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After a long buying process, you are probably ready to get into your new house and start a new chapter. However, before you buy the house, it is advised that you get an independent home survey done to make sure the property you are buying structurally sound and you are paying the correct amount for the condition of the house.

Why should I get a survey done?

Although you can buy a house without getting a survey done, it is not advised as unless you are an expert, you do not know the hidden problems in a house. It is the surveyor’s job to find any problems in your new home, be it structural damage, cracks in the walls or a leaky roof.

Many people think that a survey is just an unnecessary added cost that can be avoided but in the long run, getting an independent survey can save you thousands of pounds in renovation fees.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MORTGAGE VALUATION AND AN INDEPENDENT SURVEY?

A reason a lot of people do not like to get a house survey is that they think the survey has been done by the mortgage company already in the form of a mortgage valuation. This is not true and there are a number of vital differences between the two.

Mortgage Valuation: A mortgage valuation is there to protect the lender. This valuation is run by the mortgage company on behalf of the lender and can cost more than £600. It is essential that a mortgage valuation is done to protect the lender, unless you can persuade your particular lender to accept an independent survey that you have paid for.

These mortgage valuations are not very thorough and will not cover you if there are any mistakes. You will not be warned of any issues with the house unless it affects the lender and the report will only be a few pages long. Basically, a mortgage valuation checks three things: if the property exists, to confirm it is the same house that you said it was and checking the walls and floors with a damp meter.

Often, these valuations will be carried out by people who live miles away, will not have a local knowledge of the area and they will have many jobs on the same day so will take little time to check everything.

Independent Surveyor: An independent surveyor works on your behalf and can take up to a full day to inspect your home properly. They usually give you more feedback with a much more in-depth report. They will take in all issues around the house from the floor to the ceiling and you will have some course of action if there are mistakes made in your survey.

As surveyors are usually quite local, they can advise on location issues and local market values as well as everything relating to the house, from guttering to damp to fixtures and fittings.

The surveyor will tell you what exactly you will need to do to the house and any costs, that can help you re-negotiate a price with the seller if necessary. They will let you know whether there is any immediate work to be, if the house is likely to need any repairs in the future and if you are paying the right price for the condition of the house.

What types of surveys are there?

If you are getting an independent survey done, there are three different types of survey you can get done on a property. The type of survey you get depends on how old the house is, what kind of condition is it in and what type of house it is.

  1. New Build Snagging Survey: Many people think that if they are buying a new build, it would be unnecessary to get a home survey as it has just been built. However, very few new builds are perfect and it would be good to know exactly how many defects, if any, are in your property. With this survey you can follow up with the builder after to make sure all problems are fixed. You can get a Home Condition Report or a Home Buyer's Report done, both of which are outlined below.
  2. Building Survey: This survey is for older properties and houses that have unusual construction like timber. If you are looking to change the structure of the home - like moving walls or ceilings - you should get this survey done to make sure everything is structurally sound afterwards. This survey will go into a lot of detail about the condition of building materials and if any existing work done complies with Building Regulations. You get a complete idea of the structure of the home and the report can go to over 100 pages, which will include any necessary changes to be made.
  3. Other Surveys: Sometimes it is necessary to a more in-depth survey done on things like damp, timber, guttering, chimneys etc. These are quite important as it probably means there is a problem and it should be fixed. If this is the case you may be able to reduce the offer on your home. These surveys ensures you know the exact state of the property before you invest in it and you'll know exactly what work needs to be done.

WHAT TYPES OF REPORT ARE THERE?

You have two main choices of report when getting an independent survey

  • Home Condition Report
  • Home Buyer's Report

The Home Condition Report is a basic report about the condition of the house. It tells you what guarantees the property has for planning permission and building works and also lets you know what needs to be fixed now and later. However, it is not an independent valuation and you cannot use it to lower the offer on the house.

The Home Buyer's Report is for anything built since Victorian times and include new builds, previously-owned houses and other properties. This report will cover everything from the chimney to waterproofing for structure and build quality. It can include an estimate on the property value and any work that needs to be done now and in the future.

For anything pre-Victorian or unusual builds, it is recommended to get the aforementioned Building Survey.

What credentials should your surveyor have?

If you have hired a good surveyor, they will know exactly what to look for but you should always look round your home first and write down what exactly you think the surveyor should investigate. Try and get a surveyor with a good reputation and they need to be accredited. If they are doing Condition Reports, you need a Residential Property Surveyors Association member - for valuations and other issues, a Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors member.

HOW MUCH DOES A SURVEY COST?

This can depend where in the country you live and what type of house you live in. A House Condition Report can be anything from £250 and Home Buyer Reports start at £400. Building surveys can cost a lot more. Each firm will differ slightly in its pricing so make sure you get quotes from a number of qualified surveyors. See our Find a Pro section for some great choices in independent surveyors.

Surveyors are there to help so make sure you use a recommended professional to help you save a lot of money on structural damage in the long run. To read more about the some of the other professionals you may need during your first-time buyer process, check out the rest of our Academy section for lots of advice.