So, you’ve finally made an offer on a property that’s right for you and fits your budget, and you’re itching to get things moving. What next? Well, before you actually buy the property, you should consider surveying the property.
Why? Because you need to make sure the property is worth the money you’re about to fork out – and that there are no underlying problems that’ll require extra investment further down the road.
A house survey is a great way to get to know your property, inside and out. Here, we explain who’s responsible for arranging (and paying) for one.
What is a house survey?
A house survey is simply an inspection of the condition of a property, completed by a certified surveyor. Though getting a home surveyed is not mandatory or required by law, arranging one will give you the peace of mind you’ll need during the home buying process.
Benefits of a house survey
The number one benefit is that it’ll save you money down the line. It may seem like an extra (and avoidable) expense to get the property surveyed before buying it, but you can easily end up paying more in repairs and damages if you’re not careful. It is also the main reason that price renegotiations take place, you get a discount to reflect the condition of the property meaning you have the money to carry out any repairs once it’s yours.
Other benefits include:
- Knowing the state of the property (Does it have unstable foundations and walls? Signs of subsidence? Damp?)
- Working out if you can afford the repairs if the report finds any issues (Like roof repairs or problems with the plumbing)
- Spotting any other risks that will cost you more money and hassle down the line
- Making sure the lender is happy to lend you the money to buy the property.
What is subsidence? Subsidence happens when the ground below a property moves. Signs include cracks in the wall, window frames that stick out, and rippling wallpaper, subsidence can be really serious and very expensive to both fix and insure so a key point to look out for!
Who is responsible for arranging a house survey?
The person responsible for arranging a house survey will depend on the location of the property.
- When buying a house in England or Wales, it’s the buyer’s responsibility to arrange a survey.
- In Scotland, the seller organises a Home Report that any potential buyer can access, even before they make an offer on the property.
Sometimes, a seller might provide a property survey even if they don’t need to. Though it might be helpful to you, it’s a good idea to hire your own independent surveyor to see if the reports match.
You can ask your estate agent, conveyancer or solicitor for surveyor recommendations. Or you could use Habito’s complete home-buying service, where we will arrange your survey for you and have someone with you every step of the way of the transaction.
Who pays for the survey?
If you’re a buyer in England or Wales, you’ll need to cover the cost of the survey. If you’re buying in Scotland, it’s the seller’s responsibility to pay for a property survey.
What’s the difference between a house survey and a mortgage valuation?
A house survey is separate from a mortgage valuation. A house survey is for you, the buyer, while a mortgage valuation is for your potential mortgage lender.
If you’re paying for the property using a mortgage, the lender will request a mortgage valuation before considering your mortgage application. Just like you, the lender wants to make sure the amount they’ll lend you matches the property’s value. Plus, they want to know that the property won’t be a hassle, preventing you from paying back the mortgage.
However, there’s a caveat to this. Even though the lender requested the valuation, you’ll incur the costs of the survey. Your solicitor acts for both you and the lender though so if your survey does show up anything that would put the lender’s money at risk they have to disclose it to the lender so they are aware. Other than that, the lender does not see your survey.
How to arrange a survey?
To arrange a house survey, you’ll need to compare surveyors to choose the perfect fit. Even if you receive recommendations from friends and relatives, it’s best to compare surveyors to make sure that you receive the best services according to your budget.
How to choose a surveyor?
You can begin your search online, as well as by asking your family or friends for recommendations. Compare local surveyor quotes and check their credentials to make sure they’re up to the task.
Consider the following while narrowing your options:
- Is the surveyor a member of a professional body, such as the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA)?
- Do they have a portfolio of past survey reports?
- Are they upfront and willing to answer any questions you might have?
- Are they willing to walk through the property with you initially, before undertaking the survey?
- Will they be available after the report has been finalised to answer any questions you might have?
Once you’ve narrowed it down to your preferred surveyor, get them booked in as soon as possible to get the ball rolling on owning your property. It can take a bit of time for them to actually be able to get to the property and then prepare their report.
RICS and RPSA explained: Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) are recognised professional bodies that enforce standards and qualifications in the residential property industry. Most surveyors will be members of either professional body. RICS or RPSA surveyors have professional indemnity insurance, meaning that you’re protected from paying for any property issues that come up during the home survey.
Types of available house surveys
There are three types of surveys, each with differing amounts of detail you'll receive about the property in question. These are:
1. Condition Report
This is a basic survey option because it follows a standard format to help reduce costs. It’s suitable for modern homes that are in good condition, or newly built. You’ll receive information such as:
- A basic overview of the condition of the property
- A list of significant risks that it might have
The report doesn’t include market valuation, repair or maintenance advice or an in-depth assessment of gas or electricity.
2. Homebuyer surveys
This survey is ideal for properties that don’t have any obvious issues and only need reasonable repairs, or were built more than a decade ago. It applies a standard format and highlights:
- Key risks and concerns about the structure of the property
- Advice on any future maintenance or repairs that’ll need to be looked into
- A market valuation and any insurance rebuild costs (if you add the valuation service at an additional cost of £100)
The survey doesn’t include any information on concealed areas such as behind walls or attics, or an in-depth assessment of gas or electricity.
3. Building surveys
This survey is the most expensive because of the amount of detail included. It’s ideal for old buildings or properties that have been significantly altered. You’ll receive information such as:
- Type of construction
- Key structural concerns, which will include checking the attic and concealed areas (behind walls and above ceilings)
- Comprehensive advice on future maintenance and repair
- Cost estimation on repairs and how long they might take
- Market valuation of the property, in-depth assessment of gas or electricity and any insurance rebuild costs (if a valuation service is added)
How much does a house survey cost?
House survey costs can range from £300+ for the condition report to £600+ for the building survey. The cost of the survey will depend on four things:
- Where your property is located
- The size of your property
- The type of survey you’ll need
- The surveyor you hire
As a rule of thumb, always choose the survey you need based on the information you require and the property you’re buying, not on how much it costs. Your surveyor should be able to advise you as to which type of survey is suitable for your property.
What happens after a survey is complete?
Once you’ve settled on a surveyor, they should get the ball rolling fairly quickly. You should expect to have a report within two to three weeks, or sooner, depending on the type of survey and the availability of the surveyor.
In some cases, your surveyor may call you immediately after, with a quick summary; this is something you can request during your initial meeting with them.
Once you have the report in hand, your options become clearer, including:
- If no major risks were found, you could push on with purchasing the house.
- If some risks were found, but you’re willing to fix them, you could push on with purchasing the property while looking for someone to fix the structural issues. You could also try and renegotiate the purchase price through the agent to cover these works.
- If major risks have been found, you could renegotiate the asking price.
- If major risks have been found, and you anticipate spending more to fix the property, you could withdraw your offer.
Getting the property surveyed puts you on a much stronger footing if you decide to renegotiate or withdraw completely.
Does the property seller get to see a copy of the house survey?
This will depend on the location of the property and the circumstances. If you’re trying to renegotiate the price based on the results then the agent will always ask to see the survey and share it with the seller - it’s only fair if they are knocking the price down because of it!
In Wales and England, the buyer has the option of sharing the survey findings with the seller if they choose to. A surveyor is contractually bound not to reveal any information to anyone but the buyer.
In Scotland, the seller will need to provide this report to any potential buyer, so they’ll get to see it from the outset.
Next steps: house survey checklist
The house buying process can be full of obstacles. At each step, it's a good idea to keep a checklist of what you need to do next.
It’s important that you move through the process steadily, including considering a house survey while you budget for the home.
Here is a handy checklist that you can work with when it comes to house surveys:
- Figure out what survey you need depending on the property (when it was built, how it has been altered over the years, location).
- Compare surveyor quotes.
- Check if the surveyor is a member of a recognised body: RICS or RPSA.
- Speak to the surveyor and clarify their task, according to the survey type you've chosen, as well as how you want to communicate with them.
- Wait until the report is completed.
- Read the report and speak to the surveyor if you have any questions.
- Based on the findings, finalise your next steps.
Need more help? Check out Habito’s complete home-buying service (surveys included).