A building survey: What it is and why you need one

A building survey: What it is and why you need one

If you’re spending a six-figure sum on something, you want to be absolutely certain that what you’re getting is worth what you’re paying.

That’s where a building survey come in.

Yet thousands of home buyers every year decide not to have a survey on their dream home.

And many of those who don’t quickly see that dream turn into a nightmare when they discover a host of nasty surprises once the ink is dry on their purchase.

This guide looks at the different kinds of surveys available to home buyers and explains why having a survey can provide much-needed peace of mind.


The house survey: What do they look for?

Exactly what a buildings surveyor will look for during your survey will depend much on the type of survey you have.

But essentially a survey is a detailed inspection of your property’s condition, including its structure, and will outline any major repairs that are required as well as confirming the type of glazing and building materials used to construct it.

Let’s look at the type of surveys available for buyers…


Mortgage valuation

Okay, so the first thing to clear up is the mortgage valuation isn’t actually a survey.

But you still need to have one done and you’ll almost certainly need to pay for it.

Your mortgage lender needs to be certain your property is worth the mortgage secured on it, but other than that, a mortgage valuation probably won’t tell you anything you weren’t already aware of.

A mortgage valuation can also sometimes reduce the amount of mortgage capital you’re able to borrow, but on the other side of the coin, it can also reduce your interest rate if the valuation is favourable.


Homebuyers survey

This is the most popular choice of survey for those buyers who do have one.

The Homebuyers Report will outline any noticeable issues with your property, including structural problems, damp and subsidence.

However, the surveyor won’t inspect any areas of the property that he or she can’t reach, so if you’re concerned about the roof, you might be better considering a more in-depth survey.

If your property is reasonably new – and by that we mean built in the past 50 or 60 years – a Homebuyers Report will generally suffice.

Cost of a Homebuyers Report: Between £250 and £400.


Condition Report

If the property you’re buying is new, or built in the past 20 years, and you’re confident there are no major issues with it, you could consider a simple Condition Report survey.

The type of survey sees the surveyor undertake a walk-through observation of your property and rate its appearance using a traffic light system.

While the survey isn’t detailed beyond flagging up any potential issues as ‘amber’ or ‘red’, it’s cost-effective if you’re buying a relatively new home and still provides a degree of peace of mind.

Cost of a Condition Report: Between £100 and £250.


Full structural survey

If you’re buying an older, period home or a neglected property you’re looking to fix up and add value to, a full building survey is a must.

While a full survey is more expensive than any of the other survey options, it will flag up any major problems with your property before you buy it.

The surveyor will provide a detailed and comprehensive report on all areas of your property, including guidance and estimated costs to put any issues right.

As well as period homes and doer-uppers, this kind of survey is also great for unique properties like warehouse or barn conversions.

Cost of a full structural survey: Up to £1,000.


What to do after your survey is completed

The aim of a survey is to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision on whether to proceed with your property purchase or not.

So, after you have the results of your survey and it’s been given a clean bill of health, you can proceed safe in the knowledge that you’re buying a good home.

If your survey flags up some major issues of concern, you should speak to the surveyor for absolute clarity and visit the property with them to see the problem(s) yourself.

After that, it’s really up to you as the buyer whether you feel the problems are worth remedying.

If you feel they are, ask for a second opinion on the costs involved and look to renegotiate the purchase price.

While it’s never easy to walk away from your dream home, sometimes that will be the only option left on the table after a worrying survey so you should always be prepared for that eventuality as a buyer.


If you need any further information, please don't hesitate to contact your local Parkers office.