With the exception of a Mortgage Valuation which ALL lenders will require, there is no statutory requirement to carry out any form of survey on a property. However, unless you yourself are qualified in this area or have extensive construction experience, it’s always advisable to have some form of survey carried out on your prospective new property purchase.
Surveys in the home buying process generally fall into four categories:
- Mortgage Valuations
- Homebuyer’s Survey
- Full Building Survey
- Specialist Surveys
If you are buying a property with a mortgage, the lender will require a Mortgage Valuation be carried out on the property to assess its worth against the price at which it is intended to be bought. This survey is effectively for the lender’s benefit to determine the risk to which the lender would be exposed in the event of the mortgage payer defaulting.
At OASiS, we make a point of providing mortgage valuation surveyors with Properly Prepared Valuation Information, supplying not only the valuation details of three comparable recent local property sales, but also a comprehensive package of accompanying Land Registry information in order to support the price agreed and minimize the risk of the lender ‘down-valuing’ the mortgage offer.
This type of survey does not assess the condition of the building, unless there are major defects that would affect the value of the property such as obvious subsidence or lack of basic facilities such as kitchens or bathrooms.
As part of this process, the surveyor will compare the property against others sold recently to gauge its value in the market place. To assist the surveyor with their valuation, OASiS will provide comparison properties and Land Registry data.
A Homebuyer’s Survey will be a non-obtrusive assessment of the overall condition of the property. The surveyor will follow a predetermined format, as prescribed by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), and the report will comment on any major issues such as subsidence and rot etc. However, they will not lift floorboards or move furniture; they will simply test for damp and report their readings accordingly.
This type of survey effectively looks at the overall condition of the building in a similar way that an MOT Test assesses a car. They can either be carried out at the same time as a Mortgage Valuation or independently; however, if the Mortgage Valuation is carried out at the same time, the surveyor will likely use the more in-depth findings from the Homebuyer’s Survey in the valuation report.
The survey will include a description of the construction of the property and will give an indication of the estimated cost of rebuilding should this ever be required. The average Homebuyer’s Survey will take approximately 2 hours and cost from £500.
Full Building Survey
Formerly referred to as a ‘Full Structural Survey’, a Full Building Survey is a far more comprehensive survey and will look at the condition of the property in greater depth. As well as covering all the areas looked at by a Homebuyer’s Survey, such as major defects, this type of survey will also indicate minor defects and suggest the likely costs to repair or rectify these issues.
A Full Building Survey will investigate the presence of damp and wood-related issues and will visually inspect the damp proof course, the insulation, the loft space and the drains. Furniture will be moved and otherwise inaccessible areas such as under carpets will be examined.
The average Full Building Survey will be far more extensive and costs approximately £1000. It’s worth noting that both levels of survey will include various caveats and statements deflecting liability from the surveyor, most notably in relation to the electrics and central heating. And they may also recommend further specialist surveys (see below) especially where older properties are concerned or where evidence of historical building modifications have been carried out.
As a general rule, most surveys will suggest that some form of further specialist advice is sought in areas that fall outside the normal remit of a surveyor, such as heating, electrics, damp, wood condition and structural issues. In some cases, a degree of common sense will be required; surveyors tend, as a breed, to be ‘belt & braces’ in their approach, and it’s easy for a layperson to read a survey at face value and conclude that what was their property should, in fact, just be condemned! In the event that a further survey is required, OASiS can usually organise this for you.
– Electrical Survey
Nearly every survey will ‘red flag’ or highlight the electrics of a property as an area requiring investigation, as the surveyor is not likely to also be a qualified electrical engineer and therefore cannot professionally comment on this area. Should you wish to carry out an electrical survey, OASiS can organise this for you from approximately £150 + VAT, depending on the size of the property.
– Central Heating Survey
As with electrical issues, a survey will nearly always exclude this area. In some cases, if the property you are buying has had a recent boiler change or if the property has been recently rented out, then some form of professional certification may exist. Otherwise, OASiS can arrange for a Heating Engineer to attend; however they will not be allowed to physically investigate the system beyond a visual inspection for fear of creating a potential legal conflict in the event that damage is caused. The cost depends on the size of the property.
– Damp and Wood Condition Survey
Another common area which frequently comes up in surveys, particularly in older properties, is damp. The age of the property you are buying will be a particular factor in the likelihood of damp, due to the type of damp proof course (DPC) in place. Surrounding ground conditions and the provision for the dispersal of rainwater will also play a part, and are also worth investigating. OASiS frequently arranges for damp surveys to be carried out on properties and these are usually done free of charge; however it should be noted that the companies that carry out the surveys are the same companies who then recommend solutions, so they will always have a degree of vested interest in finding problems! The same situation applies to wood condition reports investigating rot or woodworm, and these surveys tend to be conducted by the same companies that offer damp surveys…
– Specialist Structural Survey and Structural Engineers Report
On occasions, a regular building survey may highlight specific concerns which they suggest need further investigation, the most common areas being subsidence (both historical and current) and the lack of sufficient or evident structural support (usually in relation to the removal of chimney breasts and the provision of support to any remaining stacks). It is usually possible for a building contractor to suggest a likely plan to rectify concerns in this area, assuming the mortgage lender does not stipulate that a more technical survey is carried out as part of the official offer.
Possible costs vary greatly and obviously depend on the nature of the structural concerns. However as a guide, in a recent case a structural survey simply to confirm the absence of an acceptable form of support for a chimney stack (with NO recommendations for a solution included in the report) cost the buyer from £500 + VAT.