What are the different survey options when buying a new home?

Before you buy a house it is important to have a survey on your new potential home to know whether or not to go forward based on the building’s condition, and potentially how much  money you’ll need to invest to bring it up to your livable standard. Read on to find out about your options in terms of the various property surveys you can have and whether or not they may be the right option for your property purchase.


Why do I need a survey when buying a house?

Before you make an investment in a property you want to know whether the bricks and mortar are sound, this is where a survey comes in! An inspection report of the building carried out by a professional with qualifications comes with a guarantee should anything go wrong in the future. 

When you’re spending this amount of money it makes sense to do an extensive check, as unlike goods you can’t return the property after you purchase. The types of issues usually highlighted by a house survey are those relating to the condition of the building structurally and whether or not there’s any major repairs needed. Homebuyers surveys come in three different levels with differing costs depending on how in-depth you want the survey to be, they are the following:-

  • Level 1 – Condition report
  • Level 2 – Homebuyer report
  • Level 3 – Building survey

Why do you need a survey?

The Consumer Rights Act, which requires any product or service to be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose does not apply to the sale of houses. Even if you’re buying a house for over £1 million, you’d think such a major purchase would come with extensive legal protection, but it’s usually not the case! 

The property may look amazing on the surface, but it’s not always easy to judge whether there’s unseen structural problems which the vendor isn’t aware of. If something goes wrong further down the line and the property requires unexpected and extensive repairs, there isn’t much you can do other than suck it up! This is the reason we strongly advise every buyer to commission a professional property survey before contracts are exchanged.



Why can’t I rely on a mortgage valuation?

According to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) around one fifth of house buyers don’t bother getting a survey. Instead, they rely on the mortgage valuation supplied by the financial provider of their mortgage, meaning there are no issues or defects brought to light for the potential buyer. So unless you’re purchasing a new build that comes with a long warranty, we always advise to commission a professional survey.


What sort of survey should I get?

To find the type of survey that’s appropriate for your purpose will depend on the age, condition and price of your prospective property. 

Here are the three different types of property surveys available for your purchase:-

  • Condition Report

With this report a traffic light system highlights any possible legal issues, urgent defects and risks, this is often used for New Build homes which aren’t expected to have any issues with structural work or dampness etc. No valuation is provided, this is suitable for recently built properties that are clearly in a good condition. Prices start around £250 for a Condition Survey.

  • Homebuyer Report

This report will highlight the main problems with a property, but it often comes with a caveat limiting the surveyor’s liability. It’s not an in-depth survey, but it’s far more thorough than a condition report. You will find the following in this report:-

  • A report on the area in which the property is located.
  • Cost of rebuilding under an insurance policy.
  • A report of the building’s damp proofing and drainage system.
  • A timber assessment, including whether there is any woodworm present.
  • A report on dampness and the structure of the building i.e. highlighting whether subsidence may be an issue.
  • Any major defects or repairs necessary.
  • Any issues that may affect the price of the property.

This report is suitable for conventional properties which are less than 150 years old. Prices start around £400 for a Homebuyer report.

  • Building Survey

This is the most thorough of the three survey reports. The Building Survey was once known as a ‘Full Structural Survey’ as it covers both external and internal issues. In addition to issues covered in the other two surveys it will also look at the likes of invasive weeds and inform the buyer what will happen if they don’t attend to certain repairs, in addition to the cost of the repairs.

A Building Survey is bespoke to the particular property, there’s no template. The surveyor will also be happy to look at anything in particular that the potential buyer has asked to be researched. Overall the survey will highlight areas such as: 

  • How much it costs for the house to be rebuilt, for insurance purposes.
  • A list of defects and a report on the building’s structure.
  • A test for damp, dry rot and woodworm.
  • Notes on damp-proofing and insulation.
  • If there are any invasive weeds and where they are in relation to the house.
  • What materials were used in the building’s construction.
  • The state of the electrics.
  • Any notes that might be worth investigating further.

A Building Survey involves an in-depth investigation of a property’s condition, which means it can take up to a day to complete and it can take up to two weeks before you receive your final report. It’s worth the wait, as by digging deeper into the property’s current state and its history, a Building Survey report can uncover any structural problems that could otherwise be missed. It’s recommended for older properties and those that have been substantially renovated or you know require major work. Prices start at around £600 and can reach as much as £3000 for a larger property.



Do I need a survey for a New Build Property?

If you are buying a New Build you will need a different type of survey – a snagging survey is an independent inspection which you can commission before you buy a new property. The results will enable you to insist that the developers fix faults as quickly as possible within your warranty period. The price for this usually starts from around £300, depending on the size of the property.


What do you do if your survey uncovers problems?

A survey report will nearly always find something, if possible, try and accompany your surveyor during a visit, you might find you get more information if you’re present during a house survey. You will also get a better understanding of the report in general. Always ask the person selling the property if the problems identified by the survey are covered by a guarantee. If not, the surveyor should be able to give you an idea of how much it will cost to fix, i.e. for something like damp proofing. It’s a good idea to ask a builder to provide you with a quote if the property needs major work, you can then use these estimates to negotiate with your seller on reducing the price of the property you’re purchasing. Or alternatively you can ask that they resolve the problems before you complete the sale.



How to locate a surveyor?

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) are the professional bodies for surveyors in the UK. Both of these organisations will have a list of members in your location that you can contact, you can find this on the organisations registered members list on their website.

Before securing your surveyor it’s worth obtaining a quote from around three and comparing. It’s also a good idea to ask to see surveys from their previous clients in order to assess what their reporting style is like and whether it’s got the detail you’re looking for. The team here at Townsends will be happy to recommend a surveyor, but you should always do your own research to make sure you’re getting the best deal.


Get in Touch

At Townsends we specialise in property in Cornwall. If you are considering purchasing a house locally, we can offer expert advice on the type of home survey you will need, in addition to other issues connected with buying and selling; call the team today to discuss your requirements.

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