How long does a house survey take

Last updated: December 2023 | 3 min read

Buying a home? A key step is how long a house survey takes, pivotal in understanding your future property. In this article, we explore the varying timelines, from the brief Homebuyer's survey to more thorough checks. Gain insights into what a structural engineer does and the consequences of a bad surveyor's report. Ready to dive into the essentials of your property journey?

Introduction to house surveys

What is a house survey?

House surveys involve a professional assessment of a property's condition. Conducted by a qualified surveyor, they examine various aspects like the building's structure, safety, and potential issues. Homebuyers often commission these surveys after their offer on a property is accepted.

The survey provides a detailed look at the property, highlighting any concerns or defects that might impact the buyer's decision or necessitate future repairs.

Why are house surveys necessary?

House surveys are indispensable for buyers to understand the condition of the property they intend to purchase. By identifying structural issues, defects, or necessary repairs early, house surveys can save buyers from unexpected future costs.

They also provide a bargaining chip in price negotiations, based on the property's actual condition. For the seller, a house survey can increase a buyer's confidence in the property's value, potentially speeding up the sale process.

Understanding the duration of different types of survey

How long does a Homebuyer's survey take?

Homebuyer's surveys, formally known as the RICS Homebuyer Report, typically take between two and four hours to complete. The duration depends on factors such as the property's size and condition. You, as a buyer, might find this type of survey particularly useful for newer properties or those in a reasonably good state of repair.

The surveyor assesses the property's general condition and identifies any major faults accessible on the surface. However, unlike some more comprehensive surveys, they do not look under floorboards or behind furniture.

Duration of a full structural survey

Full structural surveys, or building surveys, are the most comprehensive. They generally take longer than Homebuyer's surveys – often spanning a few days. This type of survey delves deeper into the property's structure and condition, suitable for older properties or those constructed with unconventional materials. Full structural surveys examine all accessible parts of the property and can identify potential issues hidden from the surface view, such as structural damage or problems with the roof.

Timing for a basic condition report

A basic condition report, known as a Condition Report, usually takes the shortest time – often just a few hours. This type of survey provides an overview of the property's condition, highlighting any urgent defects or potential legal issues.

It's ideal for new-builds or almost new properties. Buyers often opt for this when they require a simple and swift overview without in-depth analysis.

Building survey: How long does it typically last?

Building surveys, distinct from full structural surveys, are more detailed than a basic condition report but less extensive than a full structural survey. They typically require several hours to a day, varying depending on the property's size and complexity.

Building surveys focus on the property's major and minor defects, providing buyers with a clear understanding of the building's condition, which is particularly useful when dealing with special architectural features or extensions.

Specialised surveys for unique properties

Properties such as listed buildings or those with unusual architectural features may need specialised surveys. These can vary significantly in duration, often taking longer than standard surveys. The specific nature of the property, such as its historical significance, architectural complexity, or use of non-standard construction materials, demands a more meticulous examination. In such cases, surveyors tailor their approach to address these unique characteristics, ensuring a thorough inspection.

Factors influencing how long a survey takes

Impact of property size and age

Property size significantly affects how long a house survey takes. Larger properties, with more rooms and features, demand more time for a thorough evaluation. This isn't just about square footage; complexity plays a part too. Older properties can add time as well.

Their historical aspects and potential wear demand a more detailed examination. Age-related quirks, such as period features or prior renovations, often require a closer look to assess their condition accurately.

Location and accessibility effects

Location impacts the survey's duration. A property situated in a remote area or one that's challenging to access might extend the time needed for a surveyor to complete their work. In urban settings, ease of access usually means surveys can be completed more swiftly.

However, properties within congested areas might present logistical challenges, potentially lengthening the process.

The surveyor's workload and schedule

The individual surveyor's schedule and workload influence the timing. During peak periods in the property market, surveyors may have packed schedules, leading to longer waiting times before they can conduct your survey. The efficiency and experience of the surveyor also play a role. Seasoned professionals might complete surveys quicker, thanks to their honed skills and familiarity with common property issues.

Booking a house survey: Steps and timeline

Choosing the right surveyor

Selecting a suitable surveyor is a critical step. Begin by seeking recommendations from your estate agent or conveyancing solicitor, but also consider browsing comparison websites for options. Credentials, experience in surveying properties similar to yours, and pricing are key factors. Remember, the surveyor’s expertise can provide invaluable insight into your future home’s condition.

Best time to schedule your survey

Timing your survey strategically matters. Ideally, book it soon after your offer is accepted. This positions you to make informed decisions about the property early in the buying process. Timing also depends on the type of survey. A basic survey or mortgage valuation might take less time to arrange compared to a more comprehensive survey.

How early should you book a survey in the buying process?

You're a serious buyer, so book your survey early. The moment your offer on a property is accepted, consider contacting surveyors. Early booking not only secures a slot but also means you’ll receive the results of the survey sooner. These results can be crucial for negotiating or for making decisions about the property, especially if you're in a chain or have tight timelines for moving.

The survey process: What happens on the day?

Preparation for the survey

Preparation starts before the surveyor arrives. You, the homeowner or buyer, can facilitate a smooth survey by ensuring easy access to all areas of the property. This includes unlocking gates, clearing any obstacles to entry points, and possibly moving furniture for better access to walls and floors. Estate agents often coordinate with occupants to prepare the property, especially if it's currently occupied or furnished.

On the day: What the surveyor does

Examination of structural integrity

The surveyor's primary focus is on the property's structural integrity. They scrutinise walls, floors, ceilings, and roofs for signs of damage or wear. The examination extends to checking the condition of external structures like garages and sheds. This evaluation helps identify any immediate repairs or maintenance issues that might impact the property's value or safety.

Checking for compliance with building regulations

Surveyors also verify that the property adheres to current building regulations. They inspect electrical systems, plumbing, insulation, and other installations to ensure everything is up to code. This is particularly crucial for older properties or those that have undergone significant alterations. Compliance with regulations can significantly influence the market valuation and future plans involving the property.

After the survey: Understanding and using your report

When can you expect your survey report?

House survey results often arrive within a week after the surveyor's visit. Survey take to come times, however, can vary depending on the size and type of property, as well as the detail required in the report.

A standard homebuyer's survey typically takes less time to report back compared to a full structural survey, especially if the property is large or a listed building. Dealing directly with your surveyor can sometimes expedite the process, ensuring you receive your report swiftly.

Interpreting survey results

Identifying major problems and potential costly repairs

Your house survey report is a vital tool for identifying any significant issues with the property. The report provides details on the condition of the house, highlighting urgent repairs or potential long-term problems.

It's important to pay close attention to any areas flagged as ‘urgent’ or ‘major’. These often indicate issues that can be costly to repair, such as structural problems, roof repairs, or damp issues.

Making an informed decision based on the survey report

Armed with your house survey results, you're in a stronger position to make informed decisions. If the report uncovers any serious defects, you might choose to renegotiate the sale price with the estate agent or seller. Sometimes, it might even lead to withdrawing your offer, particularly if the required repairs are extensive and expensive.

It's wise to discuss the house survey cost and findings with your mortgage lender or legal advisor, as they can provide practical guidance on how to proceed.

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