It could reveal structural issues in the home, saving you from an expensive mistake or meaning you're well informed about the cost of repairs if you go ahead.
Buying a new home is probably the most expensive purchase you will ever make. It is well worth getting a survey done to get a clear picture of what you are paying for.
Worryingly, one in five buyers fail to commission a survey, according to RICS. Of those that do, the majority choose a Homebuyer Report. Before paying for a home survey, ensure you know what you will get for your money. Continue reading to find out the best type of survey for your new home.
Types of homebuyer survey
If you're buying in England, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is the main accredited body for property surveyors. Alternative accreditors are Sava or the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA). Surveyors linked to these organisations will offer slightly different reports.
Survey Level 1 - RICS Condition Report
This RICS home survey offers an entry-level report. It provides a traffic light rating system to show the property's condition and highlights any significant issues that need correcting urgently or require further investigation. These reports are generally brief and don't go into specific detail.
Survey Level 2 – RICS Homebuyer Report
A RICS Homebuyer Report is an intermediate level visual survey which reports on anything that is visibly accessible from the property. In addition to the information provided in a Condition Survey, the level 2 survey also includes information relating to issues that may impact the property's value or may breach building regulations. They also offer advice on repairs or maintenance. If the problems are not visibly evident, then this survey level won't necessarily identify any concealed structural issues.
Survey Level 3 - RICS Building Survey
This RICS home survey is extremely thorough and will comprehensively summarise the property's condition. The surveyor will complete a structural inspection of the property rather than a visual level 2 survey. It will report on any issues, and you can also request guidance on potential repair costs and timings.
New Build Snagging Survey
A Snagging home survey is a visual inspection of new build properties. It can identify any cosmetic issues right through to any major structural concerns. While you can create your own snagging list when moving into your new home, a professional may pick up on any issues you haven't noticed. A professional report may also strengthen your case if you have any problems getting repairs done by the developers.
What type of property is a Homebuyers Survey for?
A Homebuyers Survey is suitable for any residential home – from a flat to a house. But it is most suited to properties built less than 50 years ago that have not been renovated and appear in good condition with no apparent signs of damage.
A Building Survey may be a better option for older properties or those that have been extended, as it will uncover more hidden issues.
A Condition Survey would probably suffice for a new-build or nearly new properties.
What's covered in a Homebuyer's Report?
The surveyor will inspect all visible and accessible aspects of the property's exterior and interior, including the roof, walls, ceilings, bathroom, kitchen, loft space, and outbuildings. The guttering, windows and doors, heating, drainage and water services will also be inspected for the home survey.
It does have limitations, though; the surveyor will not look behind furniture or lift flooring. It may be supplied with caveats, limiting the surveyor's liability, which could be an issue if you discover a significant problem later.
The surveyor will provide an estimated cost of rebuilding the property for insurance purposes. Some home surveys include a market valuation for the property. If the report reveals a lower price than that estimated by your lender's mortgage valuation, you may be able to revise your offer.
You mustn't confuse a Homebuyer report with a mortgage valuation. A mortgage valuation survey is for the lender's benefit to estimate the property's value. In contrast, a home survey allows the buyer to check the property's condition.
How much does a Homebuyer's Survey cost?
The cost depends on the type and size of the property. The RICS homebuyer report costs can vary. Prices start at around £290 but can be as high as £1,390 for a large home.
How long does a Homebuyer's Survey take?
A Homebuyers Survey can take anything between 2-4 hours to complete. You should expect to wait around 3-5 working days for the report to be produced.
What does a Homebuyer's Report look like?
A Homebuyers Report is presented using a traffic light system to indicate the condition of each aspect of the property. Green means no repairs are needed, and red means urgent attention. The report is written in a way that makes it easy to understand without complex jargon to decipher.
Below is a summary of what each of the traffic light statuses means.
- Green (Condition Rating 1) - indicates that the area referenced needs no repairs and has no areas of concern. These should continue to be maintained in a normal manner.
- Amber (Condition Rating 2) - highlights areas with defects that need repairing or replacing but are not considered urgent. These areas are unlikely to impact the property's overall value but will require additional maintenance or repair in time.
- Red (Condition Rating 3) - highlights defects that need severe or urgent repair and must be replaced or investigated immediately. These areas should be seriously considered as part of the overall purchase. They may be areas that make the purchase void, or they may be areas that warrant re-negotiation based on potential repair costs.
Pros & Cons: Condition, Homebuyer's, Building Survey
So, what does a homebuyer's survey cover? And what about the other survey types? Here is a brief summary of the pros and cons for each type of survey offered by RICS.
- Great for new-builds or nearly new homes
- Would pick up any severe defects
- Very basic survey and doesn't go into any detail
- It doesn't include any advice about the repairs and maintenance
- Great for standard properties in reasonable condition
- Affordable and reasonable in-depth
- Only visible areas that can be easily accessed are surveyed
- It doesn't include the estimated cost of repairs
- The most thorough survey you can get. Great for older homes, those that have been renovated or built in an unconventional way
- Includes photographs, costing and timelines for required repairs
- It can take up to one day to complete
- An expensive option
Is a Homebuyer's Survey Worth It?
This is the most common question amongst home buyers, especially in London. With so many costs to account for, from stamp duty to solicitors fees, many wonder if the additional cost of a home survey on the home is worth it.
However, make this saving, and you may live to regret it. If you end up buying a place you didn't realise has a roof that needs replacing or has terrible damp issues, it could cost thousands to put right.
You can also use the report to negotiate the price or ask the vendor to make the repairs before buying the property. For example, if the property needs a new roof costing £5,000, you could reduce your offer by this amount.
Homebuyer Report or Building Survey
If you are wondering which report to get, we advise that you consider the property's age, type and condition when making a decision. A Homebuyer Report (Level 2) is better for well-maintained, conventional homes under 80 years old. If the home you are considering buying is over 80 years old, has undergone significant renovation work or has been neglected, it would be better to get a Building Survey (Level 3).
Where to find a surveyor
The best place to find a surveyor is through the two governing bodies: the RPSA and RICS. Searching on their websites should lead you to a fully qualified surveyor for your property.
However, you can assess surveyors in more detail using the methods below:
- Asking people you know for recommendations
- Exploring surveyor reviews online
- Asking what surveyor your estate agent recommends
What to do if your survey uncovers problems
Don't panic! Home surveys will often uncover issues, even if these issues are minor. If you have concerns about the property, tell your surveyor in advance (or accompany them). If their report does not cover something which concerns you, then raise the issue as soon as possible.
What can you do next?
- Ask for estimated costs – your surveyor can advise you how much it may cost to fix the problems raised by the survey.
- Check the guarantees – if your home survey raises problems with (e.g.) the electrics or timbers, then check if they're under guarantee.
- Renegotiate the house price – if the survey uncovers major faults, you should try to negotiate a lower price for the home or ask for it to be fixed before you buy.
- Don't buy the home - if you feel the faults uncovered by the survey are too significant, you can choose not to buy.
Do you need a survey on a new build property?
You should get a snagging survey before you move into the property. If not, you may discover unpleasant issues further down the line. Unfortunately, there are often numerous issues with new build homes, so a survey is well worth it. As a rule of thumb, you should get the survey done before the exchange. This will give you the power to negotiate amends with your developer.
If you're looking to buy in Central London, Plaza Estates is a leading independent estate agent. We can advise you about which survey to opt for and tell you more about our portfolio of outstanding properties. Contact us today.