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Residential: A Guide to Property Surveys

Tue 27 April 2021

The phrase subject to survey is often recommended in forums and online consumer advice websites when making an offer on a property, but what does it mean, where do you find a surveyor and what type of survey do you get?

An offer subject to survey is an acknowledgement of your desire to purchase the property subject to a qualified surveyor assessing the property on your behalf. Depending on the depth of survey you will gain advice on pricing, risks, potential defects, and costs of getting works done to issues identified.

Below, Andy Skelton guides you through the process, the benefits and the different products available so that you can gain an understanding of what you may require.

Where do I find a surveyor?

The survey should be carried out by a qualified professional; for example, a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA), or the Independent Surveyors and Valuers Association (ISVA). These professional bodies each have a code of conduct to maintain best practices to uphold the integrity of the industry. RICS is often seen as the gold standard within the property industry promoting the highest level of standards globally.

Every surveyor will have a membership Identity Code for their professional body, it would be judicious to check that the surveyor is listed to ensure that they are operating under the umbrella of a regulated organisation.

Local estate agents and solicitors will be able to guide you to a reputable local surveying firm based on the level of survey and type of property, however, it is your decision who you choose to appoint.

What type of Survey is right for me?

Once you have identified a surveyor you would like to act on your behalf, you should ask them for advice on what level of survey service is recommended for the property you are buying. You should also consider the nature of the property when selecting a surveyor for example, properties built before 1919 are constructed differently, so you must ensure that your surveyor is qualified to assess older buildings as this can require a surveyor with a speciality in older properties and construction methods.

Mortgage Valuation: Mortgage valuations are arranged by the lender to enable them to assess whether the property will act as viable security for the loan. The surveyor will primarily consider the value of the property, which can also be a useful measure to discover if you are potentially paying too much or too little for a property.

Homebuyers Survey: This is the most common type of survey which documents any problems with the property and any future issues to be aware of. The primary reason for this survey is to provide a condition report with some depth into commonly found issues such as damp. The report only identifies areas that can immediately be seen by a surveyor and does not delve below the surface. These reports are popular due to the medium level of depth and relatively low cost in comparison to a building survey.

Home Condition Survey (HCS): This is an Residential Property Surveyors Association equivalent to the RICS Homebuyers Survey. This survey provides condition ratings and photographs/diagrams to help you understand the condition of the property you are buying. The report aims to be jargon free and is a more modern take on the traditional RICS Homebuyers Survey.

Full Structural (Building Survey): The most in-depth survey which gives a detailed evaluation of the property’s condition. All elements of the property are assessed as it delves into the areas below the surface that are not covered by the Homebuyers Survey. It is typically recommended that a Building Survey is carried out on older properties as well as properties displaying defects on the surface. Building Surveys are only carried out by more experienced and higher qualified surveyors.

Are they worth it?

Absolutely. It is always recommended to have a survey carried out. A survey is useful because it will advise you of work that may need to be carried out immediately or in the future, surveyors will pick up on several different potential defects and will rate them based on when action should be considered and what impact it may have on the value of the property. The price of a survey varies widely depending on the size, value, age, and type of survey.

A survey could save you a lot of money if work is identified that needs to be carried out which (due to the cost) may either alter your decision to purchase or provide you with the reassurance that all is well with your new home.

If a surveyor highlights that there is nothing wrong with the property, the peace of mind can be worth its weight in gold.

For advice on recommended surveyors please speak with your legal representative, mortgage broker or estate agent.

Get in touch with Andy.