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DIY House Survey Checklist

Ashleigh Williams

Written by

22nd Nov 2022 (Last updated on 8th May 2024) 8 minute read

When it comes to buying a home, it is vital to be sure the property is a worthwhile investment. Ideally, you want a home without issues, or minimal concerns at the very least.

The UK is home to many older properties such as Victorian terrace houses, Georgian townhouses and post-war properties. With age and external factors such as bad weather, it is not unusual to find issues with a wide range of properties.

The best way to ensure the home is a sound financial investment is to hire a surveyor. That said, there are issues in the home that can be spotted in a viewing. This could save you money and heartache further down the line.

Below we look at the main issues you need to look out for when viewing a home. This allows you to decide whether to submit an offer or if you should cut your losses and view other listings.

  1. Arranging a Viewing
  2. DIY House Checklist For Viewing a Property
  3. Viewing a Flat
  4. Attend a Second Viewing
  5. Checking Key Documents
  6. Should I Get a Property Survey?
  7. What Survey Should I Get?
  8. What Won't a Surveyor Check?
  9. How to Find A Surveyor

Free House Viewing Checklist

Download our free room-by-room House Viewing Checklist

Arranging a Viewing

Before you even set foot into a property to view it, you can get a very rough idea from the listings. Be aware of estate agent terminology such as “investment property”, “potential”, “unique and unusual” and so on. If you read between the lines, these can indicate that the property requires renovations and remedial work.

Review the listing pictures carefully. Check for any signs of problems, such as cracks and dark patches on interior and exterior walls. These could be signs of more serious issues such as subsidence or damp.

From here, you can arrange a viewing for the home. According to Bankrate, the average time of a house viewing is 30 minutes. This is a relatively short amount of time to decide on a home and check for potential problems. You should always arrange a second viewing if you are keen on the property.

Top Tips for a Successful Viewing

  • Prepare questions to ask the estate agent about the home and the local area
  • Drive and walk around the area to get an idea of the neighbourhood
  • Take a family member or friend for a second opinion
  • Arrange more than one viewing
  • Visit the area at different times of day
  • Take plenty of photographs to review after the viewing

DIY House Checklist For Viewing a Property

Due to the limited time you have, we’ve set out the main problems that can be spotted easily in a home. Many of these can be spotted quickly, allowing you to make a decision early on in the viewing. These are also the factors that may make you want to reconsider putting an offer in for the home. They include:

  • Smell of damp
  • Damp patches or shadows on the wall
  • Cold patches on the wall
  • Noticeable drafts
  • Tide marks on the skirting and walls
  • Cracks in the walls and ceilings
  • Cracks in the exterior walls (this could be a sign of subsidence)
  • Does it have a flat roof?

The points above are fairly obvious once you know what to look for. However, the less obvious signs can also indicate bigger problems. When viewing the home you should look out for:

  • Small holes in wooden floorboards, beams, staircases etc, could be a sign of previous or existing woodworm.
  • Hairline cracks on walls and ceilings
  • Signs of leaks or rust on radiators
  • Japanese Knotweed in the garden or surrounding area
  • Turn on the taps to see that they work correctly and there are no strange smells or discoloured water
  • Turn on lights to check they work and there are no issues
  • Check windows and doors if you can - ensuring they open, close and lock correctly
  • Does it have parking?

Keep in mind that if you don’t spot the above or don’t have time to check each part of the home, this will be covered in a survey. Again, this is why arranging a survey is such a vital part of the house-buying process.

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Viewing a Flat

There are a few differences when it comes to buying and owning a flat or apartment. Here are a few extra questions to ask when viewing this type of property:

  • Is it leasehold or freehold?
  • Is there ground rent or a service charge? How much will this cost?
  • Will you have to contribute to a sinking fund?
  • What's the name of the freeholder or managing agent?
  • How long is the lease?
  • Are there communal spaces?
  • How many residents live here?
  • Are there any restrictive covenants to be aware of?
  • Are there any outdoor areas?
  • What services will be shared between residents?
  • Is there a residents' committee?

Attend a Second Viewing

As we’ve mentioned above, you will likely have just half an hour to initially view the home. The estate agent will have other potential buyers to consider and may usher you out ready for the next viewing. This is why a second house viewing is always recommended.

It is also suggested that you go to the second viewing at a different time of day. This allows you to see the home in different lighting. It also gives you an idea of the street and surrounding area at different times of day.

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    Checking Key Documents

    You can also garner details about the home via documents sent to you during the conveyancing process. These can give you essential details about the home. These include:

    • TA10 Fittings and Contents Form
    • TA6 Property Information Form
    • Receipt of the last boiler service
    • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
    • Compliance with building regulations if any work has been undertaken

    Additionally, your conveyancer will arrange essential searches on the home and surrounding area. These can reveal if there is a history of flooding, Japanese Knotweed, the radon gas levels and if it is in a mining area.

    Should I Get a Property Survey?

    It is highly recommended that you hire the help of a surveyor to check the condition of the property you want to buy. Even if you haven’t spotted any issues or concerns during the viewing, there can be hidden defects that only a surveyor will find.

    These qualified experts can provide you with a better understanding of the home. They can also inform you of any work that may need to be undertaken. This allows you to make an informed decision on whether to continue with the property purchase.

    For more information see: Do I Need a Survey When Buying a House?

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    What Survey Should I Get?

    Before hiring a chartered surveyor, you should understand the different types of house surveys. Below is a brief overview of the surveys available:

    RICS Home Survey Level 1

    Previously called a Condition Report, this is a basic overview of the property. It is recommended for modern homes in good condition.

    Average cost: £380

    RICS Home Survey Level 2

    The most popular survey type was formerly known as a Homebuyers Survey. This breaks down issues found and recommendations for redial work and improvements. It is suitable for most homes in good condition and built within the last 50 years.

    Average cost: £500

    RICS Home Survey Level 3

    The Level 3 Building Survey is the most detailed property survey available. It covers both the internal and the external areas of the home, including the grounds. The surveyor will check the property in as much detail as possible, including hard-to-reach areas.

    This survey is most suitable for older properties (over 50 years old) and unconventional homes. It is also for listed buildings and properties in poor condition.

    Average cost: £800

    New Build Snagging Survey

    Designed for new build homes, this is a survey to inspect a property once it has been built by the property developer. A Snagging Survey ensures everything has been completed to a high standard. Your surveyor will also check there are no issues or potential problems throughout the home.

    Average cost: £300 - £600

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    What Won't a Surveyor Check?

    What is included in your survey will depend on the level of survey you opt for. Excluding the differences between each survey, there are some aspects of a property that a surveyor won’t check. This includes the plumbing and electrics. This is because a professional will need to carry out these checks.

    Surveyors are only able to check visible services, they cannot run specialist or specific tests. Their inspection is non-intrusive, so they won’t lift floorboards or inspect areas that aren’t accessible

    How to Find A Surveyor

    If you’re looking to hire the help of a surveyor, here at Compare My Move we can assist you with this. We can connect you with up to 6 RICS-approved surveyors, helping you to both save money and time. All our partners are required to pass our strict verification process and can be relied upon to provide the best possible service.

    When choosing a surveyor, you’ll want to ensure they are RICS-regulated and can provide the services you need. A surveyor plays an important role in the house-buying process and their report can affect mortgage valuation. This is why it's so important to choose a trusted surveyor.

    Other ways to find a trusted surveyor include reading reviews of companies. This helps ensure they are trustworthy and reliable. Seeking out specific recommendations can be helpful too.

    The RICS website will allow you to browse through RICS-approved surveyors in your area.

    Need a Removal Company?

    You may need to arrange a removal company once your house survey is complete. Our integrated survey and removal form connects customers with up to 6 surveyors and up to 6 removal companies in just a few extra steps. You can find the right company for your needs and save up to 70% on your total costs.

    Ashleigh Williams

    Having written book reviews and content for For The Love of Books for over five years, Ashleigh now creates advice articles for Compare My Move, focusing on all things home-related.

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