What is a survey / Why get one?

A mortgage valuation is not a survey. A mortgage valuation simply checks if the property value is large enough to cover your lenders loan if you were unable to pay it back. It considers if there are any obvious structural issues that would seriously affect its value but it doesn’t review the property in detail. After all, the inspection is usually no more than 20-30 minutes long. Some mortgage valuations no longer require a visit to the property with technology allowing more desktop valuations to take place.

What is a survey?

A survey helps you to understand the true condition of the property. It allows you to consider what it will cost you to carry out any repairs or maintenance required after moving in. Maintenance issues across all the various parts of a property can quickly add up. And, whilst some problems are more obvious, you rarely get to inspect the roof space or take in specialist tools to assess various parts of the building.

A survey gives you all the information you need to make an informed decision about your next property purchase so that you can buy with confidence and avoid any nasty surprises. An inspection typically lasts up to 2 hours, far longer than a viewing or mortgage valuation.

Why get a survey?

1. Understand the true condition - has the seller kept on top of repairs and maintenance? The average repair bill that homebuyers face once they have moved into their new home is £5,750 (RICS). Are you happy to carry out the level of works needed?

2. Renegotiate - if there are some expensive repairs you’ll need to make, a survey can help you to renegotiate on price or request the seller makes the necessary fixes.

3. Budget for the future - if you don’t know much about the current condition and age of various parts of the building, it will be hard to know how much and how soon you will need to spend money in order to keep the property in a good condition.

4. The surveyor works for you to ensure you are fully informed. A surveyor conducting a mortgage valuation is working strictly for your lender’s benefit.

What types of survey can I get?

There are two governing bodies for surveyors. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) both offer the same level of survey.

1. RICS Homebuyer Report / RPSA Home Condition Survey (Level 2)

  • Suited to properties up to 50-80 years old (dependent on the surveyor) that are in a good condition.
  • Your surveyor will look for all major and minor defects evident throughout the property (including the roof space) and any permanent outbuildings. Remember, your surveyor can only inspect what is accessible to them and visible.
  • Uses various tools such as damp meters, ladders, binoculars, torches and more to review the property.
  • Traffic light ratings to grade the condition of each aspect of the property.

2. Building Survey (Level 3)

  • Suited to all properties, especially those that are older, in poor condition, have been extensively extended or modified or are listed.
  • Everything in the level 2 report plus more detail about any suspected hidden defects (the likelihood of which increase with age and size of the property).
  • Aims to establish the cause of any issues rather than just highlight the symptoms.

3. Buy-to-Let Survey

If you are looking to rent out the property you are buying you can also get a Buy-to-Let survey that offers a level 2 condition report alongside an assessment of all the health and safety factors you need to comply with. It ensures you know how much work is required to make a buy-to-let investment compliant with regulations and is offered by the RPSA.

What are the limitations?

1. Services (e.g. gas, electrics etc) - These are often hidden within the walls and floors. Your surveyor can inspect the visual parts advising on the condition they appear to be in. Remember, your surveyor is like a GP – they can provide a general idea of the condition of these services from what they can see. They are not specialists and so will not conduct specialist tests or establish the efficiency of any services. However, they will generally check to see that the services work.

2. Inspections are visual - they will not drill into walls or lift carpets as they are not able to damage the property. However, due to their knowledge and experience they are usually able to take small signs and piece together all information to establish if there are any potential hidden issues and if they warrant further inspections.