08 May 2018

How to pick the right home survey

Buying a house is likely to be the most expensive thing you're ever going to do. Making sure that you know exactly what you're buying is a smart move, and that's where a home survey comes in.

But there are various types of home survey, all of which come with their own distinct price tags. So, what's the difference? And how do you work out which one is best for you?

Condition Report

A Condition Report is the most basic sort of home survey. It will give you an overview of the general state of the property and highlight any significant issues there may be, but it is rather light on detail.

The surveyor will grade the different areas of the house using a traffic light system: those given a 'red' rating are ones that should be of immediate concern.

This is the cheapest home survey around, and will typically cost around £250.

According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) the Condition Report is most suitable for conventional properties and newer homes.

Homebuyers Report

The next step up the survey chain is the Homebuyers Report. This is more detailed on the actual state of the property, including all of the features of a Condition Report but also advice on repairs and maintenance.

An important thing to note here is that this report is still non-intrusive — in other words, the surveyor won't look behind the furniture or under the floorboards to find if there are any issues beyond surface level ones.

This will tend to include a market valuation and rebuild cost — and the latter is particularly useful when it comes to buying buildings insurance.

The Homebuyers Report will cost around £400, and according to RICS is best suited to conventional homes which are evidently in a decent condition.

Building Survey

A Building Survey is the most comprehensive of the survey options; you'll get a detailed report outlining the structure and condition of the property. It will highlight any issues with the property and provide advice on how to get it repaired, while the fact that the surveyor will get more hands-on means they are more likely to spot issues which may not be immediately obvious.

RICS suggests this is most appropriate for older properties, or if you're planning major works, but it's not a bad idea to get one even if you're not.

This is the most expensive type of survey, with costs starting at around £500. Bear in mind they can cost significantly more than this depending on the size and location of the property.

Snagging Survey

You might think that buying a new-build means you are getting your hands on a home free of any issues, but the truth can be rather different.

That's where a Snagging Survey comes in. It's specifically designed for new-builds, and should cover everything from small cosmetic defects to more significant structural issues.

You can then push the developer to get them fixed before you complete on the purchase and have to move in, though you can actually have a Snagging Survey at any point in the first two years and the developer will still need to fix any issues identified.

Costs will vary depending on the size of the new-build, but you can expect to pay upwards of £300.

Is a survey compulsory?

You don't have to get a home survey when buying a property. It can be very easy to view it as an unnecessary additional cost, when you're already worrying about a deposit, stamp duty, solicitor fees and moving costs.

But if you can afford to, it's definitely a good idea to get some form of survey before you complete. It makes sense to know as much about the actual standard of the property before you spend such a lot of money on it.

It's also worth noting that sellers in Scotland are required by law to produce a Home Report pack — which contains a survey, energy report and property questionnaire — for all would-be buyers to have a look at.

How do I find a quality surveyor?

If you are going to shell out hundreds or even thousands of pounds on home surveys, then you want to make sure you are using a quality surveyor.

A good place to start is the  (This link will open in a new window)RICS register. You just need to enter your postcode and you'll be presented with a list of local surveyors.

It's a good idea to go with a RICS surveyor because member surveyors need to guarantee work to a high standard and comply with certain codes of conduct.

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About the author

John Fitzsimons

John Fitzsimons is an award-winning financial journalist who has written for publications including the Sunday Times, The Mirror, Forbes, Moneywise and loveMONEY.

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