Look through any guide to home-buying, and you’re likely to find “Book property survey” as an item to tick off your list. But is it totally necessary? Given the costs and stresses involved in the journey to home ownership, buying a house with no survey might seem like a cheaper and more convenient option.
To help you make up your mind, let’s take a look at the ins and outs of property surveys – and whether they’re worth investing in.
Spoiler alert – in almost every case, it’s probably a good idea to do one. But read on for more detail to help you make up your mind .
What is a property survey?
A property survey is where the property you want to buy is thoroughly inspected by a qualified surveyor – a buildings expert.
After their inspection, the surveyor gives you a report on the condition of the property, which should flag up any major structural issues. The level of detail in the report will depend on the type of survey (more on that later).
It’s a good idea to get one for most types of property, but especially if the property is old or unusual (a 16th century thatched cottage, for example).
You would normally aim to have the survey done before you exchange contracts. That means, if the survey uncovers any issues, you have the chance to renegotiate the purchase price of the property or ask the seller to make repairs before going ahead with the sale.
Why you might consider buying a house with no survey
Getting a house survey isn’t something you have to do legally, so you might wonder if skipping this step might be a way to simplify the home-buying process.
Here, we explore a few reasons why you might consider buying a house with no survey:
- A survey is too expensive: We hear you. With mortgage fees, solicitors’ bills, and moving costs, the cost of buying a home can stack up. But, it’s important to bear in mind that a survey could save you money in the long run. A survey costs a few hundred pounds now, but major repairs could cost several thousand later on.
- My mortgage lender has already done a survey: Your mortgage lender’s valuation survey isn’t the same as a full property survey. It’s a very brief check of the outside of the property to see if it’s worth what you intend to pay for it. You can’t rely on it to reveal any underlying issues with the property.
- I’ll find out about any potential problems from my conveyancer: Your conveyancer or solicitor (who takes care of the legal side of the house sale) will carry out searches with local authorities that can uncover problems with the site of your property or the local area. But these searches won’t provide information about the fabric of the building, as a property survey will.
Also, it’s best not to assume that the Property Information Form (TA6) that you get from the seller will tell you everything you need to know about the property. They might not give you the full facts, or there could be an issue they’re not aware of themselves.
- The house is only a few years old: A newer home may well have a lower risk of structural issues, but it’s still best to get it checked out with a survey. There’s a chance that mistakes were made or shortcuts taken in the original build, which could end up being expensive to fix.
- Everything looks OK to me: Even the most eagle-eyed among us won’t be able to spot issues with a property that only an experienced surveyor can detect. Unless you’re a surveyor or builder yourself, it’s still a good idea to get an expert in.
The risks of buying a house with no survey
Getting a survey helps makes sure you’re fully informed about the property you want to buy. If the survey report comes back with no significant issues, you can go ahead with the sale with peace of mind. Or, if it does find problems, you have the option of:
- Pulling out of the sale
- Renegotiating the price to cover the cost of repairs
- Arranging for the seller to carry out repairs before you move in
Without a house survey, you’re giving up the opportunity to learn about potentially serious issues with the property, which could include:
- Dry rot or wet rot
- A leaky roof
- Wall cracks
- Rotten window frames
- Old and dangerous wiring
- Invasive plants, like Japanese knotweed
If you discover one or more of these problems after you’ve bought the property, it could have a big impact on your quality of life and your finances. For example, you might have to find somewhere else to live while repairs are being carried out, and you could be faced with a hefty bill for the repairs themselves.
There’s also the possibility that everything will seem fine until you come to sell the property, a potential buyer gets a survey done, and they find an underlying issue that was there all along. This could then discourage them from going ahead with the sale.
All this isn’t to say that you will definitely face major problems if you buy a home without a survey. Of course, that’s not always going to be the case. But it’s better to know as much as you can about your future home before you commit to buying it.
Are there any good reasons for skipping the survey?
We would say that the only really good reason for buying a house with no survey is if you’re a surveyor or experienced builder yourself. Or perhaps if you have a trusted friend from one of those professions who can take a look at the property for you.
Otherwise, hiring a qualified surveyor is still the way to go.
How can I get a property survey?
The best place to start is to contact a few local surveyors for quotes, so you can make sure you’re getting good value for money. The cost will depend on the property size, type, and location, and the type of survey you choose.
Make sure any surveyor you consider is a registered member of a recognised industry body, like the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
You also need to decide what type of survey to go for. Here are the different types of surveys offered by the RICS:
- Home Survey Level 1: This is the most basic type of survey (also called a condition report). It just gives a very simple overview of the state of the property, so it’s only really suitable for homes that are less than five years old and don’t have any unusual features. Cost: from £290
- Home Survey Level 2: A more in-depth survey that’s still aimed at properties in relatively good condition. Also known as a homebuyer report, it’s useful for identifying more obvious issues, like subsidence or damp, but the surveyor won’t be moving heavy furniture or looking up in the roof. Cost: from £350
- Home Survey Level 2 with valuation: As above, but you’ll also get a valuation of the property for an additional fee. Cost: from £450
- Home Survey Level 3: Also known as a building survey, this is the most comprehensive type of survey, giving you a complete picture of the state of the property. Not only does it flag up any issues, but it also provides recommendations on how to resolve them. Cost: from £500
The Residential Property Surveyors Association (RSPA) also offers similar types of surveys, with prices ranging from £400 to £900.
Finally, if you’re hoping to buy a new-build property, you might consider a new-build snagging survey. This is an independent inspection specifically aimed at spotting issues in new properties – anything from pencil marks on the skirting boards to unfinished plumbing.
Once you’ve shown this report to your developer, they’re obliged under warranty to sort out any problems.
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