By, Ray Harriot, Founder and CEO, Reliable Property Group
As an inflated market and rocketing demand heap pressure on today’s buyers, many are remain unaware of the true value a comprehensive survey could bring. A large proportion are instead rushing their purchases through to exchange, thanks in large part to the looming end of the stamp duty holiday. When the heat is on and buyers are eager to streamline the process, surveys are often the first place they look. A survey can seem like an unnecessary expense or a needless delay on top of an already-extensive timeline. But glossing over a survey – or at worst, neglecting to undertake one at all – it could be the biggest mistake a buyer can make.
Finding the right survey
Many will believe themselves covered by the survey undertaken by the lender. This is a mistake – a lender’s survey is just that, designed to ensure the lender’s investment is protected by confirming the property’s rough value. It is required in order to complete the transaction, but doesn’t actually inform the buyer on the condition of the house. For that, there are a number of different surveys to choose from, depending on the type of property.
A Home Buyer’s Report is the standard survey that all buyers should look to seek out at a minimum. For a relatively modern dwelling that is of standard construction (brick and tile) the report will tell you about the most important and serious issues that need addressing. For properties that are a little older, have perhaps been altered or where you plan to do your own alterations, a full RICS Building Survey is recommended, as it is just that much more comprehensive.
Ensure that whichever organisation you select to conduct your survey is approved by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). It is the only way to guarantee a detailed report from a qualified surveyor. While it can be tempting to just go with the surveyor recommended by the estate agent, there will often be a better option out there. It is well worth the time and effort to find the best deal for you. The RICS website has a helpful tool, and Trustpilot provides reviews for you to research any companies you find.
What to do with the survey
Survey reports can be over-detailed and technical documents, but it is essential for the buyer to understand how to use them. If anything is unclear, go back to your surveyor and ask them what a certain section means – and more importantly, what your actions should be from it. The report should work for you. Beyond making a detailed assessment of the state of the house, a survey provides a long term plan of what the property will require in the future and offers an indication of whether you will likely run into a variety of issues in the coming years.
If the survey uncovers issues and you do decide to proceed the purchase anyway – a path many will choose thanks to market pressure – the report will still help you you budget for any immediate maintenance or renovation following exchange.
Aside from substantially de-risking the purchasing process, surveys also transfer some rare power back into the hands of the buyer. An agreed price is never the end of the story and negotiations can and should be reopened if the survey uncovers issues that effect the value of the property. While it is common for sellers to threaten to pull out of the deal, it is worth noting that issues found by one surveyor will likely be found by another in future, and it is best for the seller to acknowledge this and return to the negotiation table.
With this in mind, it’s also highly advisable for sellers to hire surveyors before listing their property. This will provide an accurate sales value but will also uncover any issues which could later be used to delay or disrupt the sale.
According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, homebuyers spend an average of £5,750 on property repairs , due to the property purchaser not initially identifying property defects or understanding the true market value. Most buyers, especially first timers, don’t have this extra money lying around. Getting an appropriate and comprehensive survey is the best way to provide security and peace of mind in any property purchase.