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House survey: which type of survey should I have?

By Maurice Shasha  //  Mon 3rd October 2022
Which house survey should I have? Discover why a house survey is essential and which one is the best for your property.
Types of house survey

Which house survey should I have? Discover why a house survey is essential and which one is the best for your London property.

As buying a property in London is expensive, some people are tempted to cut corners and skimp on the other expenses involved. Our key piece of advice? Don't skimp on the home buyer survey report. A house survey should be viewed as an investment, not an unnecessary cost. Discovering more about the property you plan to buy before you buy it can save you a great deal of money in the longer term.

Always look at the relatively small cost of a house survey as protection for the money you are investing in the property. However, buyers should be aware that there is no one survey suitable for all properties. Which survey you choose will depend on the type of property, its condition and age.

What is a survey?

A survey that is conducted on a house is a professional inspection of the property's condition. The inspection is carried out by specialists who are experts in their field.

After the inspection is complete, a report will be produced for the buyer which will inform them of any problems regarding the condition of the property, including minor and substantial structural issues that need repairs or maintenance.

A survey is usually conducted once the purchaser has had their offer accepted by the seller.

Who carries out a survey?

A house survey is carried out by a property expert known as a surveyor. They will visit the property to inspect it and produce a detailed report.

It’s important to do your research before appointing a surveyor. Ensure they are qualified and a member of an accrediting body such as RISC (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors). You should also compare different surveyors to find the best deal for the specific level of survey that you require.

Do I need to get a survey?

It is not compulsory to have a survey for a property that you are looking to purchase. However, it is good practice and it can help you to save money in the long run by avoiding buying a home that has hidden structural issues. These can be costly to put right and your property value will drop significantly if they aren’t all remedied properly.

The cost of having a survey is generally worth it for the peace of mind it gives and the confirmation that a superficial issue isn’t something much more serious.

If any issues are highlighted, and if you still want to buy the property, you will have the bargaining power to try and re-negotiate the asking price.

So, what house survey options are there, and which is right for you?

Mortgage Valuation

A mortgage valuation is not a building survey. It is carried out on behalf of the lender to make sure the property you hope to buy is worth the money you are asking to borrow. Although the purchaser will pay for this survey, it will not tell you anything about the property’s condition.

RICS Condition Report – Level 1

A condition report is the most basic type of survey and includes a visual inspection of the various aspects of the property. It will give you an overall idea of the property's condition but will not go into detail. Each part of the property is assessed on a traffic light system, green for no repair needed, amber for defects that need repairing or replacing but are not urgent and red for serious defects that must be dealt with urgently.

A Condition Report is most suitable if you are buying a modern property and want to be sure that it is in good condition.

RICS Homebuyer Report – Level 2

A homebuyer report will help you discover any problems such as damp, subsidence and structural problems, or any problems that could surprise you in the future. However, this survey does not go behind the walls and floorboards and is mainly suitable for conventional properties in good or reasonable condition. If you are considering buying a period property or a home that may need major renovations, it may be worth asking for a building survey.

RICS Building Survey – Level 3

This survey is also known as a full structural survey and is the most comprehensive survey you can get. It will give you detailed information about the structure and fabric of the building. The inspection will be more extensive than the level 2 survey, and the surveyor will access concealed areas such as under floorboards, roof areas and cellars. The report will also include advice about dealing with defects, and some surveyors will also be able to provide an estimated repair cost.

This survey will be helpful if you are considering major building works or if you are buying a large or older property.

New-build Snagging Survey

If you are buying a new-build property, you should consider commissioning a new-build snagging survey. This survey highlights anything from minor to significant problems in your new home. You should hand this survey to your developer as soon as possible so that any issues can be dealt with under the two-year developer warranty.

Survey costs by type of survey

The cost of any survey you request will depend on the type of property, its size, location and value.

The figures below give you a rough idea of what you can expect to pay. 

Property Value

RICS Condition Report – Level 1

RICS Homebuyer Report – Level 2

RICS Building Survey – Level 3

Up to £249,000

£500

£500-£600

£700-£750

£250,000-£349,000

£600

£600-£700

£800-£900

£350,000-£499,000

£700

£700-£800

£900-£1,100

£500,000 plus

£950

£1,000

£1,500

How do I find a good surveyor?

Here are some of the best ways to find a good surveyor:

Regulated by RICS

You should make sure that a recognised professional body of surveyors regulates them. The largest in the UK is the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Recommendations

Ask friends and family if they can recommend a surveyor they have previously used.

Price

Prices may vary between surveyors, so you should obtain at least three quotes from different surveyors. Be wary of very low quotations. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. There could be hidden fees, or the inspection and report may be rushed.

Reviews

Before you make a decision, look at online reviews. It goes without saying that you should choose a company that has mainly 5-star reviews.

Local

It makes more sense to choose a surveyor local to you as they will have better knowledge of the types of houses in your area.

What to do if issues are flagged in your survey

You can expect your home survey to throw up some issues and defects, but some are worse than others. Some problems may affect the property's value and your ability to get a mortgage. Other defects may be costly to put right.

Discuss the issues in more detail with your surveyor and obtain quotes for any remedial work required. Armed with this information you can then:

Make it a condition of the sale that the seller fixes the defects before contracts are exchanged.

Renegotiate the purchase price to take into account the costs you will face to rectify the problems identified in the survey.

If you can't come to an agreement with the seller, don't be afraid to pull out of the purchase altogether.

Plaza Estates have over 40 years of experience helping clients buy and sell properties in central London. We will work hard to ensure that your move is as problem-free as possible. If you want a stress-free home move, contact us today.

Offices at

Marble Arch
29 Edgware Road
London
W2 2JE
f: 020-7258-3090
Knightsbridge
34 Beauchamp Place
London
SW3 1NU
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