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How to get the right survey

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07/03/2013
Commissioning the right survey before you buy a property can save you thousands of pounds later on, explains Ian Fergusson.

If you are buying a property it is important  to ensure that you do not encounter unforeseen problems and costs further down the line.

Recent research by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), however, found that a large number of homebuyers do not commission an independent survey when they move house. This can soon turn into a false economy: one in five of those who don’t get a survey done end up spending an average of £5,750 on repairs to their properties.

When you consider that buying a home is the biggest purchase most people will ever make, it highlights just how important it is to make sure it is fit for purpose before moving in. Hidden problems and deficiencies in your property can also make it difficult to sell once the time comes to move on.

According to RICS, the price of an inspection typically starts from £100, for what is termed a mortgage valuation report, which gives advice about the mortgage suitability of the property.

RICS recommends a Homebuyer report though for most properties, (with costs starting at around £250) which gives a more detailed overview of the condition of a property, as well as a valuation of the home. Many homebuyers, however, rely solely on their mortgage lender’s valuation believing it to be a survey. In fact, this is simply a general outline of what the surveyor thinks a property is worth, without taking into account potential costs or repairs.

It is also important to bear in mind that the cost of a survey can vary according to the age, type, size and value of a home. Older properties, for instance, may need a more detailed survey, especially if it is somewhat dilapidated. As well as giving you piece of mind, getting a survey done may also have another added benefit. Where a survey picks up a problem, it may be possible to negotiate a price reduction on the cost of the property, so a small expense may amount to a saving on your property.

In a market where buyers are stretching their budgets through hefty deposit requirements, a survey may prove to be a crucial bargaining tool. The general rule therefore is don’t go in with your eyes closed and cheque book open. Make sure you commission an independent, professional survey.

Top Tips:

  • Don’t rely on a mortgage lender’s valuation: this is designed to show how much a property is worth as security to the Lender, and doesn’t take into account potential defects or structural flaws of a property
  • The cost of a survey will vary according to the age, size, type and value of a home. The most common offered by RICS is a Condition Report
  • A Homebuyer report is recommended by RICS, as it also gives a valuation of the property
  • For larger or older properties, a Building Survey is recommended. This includes advice on ongoing maintenance and how defects might affect the value of the property with repairs
  • Where potential problems are identified in a survey, it might be possible to negotiate a price reduction.

Ian Fergusson is chief surveyor at Sesame Bankhall Valuation Services

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