Everything you need to know about home surveys
A home survey is a detailed inspection of a property that tells you if there are any problems with it before you buy it
Last updated on
May 23, 2022 11:42
A Home Survey Level 2 is a detailed inspection of a property’s condition, carried out by a qualified surveyor. It’s used to spot any problems (or potential problems) before you buy.
Think of it as a “property health check” or like an MOT for your car. A surveyor visits and carefully inspects the property, before writing a report highlighting any issues they’ve found.
You’ll typically have a home survey done on a property after your offer has been accepted.
First, the facts. You’re not legally obliged to get a survey done on a property you’re buying.
And when no one’s forcing you to do it, it might feel like an unnecessary expense. Especially as it comes after you’ve had an offer accepted and you’re already committed. But it’s actually a really good idea to get a home survey done, because then you’ll know if the property requires any work or repairs before you buy it – particularly if those problems aren’t immediately obvious.
Issues with the roof, plumbing, dampness, or structural integrity of the building can be flagged in a survey, which could impact how you go about finalising the deal.
For instance, if your survey uncovers £10,000 worth of repairs, you could:
And if the survey makes for extra scary bedtime reading (for example, it shows a history of subsidence and risk of structural collapse), you could opt to pull out before you exchange contracts and finalise the deal – saving you lots of time, money, and stress in the long run.
Nope. A mortgage valuation is not the same as a home survey.
When you apply for a mortgage, your lender will carry out a valuation of the property to make sure it’s worth what you’re planning to pay – and borrow from them as a mortgage. The valuation is there for the lender’s benefit, not yours. It isn’t thorough enough to replace an expert house survey – and, in many cases, it won’t involve someone visiting the property in person.
Don’t rely on a mortgage valuation to pinpoint problems or stop you from overpaying. You’ll need an independent survey survey for that.
You should get a qualified surveyor. Most are members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), a recognised industry association whose members have to have professional indemnity insurance.
Here are a few tips for choosing a surveyor:
It depends on the level of survey you choose (and the size of the property). It can take anything from an hour or two, to the whole day.
The standard surveys offer three levels of survey:
Here’s a little bit more about each:
A Home Survey Report is best suited to homes in a reasonable condition, this survey dives a little deeper, helping you identify more visible problems, like damp or sightings of subsidence, as well as any issues both inside and outside of the property.
It’s only detailed up to a point – stopping short of looking behind the walls, in the roof or under the floorboards.
This report does not offer a valuation of the property.
This is the same as the above but does include a valuation of the property at an additional £100 cost.
A Home Survey Level 3 is the most comprehensive of the lot. A highly detailed report, it gives you an in-depth analysis of the property’s condition, flagging any and all issues in the process.
As part of the report, you’ll also get clear recommendations on how to deal with the problems uncovered by the survey, plus an outline of the repair options and a description of the consequences if these issues aren’t dealt with promptly and correctly.
Naturally, this attention to detail is reflected in the cost and is the priciest option:
The Residential Property Surveyors Association (RSPA) is another independent association of surveyors. Like the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, they too offer three levels of survey, all of which include:
Prices range from £400 to £900, depending on the level of survey and the size and location of the property.
When you buy a new-build home, you might benefit from a different type of report. A new-build snagging survey is an independent inspection designed to look for and find issues with a brand new property.
Costing upwards of £300, it covers small, cosmetic “snags” and larger, more glaring issues alike.
Ideally, you should share this report with your developer before you move in so they can fix any issues under your warranty.
In Scotland, it’s legally the seller’s job to produce a Home Report within 12 weeks of putting their property on the market. This has been the case since 2008, with only a few exceptions – new-build properties, newly converted homes, or those bought under Right to Buy.
The Home Report pack should include:
As a buyer, you may still want to get your own survey though, especially if you have any concerns about the condition, location, or style of the property.
If you’re buying in England or Wales, and you’d like full support with the home-buying process that includes a property survey, you might like our Habito Plus service. We help you sort everything, including the mortgage, the legal work, and we get you a survey on the condition of the property before you commit to buying it.
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