowering their valuation of the property, leading to a smaller mortgage offer.
How much a house survey costs can vary hugely depending on a number of factors, including:
A Condition Survey tends to be the cheapest type of house survey, typically costing between £300-£900, depending on the location of the property and its value.
A Homebuyer Survey is more detailed and is the most commonly used option. The cost of a Homebuyer Survey generally varies from £400 to £1000, again depending on the location and value of the property in question.
A Full Structural Survey is the most thorough property survey available. As a result, they are more expensive, ranging from around £630 to £1,500 – or even more – depending on the value of the location of the property. Despite this, they can be a very worthwhile investment.
Overall, the more thorough the house survey, the more expensive it will be.
So, given these costs, are house surveys really worth it?
When you’re already spending a lot of money buying a house or flat, a property survey can feel like an unnecessary expense.
However, it is better to be safe than sorry! It is very important that you’re aware of any problems with the property before buying it, allowing you to make an informed decision about how much you think it’s worth and, if necessary, budget for any repair work that will be needed.
Another reason house surveys can be worth it is that they can help you negotiate with the seller. For example, if your surveyor finds that you’ll need to carry out repairs costing £10,000, you could ask for that reduction on the property price, or ask the seller to make the necessary repairs before you exchange contracts.
Much like the cost of a house survey, how long a house survey takes will largely depend on which type of survey you choose and, of course, the size of the property.
For example, a Level 1 house survey could take less than an hour to complete, a Level 2 Homebuyer Survey might take up to four hours, while a full structural survey will vary considerably depending on the type of property you’re buying, with some taking as long as a full day.
Once the house survey is complete, all you have to do is wait for the report to be ready. When you will get your house survey report will be determined by the individual surveyor and the complexity of the report. Your surveyor should inform you of how long they’ll take to complete the report, but it shouldn’t be any longer than 5 days for a level 1 or 2 report, and no more than 10 days for a level 3.
Now you know what a house survey is, how much it costs and which one you should choose, let’s find out what can actually cause a property to fail a house survey.
From common, minor issues right through to more serious complications, a house survey can identify them all. So, there is every chance that a property survey might come back with some fairly consequential problems.
Here are some of the more common problems that show up in house surveys:
If you receive your house survey results and there are no major problems then you can continue with the house buying process. However, if there are one or more serious issues, your options include:
Some of the issues identified in your house survey report might not become problematic for a number of years, but the chartered surveyor will identify any potential problems and the costs associated with fixing them. You then need to decide when it’s worth the time, effort and cost.
Whatever the issues identified in the house survey, whether minor or serious, you must remember that you are under no obligation to continue with the purchase.
Hopefully, with this guide to first time buyer house surveys, all your questions have been answered.
Buying your first house can be extremely stressful, and arranging a house survey can just add to the list of things to do.
However, a property survey can be a worthwhile investment and could end up saving your money in the long term.
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