Homebuyer survey

Last updated: May 2024 | 3 min read

Purchasing a house can be both exciting and stressful. A homebuyer survey helps alleviate a tremendous amount of uncertainty related to the property's condition. Learn how you can use the results of this survey to not only negotiate a better price for your intended purchase but also be fully aware of what kind of costs your new home might incur in the future. 

Are you about to enter the UK property market? Discover the various aspects of a homebuyer survey, for making informed decisions.

When buying a new house, you will find that a house survey report is your best ally in pinpointing any issues with the property.

Find out more detail about house survey costs and read on to transform your buying experience into a smooth one, sidestepping common pitfalls.

What is a homebuyer survey?

A homebuyer survey inspects a property's condition, helping buyers understand what they're investing in. Conducted by chartered surveyors, these surveys range from basic visual inspections to comprehensive reports.

Their scope varies, addressing different concerns in properties of all ages and sizes.

Homebuyer surveys not only reveal any immediate issues but can also highlight possible future problems, offering a clear picture of what a buyer might need to address post-purchase.

Why do you need a homebuyer survey?

More often than not, a survey reveals major problems. A homebuyer survey can save you from unexpected repair costs later.

These surveys provide detailed insights into the condition of the property, highlighting issues like structural problems or dampness that might not be visible during a routine viewing.

Knowing about these factors early on can influence your decision to buy, your negotiating power on the property price, and how you plan your budget for future maintenance.

For many, the initial cost of a survey is a wise investment compared to the expenses of unanticipated repairs.

What does a homebuyer survey include?

  • Background information on the property and its location.

  • Visual inspection of major indoor features including ceilings, walls, bathrooms, roofs, as well as all permanent outbuildings and outdoor features.

  • Evaluation of damp-proofing, insulation, and drainage.

  • Damp tests on walls.

  • Examination of the condition of building timbers.

  • Inspection of heating, drainage, electricity, and gas/oil systems.

  • Estimation of the rebuilding cost for insurance purposes, known as the reinstatement value.

  • Identification of any issues potentially affecting the property's value.

  • Documentation of faults in easily accessible parts of the property requiring specialist investigation before contract signing, such as signs of subsidence.

  • Disclosure of urgent issues necessitating immediate investigation, for instance, a suspected gas leak.

  • Optional provision of a current valuation (may involve an additional cost).

What is not included?

  • Inspection of any part of the property that is not visible or accessible, whether obscured by furniture or considered unsafe for inspection. A Building Survey provides a more thorough examination.

  • Assessment of communal areas, such as the lift in a block of flats.

  • In-depth inspection of electrical, gas, plumbing, or heating systems, though recommendations are provided if issues are suspected.

  • Evaluation of temporary outbuildings.

  • Examination of roof spaces in blocks of flats, unless access is available through a hatch in the flat.

Difference between a homebuyer survey and a mortgage valuation

A mortgage lender usually requires a mortgage valuation survey to ensure the property's value covers the loan amount. Some might even offer you a mortgage with a free valuation survey.

While this might involve some level of inspection, its primary purpose is for the mortgage lender's benefit, and not to inform you about the property's condition.

A homebuyer survey focuses on the condition, safety, and potential repair needs, providing you with a detailed report to help make an informed decision.

Types of homebuyer surveys

RICS HomeBuyer Report

A RICS HomeBuyer Report provides a clear and concise view of a property's condition. It is suitable for most properties in reasonable condition.

This type of survey combines a detailed visual inspection with expert guidance on repairs, maintenance, and any other issues.

The report includes advice on defects that may affect the property value and offers recommendations for necessary actions.

RICS Condition Report

The RICS Condition Report focuses on assessing the condition of the property, identifying any risks and potential legal issues.

It's a basic survey, offering a straightforward review to give you an understanding of the property's overall state.

Designed for newer and standard properties, this report excludes advice or a valuation, focusing solely on the property's condition.

Building survey

A Building Survey, previously called a full structural survey, is the most detailed type of homebuyer survey. It's highly recommended for larger or older properties or those of non-standard construction.

This comprehensive report looks closely at the property's condition, examining all accessible parts.

It provides detailed advice on repairs, the potential consequences of inaction, and the possible costs involved.

RICS Building Survey

A RICS Building Survey offers an extensive analysis of the property's structure and condition. Unlike the RICS HomeBuyer Report, this survey is tailored to individual properties. It's especially useful for older, larger homes or buildings constructed using uncommon building materials.

The report provides a thorough insight into the property's construction, its defects, and maintenance advice.

New-build snagging survey

New-build snagging surveys are specifically designed for newly constructed homes. They aim to identify any issues or 'snags' in new properties, from minor cosmetic flaws to structural defects.

This type of survey is important before the final purchase, ensuring any faults are rectified by the developer at the earliest.

It assures that your new home meets the expected standards and quality.

House survey costs

Factors affecting house survey costs

House survey costs in 2024, vary depending on several factors. These include the type of survey chosen, the property's size, age, and location. A basic RICS Condition Report typically costs less than a more detailed Building Survey.

The complexity of the survey influences the price. A larger or older house usually requires a more thorough examination, leading to higher costs.

Comparing costs of different types of surveys

When comparing survey costs, consider what each type offers. A RICS HomeBuyer Report, a mid-level survey, costs more than a Condition Report but less than a full Building Survey. It's comprehensive, assessing all the features of a property, and highlighting major faults. However, unlike a detailed Building Survey, it might not cover every possible issue.

House survey costs by property size and value

Generally, the larger and more valuable the property, the higher the survey cost. It's because a more significant investment typically necessitates a more in-depth analysis to avoid unexpected repair costs.

Survey costs also differ regionally, reflecting the local property market and living costs.

Deciphering survey reports

How to read a survey report

A survey report provides a clear visual inspection of the property. It outlines the condition of various parts of the house and flags issues that should be investigated urgently.

You must focus on areas with a poor condition rating, as they might significantly impact the value of the property.

Common issues highlighted in homebuyer surveys

Homebuyer surveys often reveal issues like damp, structural movement, or problems with the roof. These surveys, especially when conducted by chartered surveyors, are thorough, aiming to uncover any significant concerns that could affect your decision or the price negotiation.

Interpreting condition ratings in survey reports

Condition ratings in a survey report categorise issues from minor to urgent. They help you understand the severity of each problem.

A rating system, typically from 1 (no repair necessary) to 3 (urgent repair needed), makes it easier to decide your next steps.

Pay special attention to items marked as '3', as they often require immediate action or can pose significant future costs.

Impact of homebuyer surveys on the purchasing process

How a survey can influence the negotiation

Homebuyer surveys often play a significant role in price negotiations. They provide concrete data on a property's condition, allowing buyers to discuss price reductions with the estate agent or seller. This bargaining is rooted in the survey's findings.

For example, if a RICS Home Survey uncovers problems requiring costly repairs, you might negotiate a lower purchase price. This adjustment reflects the immediate investment needed to bring the property to a reasonable condition.

Addressing issues before completing the purchase

Addressing identified issues before finalising a property purchase is a prudent step. A homebuyer survey can highlight defects or maintenance needs that might not be visible during a typical viewing. You can use these insights to request repairs as a condition of sale.

Alternatively, you might seek a price adjustment to cover future repair costs.

Addressing these concerns before purchase helps avoid unexpected costs and ensures your new home is in the best possible condition.

What happens if a survey uncovers significant problems?

When a house survey reveals major issues, you face several choices.

Significant problems, such as structural concerns or major roofing defects, can influence your decision to buy. You may choose to walk away from the deal, particularly if the cost and effort of repairs are prohibitive.

You could also use these findings to renegotiate the sale price. Engaging with a residential property surveyors association or seeking advice from experts can help you understand the implications of these issues and make an informed decision.

Selecting the right survey for your property

Choosing a survey for older or historic properties

Older or historic properties often require a more detailed survey. A Building Survey, previously known as a full structural survey, is typically advisable for such homes.

These surveys are comprehensive, examining all accessible parts of the property and providing detailed insights into both visible and potential hidden problems.

They focus on the condition of common building materials used in older constructions, offering advice on repair options and preservation.

Surveys for modern properties and new builds

Modern properties and new builds might not require the detailed scrutiny of older homes but still benefit from a homebuyer survey. A RICS Home Survey Level 2 or a RPSA Home Condition Survey often suffices.

These surveys assess the general state of the property and identify any immediate issues.

For newly constructed homes, a snagging report is beneficial. It identifies minor issues or finishing defects for the developer to address before you move in.

Consulting residential property surveyors for advice

Consulting with a professional from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or a knowledgeable estate agent can provide clarity on the most suitable survey type for your property.

Experts in residential property surveying understand the nuances of different buildings and can recommend the appropriate level of survey, be it a mid-range survey like the RICS Home Survey Level 2 or something more in-depth.

Their advice helps ensure the survey you choose aligns with the specific needs and age of the property, giving you the most useful and relevant information for your purchase.

Finding and working with a surveyor

Finding a reputable surveyor starts with research. Seek recommendations from family, friends, or your estate agent. A reliable surveyor holds membership in a professional body like the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA).

Checking these institutions' websites can lead you to qualified professionals in your area. Look for surveyors specialising in the type of property you're considering, as expertise in, say, historic buildings can be immensely beneficial for certain homes.

Questions to ask your surveyor before hiring

Before hiring a surveyor, clarity is key. Ask about their experience, specifically with properties similar to yours. Inquire about the types of homebuyer surveys they offer and what they recommend for your property.

Understanding the scope of the survey is essential; ask what the survey covers and what it doesn't. Discuss turnaround times for the report and how findings are communicated. Don't forget to confirm fees and any additional charges for services like further investigation of any urgent defects.

What to expect from the surveyor during the survey

During the survey, expect the surveyor to be thorough and detail oriented. They should inspect both the interior and exterior of the property, including any outbuildings and grounds. The extent of this inspection depends on the survey level you've chosen.

For a RICS HomeBuyer Report or an RPSA Home Condition Survey, the surveyor typically focuses on urgent defects and ongoing maintenance issues, rather than cosmetic details.

For more comprehensive surveys, such as a Building Survey, expect a deeper dive into the property’s condition, including advice on repairs and maintenance.

Communication should be open; a professional surveyor will welcome your questions both during and after the inspection.

Here's a more detailed list of home surveys.

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