What is a Property Survey?

For most of us, buying a house is the most significant financial investment we will make during our lifetime.  As conveyancing solicitors, our advice is always that a buyer should get a full survey.  It is your responsibility to instruct a surveyor (not your conveyancer’s).  If questions come out of the survey, your conveyancer may however raise these as ‘pre contract enquiries‘ of the seller.  Your solicitor will not be able to air a view on the building survey as their job is the legal side of things.  You (as buyer) have a professional contract with your surveyor and you must be guided by them on any issues relating to the ‘bricks and mortar’.

If you are taking a mortgage, your lender will insist on a valuation.  Unlike a full survey (which is a warts and all report on every aspect of the building (internally and externally), a valuation simply gives a broad brush view that the property is worth what you are paying for it.  It is to reassure your mortgage lender that they could recover the money they have leant you should you default on your mortgage.

In between a valuation and full survey you may want to consider a home buyers report which is less detailed than a full survey, but covers more than just the property’s value (in a valuation).  Home buyer’s reports are perhaps most appropriate where properties are newer, and with fewer question marks.  If in any doubt – get a full survey.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) can help you find and choose a surveyor.  Remember – it’s ‘buyer beware’ when purchasing property.  And, once you have exchanged contracts you are stuck with it come what may!  So, getting a survey is always the cautious/sensible approach.  It could save you a lot of money in the long run if it turns out that there are issues with the house you are buying.

Survey FAQs

In a generic sense, a property survey is an inspection report prepared by a surveyor which looks at the condition and/or value of a property (there are a few types of survey). Property surveys are also called conveyancing surveys building surveys.

There are 3 main types of property survey:-

  • Full Building Survey
  • Homebuyers Report
  • Mortgage Valuation

This is a warts and all report that looks in great detail at all aspects of the condition of the property internally and externally.

This is a scaled down full survey and tends to focus more on the main issues – ie the ‘bricks and mortar’.  It therefore costs less than a full building survey.

A full building survey is a warts and all report on the full condition of the property both internally and externally.  A homebuyers report is much reduced, focusing on the main ‘bricks and mortar’.

This is a report for your lender and is simply intended to satisfy the bank that the property is worth what it is you are paying for it.  It does not go into any detail about the condition of the property. It is simply to satisfy the lender that the money they have lent could be recovered if you defaulted on your mortgage.

Generally, the buyer will pay for either the full survey and homebuyers report.

Quite often the fee for a mortgage valuation is included in the mortgage deal.  You should check with your lender whether they meet the cost of the mortgage valuation.  Even though the mortgage valuation is for the benefit of the lender (not you) – they do still sometimes require the buyer to pay!

No, but it is definitely advisable.  There are no refunds available if you buy a house that’s falling down!  The time to find out if there are problems is BEFORE you buy.

No – a mortgage valuation and a Survey are very different things!  A mortgage valuation is actually for the benefit of your lender – not you.  It is simply designed to satisfy them that the house is worth what you are paying for it.  Then, if you default on your mortgage repayments, they can repossess the property and recover the money they loaned you.  A survey is for you, and it is designed to give you a detailed report on the building itself so that you know what you are buying (eg if there are problems with it such as structural issues).

As a very rough guide surveys tend to cost anything from around £400 – £1,500.  You should of course check this with your chosen surveyor before committing to them doing the survey.

No!  It is entirely YOUR responsibility to organise a survey and the report produced by the surveyor is for your benefit, NOT your solicitors benefit.  It is for you to decide whether you want to buy the property – your solicitor is only dealing with the legal side of the process.

No!  You employ your surveyor and it forms no part of your contract with your solicitor.

If your survey reveals problems with the house you can either try to negotiate a reduced price with the seller (to allow for the price of repair works), or simply pull out of the purchase altogether.  This is why you MUST have your survey done before exchange of contracts.  After exchange of contracts you are legally bound to buy the property come what may.

If your survey raised issues with the property this is something for you to resolve with the seller.  You may do so directly with the seller, or via the estate agent.  This is generally NOT something that your solicitor deals with as it is not part of the legal process, or part of their ‘job’.

You should have your survey done BEFORE exchange of contracts.  That way if the property turns out to have problems you were not aware of you can either pull out of the purchase, or try to negotiate a reduced price with the seller to allow you to get any work done to rectify the problems that the survey reveals.

If you have any questions at all about how surveys fit in to the conveyancing process, do reach out to our expert team of property lawyers.

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