When you go through the process of buying a property, it is easy to feel yourself becoming tangled in a web of red tape. Much of it is down to the various legal requirements that need to be fulfilled. But some of it is actually there to protect you as the purchaser.

Buying property for any purpose is the biggest investment you will ever make. It therefore makes sense to have checks and balances in place to make sure you are getting what you think you are getting, at a fair price. That is where home surveys come in.

What can be confusing about home surveys is that there are different types available. For a start, if you take out a mortgage, every lender will arrange their own valuation survey of the target property. What many people ask is why, if a mortgage provider carries out a survey as standard practice, would they need to pay for a survey themselves?

A valuation survey is only intended to do the straightforward job of validating the asking price. What banks do not want is to lend considerably more than a property is worth, as that could jeopardise them getting their money back. So they arrange a survey to check the price being negotiated is in line with market values.

Valuation surveys therefore tell you very little about the condition of the property. That is the main purpose of a home survey – to look under the surface and check just how ‘lived in’ the property is. Once purchased, any structural damage or need for repairs becomes your responsibility, adding to the already considerable costs incurred.

Residential HomeBuyer Report

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has standardised home surveys in three tiers which all RICS-affiliated surveyors should offer. They are:

  • Condition Reports
  • HomeBuyer Reports
  • Building Surveys.

The essential differences between all three are the depth of the investigation, the detail included in the final report and the cost. A condition report, for example, only gives a brief evaluation of condition and defects across a property, with no valuation and no estimate of reinstatement costs (what it could cost to put right).

A building survey, on the other hand, is an in-depth analysis of the entire structure, including detailed advice on repairs and maintenance. It requires the owner’s permission to lift up floorboards and look behind surfaces to look for and assess hidden as well as visible defects.

Between these two, a HomeBuyer Report strikes a useful compromise which many would-be home owners find useful. As Fairhurst Estates’ building surveyor John Bolshaw says: “A HomeBuyers Report is non intrusive, less in depth than a full building survey, and therefore cheaper.

“The survey includes advice regarding maintenance, condition and the structural stability of the property with recommendations for inspections by other industry professionals where required, such as for damp and structural defects.

“Although less in depth than a building survey, a HomeBuyer Report gives the potential purchaser peace of mind on the condition of the property and therefore whether it represents reasonable value for the asking price.”

This last point is the crucial one about home surveys. Although a valuation report focuses on the price, this is from the mortgage lender’s perspective only. It doesn’t take into account additional costs that might arise from repairs and maintenance, which by rights should push the asking price down.

Ultimately, unless you are buying a particularly old period property or one in an obvious state of disrepair, a full building survey is probably not necessary. A HomeBuyer Report will do one of two things – confirm that the property is in a fair state of repair for the asking price, or reveal issues which will give you leverage to make a lower offer.

For additional information regarding the HomeBuyer Report and to book an appointment, you can contact our team here.