Surveys – which one should I choose?

You’ve had your offer accepted! Yay! Okay, what’s next? Two things: Make sure you tell your conveyancing solicitor ASAP so they can get the ball rolling their end. And you'll need to organise a survey to check the house you're buying is ship-shape and risk free. But which sort of survey do you need? Read on to find out more.

If you’re new to all this buying and selling malarkey it’s easy to confuse surveys, homebuyers reports and valuations. In fact homebuyers report is another name for a survey, and a valuation is a type of survey too… So, first up we’re going to clarify the difference between a mortgage valuation and a homebuyers report.

Mortgage valuation: Sometimes called a lender’s valuation or valuation survey. This is an essential step if you’re buying with a mortgage because this is how your lender confirms that the property is worth what you plan to pay for it, and that the money they intend to lend you can be secured against the value of the property.

This is useful information for you too. If the lender values the house below your offer price, you might need to raise the extra money to complete the purchase.

The mortgage valuation is carried out by a surveyor appointed by your lender, it’s pretty straightforward and it’s solely for the lender’s benefit. Also, you may have to pay for it. Check your mortgage in principle terms.

Homebuyers report: Unlike the valuation this report is solely for your benefit. Its purpose is to highlight any major issues with the property, such as damp or structural problems, that you would need to remedy by making (potentially costly) repairs once you’ve moved in.

You may have already factored in the cost for replacing old windows but you may not have understood the poor structural condition of an extension, so your homebuyers report should arm you with enough information to negotiate the price with the seller. Beware though, renegotiating can leave you open to being gazumped, or you could alienate the seller and they decide to dig their heels in, then you have to make the tough decision – stick or twist?

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Next up, what type of homebuyers report do I need?

Well, that all depends on the type of property you’re buying. RICS (The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) offer three types of survey depending on the property type. Prices are based not only on the type of survey but also on the purchase price of the property. Costs can vary so shop around to find your best local RICS firm. Your estate agent or lender may be able to point you in the right direction.

  • Condition Report (RICS Level 1 Report) is the most basic survey and is usually only suitable for new build properties. Only defects needing urgent repair will be noted.
  • Homebuyer Survey (RICS Level 2 Report) is more comprehensive than the condition report and is generally your best bet for any standard property built after 1900.
  • Building Survey (RICS Level 3 Report) is the most in depth – and therefore expensive – option and the one you want if you’re buying an older or more unusual property.

What to do when your surveyor returns your report?

All being well, you won’t need to do anything and you can tick it off your list and move on to the next step.

If, however, the survey turns up something unexpected you have a couple of options. If you’re still keen to go ahead with the purchase you now have some leverage to negotiate with the seller. This can go one of two ways, the seller agrees to lower the purchase price, and everyone is happy, or as above they refuse to budge.

One word of advice though, like a lot of home move stuff your homebuyers report will probably be loaded with confusing terminology. Fear not, most of it is pretty straightforward and – if you get stuck – your Brevis account manager is always on hand to discuss it with you.

Who pays for the survey? You always pay for the homebuyers report (do shop around, but prices tend to be fairly standard) and you may be required to pay for the mortgage valuation – check with your lender.

That’s it in a nutshell, a round up of the intricacies of surveys! Remember we’re always happy to give advice, just drop us a line or give us a call. We’re in the office Monday-Friday 8am-8pm. And if you’re ready to choose your conveyancer as well as book a survey, find out more about how we can help you move.

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