A homebuyer survey is a detailed report of a property’s condition, and it helps prevent you needing to pay out for repairs at a later date. Lots of people end up facing surprise repair bills when they move in; 20 per cent of homebuyers rely solely on mortgage valuation reports, with no further checks on their new homes.

One really good way to avoid the stress of this, not to mention the unwanted costs, is therefore to get a homebuyer survey prior to purchase.

Types of homebuyer surveys

It is important that your primary consideration when choosing what kind of survey to use is the condition and status of the property itself, not the cost of the survey. The money spent on a survey should be seen as an investment, not an ‘extra cost’, as it may save you a large amount of money further down the line.

RICS Condition Reports

A Condition Report is probably the most basic of the available surveys, and is certainly the cheapest, costing around £250. Overall, this type of survey is generally most suitable for newer properties, due to them having a lower likelihood of major issues. It is important to bear in mind that no advice or valuation is provided as part of this service.

RICS HomeBuyer Reports

A HomeBuyer Report is suitable for the vast majority of conventional properties, and costs start at £400 on average.

This survey will search for any structural problems, such as subsidence or damp, as well as any additional problems that may be hidden within the property. However, you should remember that a HomeBuyer Report will not look everywhere because it does not inspect under the floor, nor behind the walls.

Some of these reports will include property valuation, meaning that you may be able to change or better evaluate what price to place on the property.

the report doesn’t include a valuation, then you can use the report and its suggestions regarding the price of repairs to renegotiate the price. For example, if it’s going to cost £7,000 to carry out repairs, then it makes sense that you would be able to offer £7,000 less.

Home Condition Surveys

The Home Condition Survey is an inspection with the same degree of attention to detail as a building survey. These surveys use a clear presentation style and a system that rates problems by severity and importance, allowing you to prioritise those needing immediate attention.

Alongside the survey, you will receive a number of advice sheets, explaining what to do about some the problems found in the property. Usually, the survey will cost between £400 and £500.

Building or full structural surveys

This is the most in-depth survey and is suitable for all properties, but it is especially good for homes that may be in need of repair, as well as older properties.

A building survey will provide detailed advice on repairs that may be needed, and costs slightly more than £600. It will not provide a valuation, but will give thorough details and may be worth the extra expense.

This survey does not look behind the walls, nor under floorboards, but will include the surveyor’s thoughts on whether there are likely to be any issues here.

New-build snagging surveys

A New-build snagging survey is designed to spot any issues in the property. The price will depend on the size of the property, but usually starts from around £300. Developers should fix faults highlighted before you move in.

Mortgage valuation surveys

The only purpose of the mortgage valuation survey is to reassure the lender that the property is worth the asking price, before they approve a mortgage.

Usually, you will be required to pay the cost of this survey, and the price ranges from £150 to around £1,500. Occasionally, a survey will be provided by the lender for free.

Should the property be valued at less than the asking price then you may want to go back to the seller or estate agent and amend your offer.

What if the survey uncovers problems with the property?

It is very common for some issues to be discovered, particularly in older properties. It is possible for you to attend the survey, in order to ask any questions that you may have. The most common things that you should look for are:

  • Damp and timber issues
  • Central heating system
  • Electrical installation
  • Complications which will need a structural engineer
  • Problems with the roof

If any problems are discovered, you will want to find out if they are covered by a guarantee. You might also want to ask surveyors or builders how much it will cost to fix these problems. Once you have received an estimate, then you may want to renegotiate the price that you’re paying.

Where can I find a surveyor?

Surveyors will be available for you to find on the RPSA or RICS websites. It’s important to ensure that the surveyor you choose is recognised by these governing bodies.

Buying or selling in Scotland

In Scotland, a seller has to arrange a Home Report before they can put their property on the market. This may incorporate a survey from a RICS certified surveyor.

On top of this, it may include a valuation. The Home Report must be prepared within 12 weeks of putting the property on the market.

Some properties, such as new build or converted homes and those bought under Right to Buy, don’t need to have a Home Report.