Purchasing a home is by far the greatest financial commitment we take on, and yet, the majority of home purchasers do not arrange an independent property survey prior to purchase.
There are a number of assumptions that we generally make during the process of purchasing a property:
- After having the initial mortgage valuation by the lender, a property survey is an unnecessary and additional expense
- Buildings insurance will protect my property from any damages and defects
- My mortgage advisor has not recommended a survey, therefore I don’t need to have one
- There are other interested buyers and competition is fierce so I shouldn't waste time on a survey
Currently what is surprising is that we would not generally consider purchasing a car, sports equipment, electrical items, white goods or furniture without taking further advice or recommendation. According to the HomeOwners Alliance only 20% of properties sold in England and Wales include an independent property survey!
The most important areas to consider when undertaking a survey include:
- Movement/ subsidence
- Roof structure
- Timber decay
- Dampness and ventilation
- External influences such as trees, invasive plant growth (i.e. Japanese Knotweed), and future local development
There are many benefits to having an independent Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) survey. It will help to tell you the actual condition of the property, which can be invaluable during negotiations highlighting structural failure or disrepair, while preparing you for any future expenses. Even when purchasing a new build property, most purchasers are unaware that chartered surveyors are qualified to provide a ‘Snagging Survey’ which can be extremely helpful when negotiating with builders on final fixtures or fittings prior to completion. These surveys are really helpful as they highlight the little flaws that we tend to only pick up on once we have already moved in.
There are three different levels of RICS Survey available to support your decision making process over and above the lenders valuation report:
- The RICS Condition Report provides an objective overview of the condition of the property, highlighting areas of major concern, without extensive detail. It is useful for buyers purchasing a modern property in good condition, and is the cheapest option.
- The most popular option is The RICS Home Buyer Report, which is designed to be user-friendly and for the most part avoids technical jargon and employs a helpful three colour coded condition ratings scheme. Although it costs more than the Condition Report, it provides a more technical inspection, the surveyor’s professional opinion on the market value, an insurance reinstatement figure, a list of problems that may affect the value, and advice on repairs and on-going maintenance.
- The Building Survey is the most comprehensive option, formerly called a structural survey. It is suitable for any building, but is especially recommended for large, older or run-down properties, such as those which are listed. It costs more than the other RICS reports as it gives detailed information about the structure and fabric of the property. This incorporates a thorough inspection and detailed report on a wider range of issues, highlighting visible defects and potential problems caused by hidden flaws.
Buying a home is, for most people, a very emotional decision which may explain why some very sensible thinking can fly out of the window. Given this is the most important purchase most of us make, surely the help and support of an independent surveyor is essential in giving you peace of mind.