Dwell Well > Moving > What Types Of Survey Are There And What Does It Tell Me?

What Types Of Survey Are There And What Does It Tell Me?

Getting a survey is the best way to understand what defects the property has and an opportunity to renegotiate the price or walk away from a money pit

Some of the biggest misconceptions, however, are:

  1. You have to go with your mortgage lenders surveyor. False
  2. I am getting a valuation report carried out by a mortgage lender, isn't that a survey? False
  3. You can’t tailor the survey to reflect my questions. False


We look at these issues in order to shed some light on the subject

1. You have to go with your mortgage lenders surveyor.

Graham Ellis, of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), explains: 'One of the most important messages to get over is that a buyer is entirely free to choose their own surveyor… You do not have to use the Lender's Surveyor.'

One of the most important messages to get over is that a buyer is entirely free to choose their own surveyor… You do not have to use the Lender's Surveyor.

You can tailor a survey to ask your specific questions and save money by not paying the Lenders inflated profit on the survey free. Free survey quote to compare prices 

A mortgage lender's Valuation Report is for the lenders benefit, carried out to protect them if you default on the mortgage, and this is part of the credit processing to ensure the home exists, has no title-related problems (such as flying freehold) and is sufficient security for the loan.

A Valuation Report is not a survey and does not allow you to assess defects that might cost you £1,000’s in repair bills once you get the keys!

2. I am getting a valuation report carried out by a mortgage lender, isn't that a survey?

A Valuation Report, also known as Level 1 Report is not a survey but does confirm that the price you are paying represents market value. This is only for the lenders benefit, carried out to protect them if you default on the mortgage. This is part of the credit processing to ensure the home exists, has no title-related problems (such as flying freehold) and is sufficient security for the loan.

Valuation advice is often linked to the type and estimated value of the property and is often used by solicitors for legal purposes e.g. Matrimonial, Probate or Taxation. Get your free quote

A valuation inspection is designed to provide you with only a Market Value of the property.

Market Value is described in Section 105 of the 9th Edition of the RICS Valuation – Professional Standards January 2014 (revised April 2015) as follows:

“The estimated amount for which a property should exchange on the date of valuation between a willing buyer and a willing seller in an arm‘s-length transaction after proper marketing wherein the parties had each acted knowledgeably, prudently and without compulsion”

This type of service is based on a limited inspection and will not give a list of defects and should not be regarded as a survey report on the structure of your future home.

The valuation does not allow you to assess defects that might cost you £1,000’s in repair bills once you get the keys!

3. You can’t tailor the survey to reflect my questions.

Whilst almost all Lenders do not allow you to tailor your survey to meet your exact questions most independent surveyors are happy to include direct questions free or with just a small extra charge.

A Survey...

  • Offers peace of mind
  • Highlights problems that might be a significant cost to you in the future
  • Might enable you to have the works completed by the Vendor or
  • Gives you the opportunity to get a reduction in the purchase price

Questions you might ask include:

  • Is an internal wall a supporting wall that I could take down to enlarge the kitchen
  • Are there any drains that run to the rear that might make it difficult for me to extend the property
  • What is the likely cost of repairs you have highlighted in your report
  • What repairs will need to be carried out in the near future and what is likely cost

Image : Pixabay

What type of survey should you choose?


1. RICS Homebuyer Survey and Valuation Report, also known as Homebuyer Report or Home Condition Report or Level 2 Report

This is a basic red-flag type survey presented in an easy to read format and the minimum of technical jargon based on the Traffic Light format:

Defects which are serious and/or need to be repaired, replaced or investigated urgently

Defects that need repairing or replacing but are not considered to be either serious or urgent. The property must be maintained in the normal way

No repair is currently needed. The property must be maintained in the normal way

This type of report is suitable for properties of standard construction built after about 1875 and with no apparent serious defects, it will enable you to:

  • Make a reasoned and informed judgment on whether or not to proceed with the purchase.
  • Assess whether or not the property is a reasonable purchase at the agreed price.
  • Be clear what decisions and actions should be taken before contracts are exchanged.

The report also provides a statement as to how much the property should be insured for in order to enable you to obtain competitive quotations for buildings insurance purposes.

This type of survey is the most popular report for buyers and is most suitable for modern properties, or a standard older building in a reasonable condition.

Costs start from about £250 Get a free quote here

This will highlight urgent issues that need inspecting by a specialist before you sign a contract e.g. Electrical inspections, further specialist damp proofing/woodworm reports and gas or plumbing tests

It's not usually suitable for properties in need of renovation, or if you're planning major alterations

2. Building Survey also is known as a Level 3 Survey (formally called a Structural Survey)

This is an in-depth report particularly suited to large, old or unusual properties and can be tailored to the needs of the client and type of property. The surveyor will advise on fundamental defects and any legal implications they may have. Every aspect of the property is looked at as for the Homebuyer Survey and Valuation Report but in greater depth and any additional investigations such as drains tests, will be recommended.

A Building Survey is suitable for any residential property and provides a full picture of its construction and condition. It, therefore, differs materially from a Homebuyer Survey in two major respects. If the property is extensive, has been altered or is in a run-down condition, then this is the report to opt for as it has the scope to give all the information you will need. A Building Survey is a highly-detailed report, designed around your specific requirements. The report will usually comprise of:

  • A comprehensive appraisal of the means and materials of construction.
  • Technical analysis of significant defects revealed and advice on appropriate further actions.
  • Identification of less significant defects, general disrepair, and shortcomings in the physical condition, maintenance and design of the building.
  • A buildings insurance figure is not part of the standard report but can usually be included for a small additional fee.

This is essential for older, larger or non-traditional properties as the Homebuyer survey and Valuation report state it is not suitable for these types of properties and often houses of this age can suffer from more serious defects on average. Also for properties that have been extensively altered, or if the buyer is planning a major conversion or renovation and essential if the property is dilapidated.

Because of the individual nature of such reports, it is vital that you discuss your specific requirements with the surveyor.

An estimate of repair may also be offered as an optional extra service to be provided in the report if it is agreed with the client in advance.

A full building survey will typically not include a valuation of the property You can expect to pay around £600+ for a survey of this kind. This may sound steep but it can be well worth paying if it identifies issues which could cost thousands to put right.  Get a free building survey quote

Why a Building Survey could be your best option

Yes, it is more expensive than a Homebuyer Survey and Report but it will throw up a large list of all of the unknowns and  therefore as a package it is: 

Peace of mind, highlights problems that might be a significant cost to you in the future, might enable you to have the works completed by the Vendor or give you the opportunity to get a reduction in the purchase price

So, trying to save money on a basic Homebuyer Survey at this point could be a false economy.

 And be prepared to budget for more than one survey in case your first purchase falls through.


Other specific types of survey

Specific Defect Report

This is usually either required when a defect is highlighted by the mortgage provider’s surveyor during a Valuation Report. This may recommend further investigation i.e. a crack in the wall, issues with wall ties or where a chimney breast or internal wall has been removed and is thought to be a structural member. This will only cover the specific defect and typically these cost from £250 upwards. Get a free specific defect report quote

Other Reports- Specialist Services

There are then a number of specialist reports which can be undertaken if you have specific concerns or if the mortgage report has come back highlighting issues that need further investigation by experts in their specific field, such as timber treatment and damp proofing, electrical, gas safety, drainage or just repair cost. Some reports might be undertaken free of charge as part of a firm's quote for the repair work, however, it is best to obtain a completely unbiased report not depending upon any offer of work

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