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What is a home buyers survey?

Buying a home is one of the most exciting investments that you’ll ever make, but even when you’ve fallen in love with a property, it’s natural to wonder whether you’re making the right choice. This is where paying for a home buyers survey can be really helpful.

Whether you’re a first time buyer, or moving home again, a home buyer survey will give you more details about the property you’re buying (such as the type of materials used to build the walls) but more importantly, highlight anything that may incur unexpected and potentially expensive repair work later on!

If any major issues are identified – for example, that the house needs a brand new roof – you may be able to renegotiate the price with the seller, or ask them to fix the problems before you buy. In extreme, but fortunately very rare cases, you may decide that you shouldn’t buy the property at all.

There are several property survey types available, each offering a different level of information and advice. The survey that you choose should be influenced by the age and type of property you want to buy, and factored into your savings budget for the costs of moving home.

To help you understand each type of survey and how it could benefit you, we’ll explain them below, as well as the typical home buyers survey costs you should expect to pay.

Mortgage valuation – From around £250

When you apply for a mortgage, the lender will always conduct a mortgage valuation on the property you want to buy to assess how much it is worth, and highlight any major issues that could reduce its value. 

What’s important to understand is that mortgage valuations are not home buyers surveys – they’re to help the lender decide whether the property is safe to lend on, and up to what amount. 

You will usually need to pay for a mortgage valuation and while you’ll receive a report on the condition, it won’t be in-depth.

RICS Home Condition Report – From around £250

The most basic type of property survey is a Home Condition Report from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), which gives you ‘traffic light’ indications as to the state of different parts of the property, plus a summary of risks. 

You won’t receive any advice, or a property valuation, so it’s most suitable for new build homes or conventional homes that are in a good condition.

RICS HomeBuyers Report – From £250-£400+, depending on whether it includes a valuation

A RICS HomeBuyers Report is a more detailed survey, which will highlight any major structural problems inside or outside the property – such as damp or subsidence. 

Some reports also include a valuation, which you may be able to use to negotiate a lower price if it’s below the mortgage valuation, or if there’s no valuation then you may be able to price up repairs based on the report findings. 

The HomeBuyers Report is non-intrusive, meaning that the surveyor won’t look under floorboards or behind walls, so it’s most suitable for properties that are in a reasonable condition and aren’t of an unusual type.

RPSA Home Condition Survey – From £400+, depending on the value of the property

Home Condition Surveys from the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) give you lots of practical information about the property, such as a damp assessment, any potential boundary issues, and even the broadband speed you can expect! 

The reports are easy to follow thanks to a 1-2-3 rating system, and you’ll receive advice on some of the most common issues that have been found.

RICS Building Survey – From £500+, depending on the size of the property

Most suitable for old or unusual properties, RICS Building Surveys are the most comprehensive property survey type. 

You’ll receive a highly detailed report with advice on repairs, plus estimated timings and costs required to carry them out. 

The surveyor will investigate areas such as attics, behind walls, above ceilings and below floors, so these are also worth considering if you’re planning to do any major building work to the property you want to buy. However, you won’t receive a valuation.

As the buyer, you are responsible for arranging a property survey if you want one, so you may want to take the time to contact a few local surveyors to discuss which one may be most suitable for you. 

Hopefully your survey won’t uncover anything unforeseen or out of the ordinary, but if something does pop up, something which may impact your desire to buy the property, you can always renegotiate the asking price.

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