Ten questions you need answers to before you buy your next home...
Many of our clients have queries about the buying process, whether they are first-time buyers or seasoned homeowners, many years can go between property purchases and things can and do change. So, we have put together some commonly asked questions and responses to help our clients better understand the process.
If you have any further questions to add to the list, just drop us an email
1. When should I book my Home Survey?
The best time for you to book your home survey is once your offer is accepted and your mortgage offer is confirmed. If you are a cash buyer, you can book your survey as soon as the offer is accepted.
2. Does my home survey need to be an RICS Survey?
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is the global leader in surveying services and is the only body to carry the Royal Charter. Gaining membership of the RICS is a rigorous process and they uphold very high professional standards. Therefore, we only offer RICS Surveys. Other surveyors offer surveys from RPSA, and SAVA and you should always compare sample reports before appointing your surveyor.
3. What type of Home Survey do I need?
The RICS, offer three levels of survey. Level 1 is the most basic survey which is a condition report. Level 2 is equivalent to the now defunct Homebuyers Survey and offers a general overview suitable for simple and more modern homes. This can be combined with a valuation for a rounded perspective. The Level 3 Survey is the most comprehensive product, aligned to the old Building Survey. This product is best suited to older, altered, extended, complex properties or those in very poor condition. Level 3 does not come with a valuation element, but we can add a standalone valuation for a modest fee.
4.The bank requires us to pay for a valuation, do I still need a home survey report?
Banks and building societies take a risk-based approach to lending, prior to the pandemic they often sent out a surveyor to conduct a brief inspection of the property. The criteria and scope were limited to matters the bank considered important. A valuation is just that and does not include a detailed inspection. These inspections typically took 15-30 minutes and surveyors were required to complete 5-7 per day.
Since Covid, most lenders simply conduct a desk top exercise and most property purchases would proceed without a surveyor ever having visited!
Would you buy a Car without an MOT?
No, then why buy a home without an adequate survey? The cost of a home survey is minimal when you consider the other costs involved and a comprehensive report can provide real peace of mind and clarity on future plans.
5. What is the cost of a Home Survey?
The cost of a survey varies widely based on the size, type and age of the property and also the level of survey required. It is always advisable to obtain three quotations on a like for like basis, ensuring the survey product and surveyors memberships and qualifications are similar. As with all aspects of life, we often get what we pay for, so please take time to do your homework and ask questions. The best surveyors take their time to produce a detailed inspection and report and pride themselves on providing support to their clients ensuring they understand the next steps of the process. Larger firms can have a more commercial emphasis, requiring surveyors conduct a minimum number of surveys and valuations based on a points system. Performance related bonuses, with inducements offered to those producing higher volumes. This scenario can leave even the most well-intentioned surveyor with little time to produce detailed reports or support clients. Which is why we feel it is better to carry out fewer surveys and charge marginally more, to offer our clients the best service.
Generally speaking, you should expect to pay £400-£800 for a Level 2 Survey and £600 upwards for a Level 3. These prices vary on location and property size and type.
6. What is included in a Home Survey?
All home surveys will include inspection of all the functional elements of a building, from the chimney to the drains externally and floors to roof space internally. The surveyor will inspect external areas, permanent outbuildings and ideally help your conveyancing solicitor by casting an eye over the position of the boundaries. More comprehensive reports will include sections on energy efficiency, environmental risks, and an overview on local service provision. The level of detail will vary according to the level of survey instructed.
Please be aware that Surveyors do not have X ray vision. They can only inspect what is available to see, however a highly experienced surveyor will understand how common defects present and pick up on subtle clues indicating concealed defects and future/past problems.
You may imagine surveyors consider damp and structural movement, but they also consider many other matters on your behalf. As part of your home survey, surveyors will be checking for safety issues such as emergency egress (escape) provision, suitability of glazing to high-risk locations, commenting on the suitability of staircases, making recommendations on heating, ventilation, and lighting in addition to considering fire and general safety. Surveyors will provide an overview on the services installed such as heating and electrical installation. If you make your surveyor aware early in the process, they may also be able to help you plan an extension or conversion. Some surveyors may be able to offer advice on access arrangements for family members who use a wheelchair or require specialist equipment.
Some practices invest heavily in technology. Drones, pole cameras and thermal imaging can vastly enhance the quality of the information produced, so please ensure you ask about the equipment which will be used on the day.
Surveyors are naturally inquisitive and keen to discover as much as possible about the property they are surveying. However, on the day of inspection, the home is owned by the vendor, and surveyors must treat the property with respect to avoid causing any damage. Surveyors cannot open concealed areas although they often make the most of inspecting service cupboards and roof spaces to pick up subtle clues on the construction and condition of the property.
7. How long does a home survey inspection take?
Every surveyor works differently but a level 2 survey inspection typically takes 1-3 hours depending upon the size and complexity of the building. Whilst a level 3 survey can take double that time, sometimes longer. It is important for the surveyor to make the vendor aware of the time required in advance, to ensure access to all areas. Once the survey inspection is complete the hard work of compiling the report can begin.
8. Problems discovered on a home survey, who pays?
Many clients take a while to digest the results of their survey report and re-evaluate the decision to purchase. In the current market, properties are going under offer very quickly, so buyers must respond just as quickly to stay in the running. The survey report is sometimes sobering and can serve as a reality check. Sometimes it offers the reassurance the client is looking for. Other times the client is made aware of previously unknown issues, and they renegotiate with the vendor. Some vendors prefer to have the work completed themselves whilst others will reduce the value of the property to reflect the price of the work. In any event the client is in a stronger, more knowledgeable position after commissioning a home survey report.
9. How long does it take to receive my report?
Each survey practice works on different terms of service, but most practices return reports 5-10 working days after the date of inspection. Before agreeing to move forward with a company, it is important to understand the turnaround times to ensure expectations are matched. We endeavour to return the report within five working days, although if the property is very complex, we may agree a few days extra with the client.
10. So, I have my home survey report what happens next?
The purpose of a home survey report is to provide the client with a clear picture of the property, its condition and any work required to bring it up to standard. Once the client receives the report, they are then in the position to make a final decision. We find our clients fall into three categories:
Firstly, the property may be in good order and the Surveyor confirms the asking price is reasonable, in which case the sale can simply proceed.
In the second and most common scenario, the surveyor discovers defects which impacts on the value of the property. Once the repairs are considered, the market appraisal provided by the estate agent does not represent value for money, in which case the client would be looking to renegotiate the asking price. Sometimes the vendor offers to have remedial work completed before the exchange of contracts. In either event a home survey has served the client well and ensured they have decided based upon clear information.
The third option is a prospect no party enjoys, but it may be that the defects found are so significant that the client decides to walk away. This is difficult but the client is saved from making a potentially costly mistake. Strangely, it is clients in this group who are the most appreciative. However, distressing, it is always better to have a full understanding of the risks before a financial commitment is made. After all your home is your largest asset and one you may spend 25 years paying for!
Purchasing a property can be stressful so it's important to get the best advice.
We have put together some resources to help you on your journey, we hope you find them useful.