Who organises a survey when buying a house

Last updated: May 2024 | 3 min read

With your heart set upon a new house to buy, you will have to carry out the home surveys to uncover any issues with the property. Read on to find out about the types of house surveys, and how to choose the one that's right for you.   

The world of home buying presents its unique challenges. You might ponder who's responsible for the house survey when finalising a property purchase. Uncover the roles and responsibilities of this essential step in the house buying process.

Learn all about the types and current costs of house surveys.

What is a house survey and why do you need one?

A house survey is an examination of a property's condition, conducted by a professional surveyor. It identifies any major problems visible at the time of the inspection.

This service gives the potential buyer deeper insight into the property before completing the purchase.

Conducting a house survey can save money and stress in the long run. Identifying issues early can prevent costly repairs after buying the house.

Common reasons for a house survey include uncovering hidden structural issues, understanding the property's true value, and gaining a realistic view of potential future maintenance.

A good surveyor will spot problems in areas unapparent to an untrained eye. For example, concealed areas prone to damp or structural instability.

Recognizing such issues allows the buyer to re-negotiate the asking price or request repairs before finalizing the deal.

For older properties or those significantly altered, a more in-depth survey makes sense. It provides a detailed analysis of the condition of the property, guiding the buyer's decision-making process.

Who organises the house survey?

Is it the buyer's responsibility?

When buying a house, the task of organising a survey typically falls to the buyer. After you have an offer accepted on a property, selecting and arranging for a surveyor to inspect the home is your next step.

This is not a legal requirement but a smart move to understand issues related to the property's quality.

You, as the buyer, have the freedom to choose the type of survey and the surveyor.

Whether it’s a basic survey, like a condition report, or a more comprehensive one, such as a full structural survey, this choice helps ensure you pay a fair price for the property.

Your decision will largely depend on the property’s age, condition, and your future plans.

Can the seller arrange the survey?

While less common, sellers might organise a home report or a building survey before listing the property for sale.

This approach can help in setting a realistic asking price and providing buyers with upfront information about the property.

However, as a buyer, you might want to conduct your own survey for an independent second opinion. This reassures you about the property’s state and may influence your final decision or your negotiations over the purchase price.

Choosing the right type of house survey

Condition report: a basic overview

A condition report is the most basic survey you can choose when buying a house. It offers a general assessment of the property, highlighting urgent defects and potential legal issues.

This report doesn’t go into detail but provides a clear overview of the condition using a traffic light system. It's suitable for newer homes or properties in a generally good state.

Homebuyers report: a detailed inspection

The homebuyers survey report goes a step further than the condition report. This home survey ideal for properties in a reasonable condition, offering a more detailed inspection.

This report covers all the major sections of a house, including roof, walls, ceilings, and floor, flagging issues like damp or subsidence.

However, it doesn’t investigate behind walls or under floorboards. Homebuyers reports often include a market valuation and an insurance reinstatement value.

Building survey: for older or altered properties

For older, larger, or structurally altered properties, a building survey is highly recommended. This comprehensive survey provides an in-depth analysis of the property’s condition, including advice on repairs, estimated costs, and timings.

Building surveys are thorough, examining all accessible parts of the property and identifying any major repairs or alterations needed.

They're essential for historic or listed buildings and beneficial if you're planning significant renovations.

How to select a surveyor for your property survey

Qualifications to look for in a surveyor

Selecting a chartered surveyor with the right qualifications is a key step in the home buying process. You should ensure the surveyor is registered with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

RICS members adhere to strict standards, ensuring your survey is thorough and reliable. Look for surveyors with specific experience in the type of property you’re buying, as expertise in the area can offer more insight.

The role of estate agents in the survey process

Estate agents often provide recommendations for surveyors, but these suggestions may come from established partnerships or preferences. You're not obliged to use the agent's recommended surveyor and can select your own.

The agent's involvement typically ends with the recommendation; the actual organisation of the survey is still in your hands. Your choice of surveyor should be based on their credentials, experience, and the type of survey you require.

Look for someone affiliated with a recognised professional body, such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors or the Residential Property Surveyors Association.

Their expertise can be invaluable in identifying key risks and ensuring a thorough evaluation of your new property.

An independent surveyor, not affiliated with your estate agent or mortgage lender, can offer an unbiased report, for an informed decision on your property purchase.

Who pays for house surveys?

Cost-sharing between buyer and seller

Traditionally, the buyer shoulders the cost of the house survey.

This expense is separate from the mortgage valuation, a requirement by the mortgage lenders to secure a mortgage.

It is not the seller's responsibility, but in some cases, the seller may offer to pay for the survey, particularly if it’s part of an incentive to make the property more attractive to buyers.

You, as the buyer, might find occasions where cost-sharing agreements can be struck. These instances typically occur during negotiations, depending on market conditions and the eagerness of both parties to close the deal.

Negotiating survey costs in the property price

In a buyer's market, you have more leverage to negotiate the inclusion of survey costs in the property’s price.

Sellers keen on selling might agree to cover these costs or offer a lower sale price to accommodate your extra expense. Always consult your estate agent or conveyancing solicitor before making such proposals.

Their insight into the current property market dynamics can be invaluable. Remember, any agreement to cover survey costs should be clearly documented to avoid misunderstandings later in the conveyancing process.

Understanding the survey report

Interpreting key findings

The survey report can sometimes seem overwhelming with its technical language and the extent of detail.

Key findings usually focus on the property's condition, highlighting urgent repairs or potential legal issues.

These findings affect not only your decision to purchase but might also influence the mortgage valuation.

If the report indicates significant problems, consider consulting a specialist for a more in-depth analysis or getting quotes for any repairs needed.

This approach equips you with the information necessary for further negotiations or making an informed decision on the purchase.

Using the report for further negotiation

Armed with the survey report, you have a powerful tool for renegotiating the property price.

If major issues are uncovered, you can request a reduction in the sale price or ask the seller to fix the problems before completing the purchase.

In some cases, the findings might lead you to reconsider the purchase altogether. It’s important to weigh these decisions against the property's overall value and your long-term plans.

Using the report as a basis for negotiation can save you more money than the cost of the survey itself.

Approach these negotiations with a clear understanding of the report’s findings and a strategy for your desired outcome.

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