Homeownership is the dream for many, but bear in mind that your investment into bricks and mortar is only as safe as the condition of the building. When large sums of money are at stake – and let’s face it, it doesn’t get much bigger than a mortgage – you should do everything in your power to ensure your property purchase is protected. And how do you do that? By seeking professional advice from a building expert who can give your prospective new home a thorough once-over, of course.
When it comes to making a long-term financial commitment such as a property purchase, an independent survey can be worth its weight in gold. After all, if there are problems with the building, wouldn’t you prefer to know about them and have a chance to act on any new information coming to light before you sign on the dotted line?
If the survey report identifies any serious building defects or other issues of concern, you can use the information to budget for remedial works, renegotiate the price with the seller, or walk away from the transaction altogether. And if the building is given a clean bill of health, you know that your investment is safe. ”If you are buying a house or flat/leasehold apartment, commissioning a pre-purchase building survey report is an essential step to take before proceeding,” advises one industry player. In other words, a home survey is a money well spent.
Sadly, not every home buyer reaches this conclusion. Recent research carried out by Direct Line Insurance found that a total of 2.8 million residential property sales have been completed without any kind of survey, including nearly 100,000 transactions in 2019/2020. For those who believe that a home survey is an unnecessary expense, this article will explain the substantial risks involved in not bothering to have a professional property survey carried out before you exchange contracts.
No impartial information
One of the main misconceptions circulating among home buyers is that a satisfactory mortgage valuation is all you need to know that your investment is safe. This is simply not the case. A Mortgage Valuation Report is commissioned by your lender, though you may be liable to pay for it. It constitutes an assessment of the property for the sole benefit of the mortgage company to gauge whether the property is worth the requested loan. A mortgage valuation is not a property survey; often it is no more than a simple tick-box exercise to check whether specific lending criteria have been met. And since it is the lender who gives the instruction, you may not even be entitled to see a copy of the report.
By contrast, an independent property survey carried out by a Chartered Surveyor is for your benefit. Its purpose is to make you aware of any potential problems or structural defects with the building, providing all the necessary information you need to make an informed purchase decision.
No professional advice
You may be able to spot a crack in the wall or a wonky floor when you view the property, but would you be able to tell if these were signs of structural movement or simple decorating jobs? There are many more examples of building defects that are impossible to recognise by the untrained eye. It takes a qualified and experienced property professional to make a proper assessment.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) endorses three levels of property investigation – a basic Condition Report, a mid-level HomeBuyer Report and an in-depth Building Survey – and the right choice of the survey depends on the property in question and the buyer’s plans for it. Whichever type of survey you opt for, an independent home survey is a golden opportunity to get expert impartial advice from an RICS Chartered Surveyor who will have undergone years of intensive professional training and bring a wealth of specialist expertise to your property.
With the help of a skilled surveyor, you will have the best possible information at your fingertips on which to base your decision making. Without a survey, you could end up buying the proverbial ‘pig in a poke’.
No basis for a price discount
One of the key advantages of commissioning an independent home survey before you buy is that the findings represent valuable information that can potentially be used to renegotiate the purchase price, where warranted. If serious building issues are flagged up in the survey results, you should share the relevant sections of the report with the seller (or their agent), along with any cost estimates provided by your surveyor.
The fact that you are relaying information from a credible professional source will lend more weight to your request for a price adjustment, in line with the new information that has come to light Without a survey, you wouldn’t be able to refer to the opinion of a recognised expert in the field, and therefore make it less likely that any request for a discount would be successful. You could be paying over the odds.
No warning against ‘nasty surprise’ costs
According to industry sources, homebuyers who didn’t bother with a property survey faced unexpected building costs of an average of £3,676 after moving in. A survey would not only have alerted them to the presence, scope and urgency of any problems with the building, including potentially costly defects such as subsidence, dampness and timber decay, but they would have provided an opportunity for a rethink before exchanging contracts. In short, a survey can potentially save you thousands of pounds in ‘nasty surprise’ repair costs.
The purpose of an independent home survey is to provide the prospective buyer with a good understanding of the state of repair and the overall condition of the asset they are about to invest in. Armed with detailed information, you are empowered to make an intelligent decision whether to proceed with the purchase as planned, whether to revisit the price, or whether to pull out of the deal and look for another property.