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What Is A Property Survey and Why You Should Get One

Martha Lott
Written by Martha Lott
6th April 2018 (Last updated on Thursday 28th November 2019)

A property survey is an important service when buying a house. You shouldn't underestimate the importance of a property survey as it will highlight any issues with the house before you commit to buy it.

Buying a house will be the biggest transaction most of us will ever make, so choosing the cheapest and most basic survey necessary in order to secure a mortgage on a property is the choice most people go for.

We'll explore the different types of property survey including the benefits and what each survey will pick up on. We'll also look at how much money you can save on different property surveys, as well as how you can use survey results to negotiate on price. 

This article will cover the following points

What Is a Property Survey? What Are the Main Types of House Survey Why You Should Get A Property Survey What is Included In a Property Survey? How Much Money Can A Survey Save You? Save on Your Surveying

What Is a Property Survey?

A property survey is carried out by a professional chartered surveyor to examine the condition and structure of the house you're buying. Unfortunately, only 20% of people go through with a property survey assuming it will be too expensive and delay the home buying process. A property survey will highlight any structural damage or serious altercations which you might not have spotted yourself, ending up saving you money in the long-run. 

Having a property survey will give you peace of mind before you commit to buying the house. You’ll need a Mortgage Valuation report as part of your mortgage, but this isn’t always enough to provide a detailed report of potential damages. You should hire a professional surveyor to carry out one of the more in-depth surveys available to you.

What Are the Main Types of House Survey

When it comes to property surveys there are four main types of survey that can be undertaken; 

  1. Mortgage valuation - A valuation survey is required as part of your mortgage application process. It will look at the very high-level condition of the property in order to give a valuation.
  2. Condition report - A condition report is the most basic property survey and is suited for modern and conventional properties. This survey is not an in-depth assessment. 
  3. Home buyers report - A homebuyers report offers a deeper examination of the building and looks at the key areas that often have issues in modern homes. 
  4. Full structural survey - A full structural or building survey is the most comprehensive survey. It will look at specific areas and is particularly useful for older or unusual builds.

These are the main types of house surveys available to home buyers. But, if you're purchasing a new build property, then you should consider having a snagging list done instead of a survey.

Why You Should Get A Property Survey

Although getting a survey may seem like an unnecessary moving house cost, there are many benefits to consider before writing it off. It's unlikely that you'll discover everything you need to know about the property from a house viewing, so a property survey will provide you with the in-depth information. It will help you decide whether to continue with the purchase.

Getting a Homebuyer Report or a Building Survey will not only provide you with a detailed list of what issues are present in the property, but they will also provide you with the following benefits:

1. Peace of Mind

For the majority of people, buying a home is the biggest purchase of their life. For this reason, is can be a stressful time with a lot of risk involved. For example, if you end up paying a premium for a property only to move in and find that there are a huge number of issues with it, this could cost you a vast amount of extra money, putting you in a very difficult position.

Although the results of the survey may not be the most welcome news, at least you know the risks and potential costs. As a survey is usually undertaken before the sale goes through this also allows you to back out of the sale if required. 

2. Negotiation

A Homebuyers report or full structural survey will give you a detailed list of everything that is or may soon be an issue with the property. A full structural survey will provide estimated costs for any damage noted. The results from a homebuyer report can be passed on to a professional to offer a quote for the repair work. You could also use your survey results to have a more detailed survey.

Negative survey results can be used to negotiate on a few things. You can either negotiate your original offer on the house to cover the repair costs, or the seller may offer to fix the issues as a kind gesture. For example, if repairs to the property are likely to cost you around £5,000 to remedy, you should be able to negotiate the house price with at least some of this amount to be taken off of the value of the property. 

3. Security

Once you've received your survey results, you should have a solid understanding of exactly what the chartered surveyor has looked at and what the potential issues are. Although not all surveys look at all aspects of a building, the surveyor does take liability for any issues that are missed with relation to that specific report.

For this reason, you gain a good amount of security that either this issue has been identified or that there is someone accountable for missing it. You should always check the terms and conditions and the small print of your report to identify what the surveyor is taking liability for.

4. Planning

Buying and moving into a new home is no small task. With many aspects to consider such as packing and moving all your belongings, setting up all the utilities and other admin that needs to be completed. For this reason, unplanned surprises when you have moved in can cause a lot of inconvenience in terms of settling into your new home.

Getting a survey completed mitigates a large amount of the risk that this produces. It will let you know exactly what issues you may face and plan them into the wider picture of moving into your new home. You can factor your surveying costs into your moving budget. 

What is Included In a Property Survey?

There are a range of common issues highlighted by surveys, but below we highlight what each of the three main types of survey will pick up on.

1. Mortgage Valuation

This type of survey is required by mortgage providers to get a grip of how much the property is actually worth. Although this survey will note certain obvious aspects of the property such as major defects that may need to be remedied, it will not give any detailed information on these or any potential costs that may be incurred.

2. Condition Report

A Condition Report is the most basic property survey. It's not an in-depth survey, and will only give a simple report on the condition of the house. This survey is suitable for modern flats and conventional properties. 

3. Homebuyers Report

A Homebuyers report is the next step up from a mortgage valuation. This type of survey will help highlight any structural issues with the property such as subsidence or damp, as well as any other hidden issues both internally and externally to the property.

However, this report looks more at issues that are apparent at the surface and does not check under floorboards or behind walls for any issues that are hidden from regular view.

The report may include a valuation, although this is not always the case.

4. Full Structural Survey

A full structural survey takes a much more detailed look at the property than a valuation or Homebuyers report. The surveyor will undertake a full look at the various aspects which make up the property such as the types of materials that have been used, the condition of the roof, the integrity and structure of the walls and the state of the foundations.

Your report will detail each aspect that the surveyor has looked at, the condition of that aspect and any recommendations that they have moving forward. If requested the report may also contain cost considerations for the elements included.

How Much Money Can A Survey Save You?

It is very difficult to say exactly how much a survey may save you in the long run. This is due to the fact that any number of aspects may or may not be wrong with the property, it also depends on the scale of the issue as well as suggested fix for those issues.

For example, if your property needs work to damp proof it, this may cost from £200 for a single wall in a terrace property through to £2,000 for a full detached house. This may cost even more if the damp requires wall repairs or re-plastering. Other common issues such as Japanese Knotweed may cost anywhere from £2,000 - £20,000 to remedy and faulty drainage can cost anywhere from £500 - £1,500+ to fix.

As a survey will either tell you or give you the information you need to cost the repairs required this will allow you to negotiate on the overall cost of the property and ultimately may save you thousands of pounds in repairs. Although you may not always be able to negotiation the full cost of repairs, you should at least be able to find a middle ground where the seller covers some cost.

If you did not complete a survey and discovered these issues after the sale has been completed then it is very unlikely they would cover any of these costs. We've put together a guide on how to deal with bad survey results so you can keep fully informed.

You can use your survey results to negotiate on the original offer you made on the house.

Save on Your Surveying

We hope this guide has left you fully informed on why you need a property survey, and the ways in which it benefits you. Although surveys can be a bringer of bad news, it's best to be fully informed when moving into a new property. A survey may save you some serious headache a few years down the line.

When you're ready, you can use Compare My Move to compare surveyors for a range of surveying options, saving you time and money in the process. We only deal with the best RICS certified surveyors, all trusted and verified by Compare My Move.