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What Is A Property Survey and Why You Should Get One

Owain Banfield
Written by Owain Banfield
6th April 2018 (Last updated on Tuesday 11th December 2018)

It's the done thing, but you may be asking yourself why exactly you actually need a property survey? Especially as it may seem as an unneeded extra cost at a point where money really matters. For most people purchasing a new property is the largest amount of money they will ever spent in their lives, 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.

Sure, if you're buying a new build property the obvious choice would be to simply get a snagging list. However, in this guide Compare My Move explain how a survey isn't just a formality, but an important part of the house buying process.  

We'll explore the different types of survey, what the benefits are, and what each survey will pick up on. We'll even explore how much money you may save on different surveys, and how you can use survey information to negotiate on price. We also work through exactly what a survey will pick up on, how much money you may save and how you can use survey information 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 highly professional chartered surveyors to examine the condition of your property. Unfortunately, only 20% of people go through with a property survey assuming it will be too expensive and delay the home buying process. This isn’t the case, however, as the 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. 

You’ll need to carry out a Mortgage Valuation report as part of your mortgage, but this isn’t always enough in order to provide a detailed report of potential damages. We suggest that you consider hiring 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 surveys there are three main types that can be undertaken; 

  1. Property valuation
  2. Homebuyers report
  3. Full structural survey

As already mentioned, property valuations are usually required as part of your mortgage application process and look at the very high-level condition of the property in order to give a valuation. A Homebuyers report on the other hand gives a deeper survey of the building and looks at the key areas that often have issues in modern homes. Full structural surveys go much deeper into the fabric of the building, look at specific areas and are particularly useful for older or unusual builds.

Why You Should Get A Property Survey

Although getting a survey may seem like an unnecessary cost, there are a number of benefits that should be considered before writing it off. Getting a Homebuyers 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 nervy 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 and put you in a very difficult position.

Although the results of the survey may not always be the most welcome news, at least you know exactly what you are walking into in terms of 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. In the case of a full structural survey, this may also include considerations for how much these issues may cost to remedy. In the case of a Homebuyers report you can use this information to communicate with a professional and get a rough idea of costs or get a deeper survey done on certain aspects.

With surveys usually being undertaken during the buying process, the information they provide gives you a very powerful negotiation tool. For example, if repairs to the building are likely to cost you around £5,000 to remedy, you should be able to negotiate at least some of this amount to be taken off of the value of the property. Alternatively, the seller may agree to fix the issues ahead of you moving in in exchange for paying the full price.

3. Security

Once you have had a survey carried out and you have received the results, you should have a solid understanding of exactly what the surveyor has looked at and what the potential issues are. Although not all surveys look at all aspects of a building, for example a Homebuyers report looks at a lot less than a full structural survey, 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. This being said, you should always check the terms and conditions and any additional small print of your report to identify exactly 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.

What is Included In a Property Survey?

Different types of survey look more of less into the overall condition the home you are buying. This is also linked to the cost of the survey, with the least expensive only looking at the top-level condition and the more expensive looking deeper into the condition of the property. 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 in order 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. 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 go as far as to 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.

3. 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.

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 get free survey quotes for a range of surveying options, saving you time and money in the process. We only deal with the best in RICS certified surveyors, all trusted and verified by Compare My Move.