There is plenty to think about when buying a house, not least how to finance it all. When you factor in your mortgage deposit, stamp duty, conveyancing fees, valuation fees and local searches, one of the biggest obstacles people face in buying a property is how to fund the up front costs. 

Naturally enough, home buyers are eager to cut costs wherever they can and one of the first things they will look at omitting is the home survey.

Home surveys are sometimes confused with the valuation survey carried out under the instruction of your mortgage provider. Valuation surveys are obligatory – no bank or building society will approve a mortgage without getting a valuation of the intended purchase, and the would-be buyer has to pay for it.  Home surveys, on the other hand, are not compulsory, which is why they are an obvious target for people looking to pinch a few pennies. However, mandatory or not, home surveys are strongly recommended.

People will sometimes ask, ‘what’s the point if I have already had a valuation survey carried out?’ and the answer is that a home survey is something completely different. The main purpose of a valuation survey is to protect a mortgage lender’s interests by checking that the sale price is fair in the current market. Basically, the provider wants to be sure that, should the buyer default on their mortgage, they will be able to sell the property and get their money back. 

A home survey, on the other hand, looks at the physical condition of the property. The purpose is to check that the buyer is getting a fair deal and won’t be landed with expensive repair costs a short time after moving in.  A home survey is therefore very much about protecting the buyer’s interests, and ultimately trying to save them money if the property is in a worse condition than appears on the surface.

Peace of Mind

Jonathan Hyde, Head of Building at Fairhurst Estates, said the cost of a home survey should be put in the bigger context of what it costs to buy a house.

“Buying a home is a massive investment,” he said. “The cost of a survey is negligible by comparison, and it is all about peace of mind for the buyer.  Properties are sold as seen. If you don’t spot a defect when you’re looking around, there is no come back once the sale has been completed. Repairs and maintenance become your responsibility. If there’s some hidden structural fault or a bad case of damp that the seller happens to have painted over recently, you’re stuck with fixing it once the house is yours. You can easily end up paying many times more than the cost of a survey.

We know what it’s like when people find a house they fall in love with, they look at it with their blinkers on, and they might not know what to look for in terms of spotting hidden defects. A home survey provides an independent view from a qualified professional who specialises in assessing the condition of buildings. If they spot something before the sale goes through, that gives the buyer a chance to negotiate the price down, or ask for the fault to be rectified before completion”.

Home surveys are carried out by chartered surveyors. Accredited members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors offer three types of survey – Level 1 Condition Survey, which provides a basic overview; Level 2 Home Buyer’s Survey, which goes into more detail about potential defects, and Level 3 Building Survey, which is the most thorough and includes an assessment of the likely costs of repair.

Although carrying out a home survey and writing up the report can be quite a detailed process, Jonathan says it is important for surveyors to look at things from the buyer’s perspective.

“Aside from cost, the other thing that puts people off home surveys is the potential to hold up the buying process,”he said. “People get frustrated enough with all the red tape, the last thing you want is to be waiting weeks for a surveyor’s report to materialise.

At Fairhurst, we make a point of offering a fast and efficient, but still thorough service. Once we receive an instruction from a home buyer, we aim to get on site within two to three days to carry out the survey. After that, we will turn the report around within seven days, so there’s no hold ups.”

Jonathan Hyde BSc.(Hons) MRICS is a chartered surveyor and Head of Building Surveying at Fairhurst Estates Ltd. If you need a home building survey and would like to discuss the most appropriate survey to suit your needs, you can contact him on 0161 476 9483.

Alternatively, to find out more, use this link to contact our residential property team.