What is a property survey?

When viewing a property, it’s easy to get drawn in by its curb appeal especially if the current owner has kept it well maintained or prepared it in readiness to sell.

But there’s still a lot to find out about a home that you cannot simply learn from a house viewing.

To get a more in depth understanding of any underlying issues – it’s worth considering having a property survey completed once your offer has been formally accepted.

Surveys come in a series of levels, with some simply confirming the property value (vital if you’re securing a mortgage against the property), whilst more in-depth surveys look at the structural integrity of the building and can highlight concerns such as insulation, glazing issues and even signs of subsidence.

Valuation survey

If you’re purchasing your property with the help of a mortgage, your lender will need to carry out a valuation report. This is to ensure that the property is worth the amount you’re looking to borrow from them. In essence, your mortgage lender will need to satisfy themselves that the security offered by the property is satisfactory to cover the amount being borrowed in the event that they need to sell the property to repay the loan.

On some occasions a mortgage lender won’t value the property at the amount you have offered as the buyer – this is known as it being “undervalued”. This is an indication that you could have offered more than the market value for the property and this could mean the mortgage lender won’t be able to lend as much as you want to borrow.

In this instance, you would either have to renegotiate the sale price of the property or, if they’re not willing to reduce the price, you’d have to increase your deposit to cover the deficit. Alternatively, of course, you could walk away from the sale completely.

It’s worth knowing that a valuation will not investigate the structural integrity of a property or identify any other potential concerns that may require attention now or in the future.

Unless the property you’re buying is a newbuild you may want to consider a more in-depth survey to provide more clarity on the condition of the property you’re buying.

Remember that although surveys can appear costly, they can also act as effective bargaining tools, with any issues highlighted by the survey often being good opportunities to renegotiate asking prices. This benefit can often out weight the cost of the survey, especially on older properties.

HomeBuyer report

A HomeBuyer Report (Level 2 Survey) is the most popular type of survey taken up by prospective house buyers. The surveyor will report on any problems that could cause damage and/or need repair to the property in the future, including common concerns such as damp or subsidence.

A HomeBuyer report is ideal for buyers looking for assurances on properties in reasonable condition. This is principally because it only looks at things that as easily visible. For example, surveyors won’t move furniture or check areas that are not easily accessible. This means the surveyor will not look below floorboards, lift carpets or check the wiring.

Building survey

A Building Survey (Level 3 Survey), previously referred to as a structural survey, is the most detailed survey available for residential properties. You’d typically go for this if you’re a home buyer of an older property or looking to take on a renovation project.

A building survey will inspect all visible and accessible parts of a building e.g. floors, walls, windows, doors, roofs, cellars, garages and outbuilding, and more. With a building survey, your surveyor will actively search for potential problems and building defects as it’s their legal responsibility to do so.

Some buyers will opt for a Level 3 Building Survey regardless, as it offers the greatest peace of mind, though it should be noted that even the most thorough surveys can miss details, such as the presence of asbestos or dry rot. If you are concerned by specific risks such as these then specialist investigations should be carried out independently alongside your survey.

Whatever you decide it is important you find out as much as you can about the property you are looking to purchase, and a survey is a good way to avoid any nasty surprises further down the line and, as mentioned above, it can also help in renegotiating the price of your purchase in some instances.

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