Buying a property to live or work in is the biggest financial commitment most people ever make. As many as 80% of buyers do not commission independent building surveys, homebuyer reports or other property inspections.
The right survey will almost certainly draw your attention to defects that you didn’t know existed, or the seriousness of which you may not have appreciated. It enables you to make an informed, objective and considered decision and, in many cases, to renegotiate your purchase price. Any defects identified on a property survey may mean you have considerable immediate or future expenditure to consider — in some cases, you may decide not to buy at all.
How much does a house survey cost?
You may have carried out some Google research about your future home but there’s nothing like proper expert advice by a Chartered Surveyor. RICS research estimates that one in five buyers who did not commission a survey find they need to spend an average of £5,750 dealing with defects that they did not know about. Suddenly a modest investment which is usually between £350 and £1000 in a building survey or homebuyer report becomes money well spent in protecting your money and your biggest asset. Building surveys and homebuyer reports are designed to give you the information you need to make an informed and sensible offer on your future home. The publishers of Which? Magazine and The Council of Mortgage Lenders advise you to arrange an independent building survey (sometimes called a structural survey) or homebuyer report before buying a property. We have some examples of the savings our surveys generated for purchasers:
Do not be confused by the valuation survey your bank or mortgage lender provides. This is an inspection carried out on behalf of your mortgage lender to determine the amount and terms of a mortgage offer. Your mortgage lender will probably ask you to pay for the valuation and may not send you a copy of the report. A valuation is not a detailed survey and you should not rely on it. If you have a low loan to value, the surveyor may simply undertake a drive-by inspection. Collier Stevens does not undertake valuation work and specialises in pre-purchase building surveys specifically for purchasers. Read this RICS Consumer Guidance Note.
Collier Stevens was asked to undertake an ISVA Level 2 Building Survey for a buy-to-let purchaser of a Victorian ground floor conversion flat in Kent.
Ground Floor Victorian Conversion Flat in Kent
Collier Stevens were asked to undertake an ISVA (Independent Surveyors & Valuers Association) level 2 survey of a ground floor conversion flat in a Victorian house. Our client was particularly interested in the suitability of the property for use as a buy-to-let investment. Our survey revealed extensive dampness and condensation as well as issues relating to sound separation and fire separation. They decided not to proceed with this acquisition.
Our client wished to return this Edwardian property of three self contained flats to a single dwelling.
Full building survey – Edwardian House, Kent
This substantial Edwardian house was converted to three self-contained flats during the 1950s and had not been the subject of any modernisation for at least 30 years. Our client wished to return the house to a single dwelling.
They required a building survey to identify the current structural condition, the scope of structural work necessary to reinstate the property and an assessment of the potential cost of all of the work, including reinstatement to a single dwelling. Our survey identified concerns with the roof, water penetration, the services and asbestos.
What’s the difference between a building survey and a homebuyer report?
Whilst there are many different types of survey, the two most common are — the homebuyer report and the building survey — although if you need just a specific defect looked at in detail then you can ask for a single defect report. A defect report concentrates on one particular defect, specified by you. For instance, evidence of movement, dampness or structural failure. It will report upon the cause of the defect and any remedial works necessary, but will NOT report any other shortcoming in the home you are looking at buying. If you’d like to see what a survey or homebuyers report looks like then take a look at examples of our surveys.
Homebuyers Report vs Building Survey
|Factors Included||Homebuyers Report (Level 2)||Building Survey (Level 3)|
|Completed by a RICS Chartered Surveyor.||Yes||Yes|
|Includes an inspection.||Yes||Yes|
|Identifies problems that could help with price negotiations.||Yes||Yes|
|Includes a report on construction, building materials and structural defects.||No||Yes|
|Provides a condition rating of the property.||Yes||Yes|
|Allows buyers to be fully informed of the property’s condition.||Yes||Yes|
|Highlights issues needing urgent attention.||Yes||Yes|
|Provides advice for your legal advisers.||Yes||Yes|
|Provides professional advice from the surveyor.||Yes||Yes|
|Provides a reinstatement cost for insurance purposes.||Yes||No|
|Includes a market valuation.||Yes||No|
|Outlines repair options and possible consequences of ignoring the issues.||No||Yes|
|Suitable for any property type.||No||Yes|
The Homebuyer Report is a level 2 survey. This is most suitable for conventional properties built in the last 50 years or so and which are in reasonable condition. The report will describe the condition of the property, identify any risks and potential legal issues and highlights any urgent defects. It also includes advice on defects that may affect the value of the property with repairs. This is a lower-priced service, the inspection and report are less detailed and briefer than a building survey.
The Building Survey is a level 3 report and is recommended for larger or older properties, or if you’re planning major works. This is the most comprehensive report and includes an in-depth analysis of the property’s condition, including advice on defects, repairs and maintenance options.
Take a look at our most commonly asked property survey questions or visit our detailed pages about each type of survey. You can get a quote from our website or, give us a call — London 020 8295 1200, Kent 01303 239000 — and you can discuss the best option for your prospective home.
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