Homebuyers’ survey: what is it?

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Homebuyers’ survey: what is it?

When people say ‘homebuyers’ survey’, they mean the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) HomeBuyer Report. It tells homebuyers what condition their property’s in, what needs fixing and, if you choose, what it’s worth.

The HomeBuyer Report replaced the Home Buyer Survey. It’s meant to be more streamlined and customer-friendly (believe it or not).

There are two options – HomeBuyer Report with survey, or HomeBuyer report with survey and valuation. Obviously, both include a survey, which tells you what condition the property is in and what (if anything) is wrong with it.

The one that comes with a valuation also comes with an ‘insurance rebuild cost’ (what it would cost to rebuild your property if it was totally destroyed tomorrow).

Both go into more detail than a basic Mortgage Valuation – but not as much as a Full Building Survey. The surveyor will only include the parts of the property they can see. They won’t start pulling up floorboards or looking at wiring.

So if you’re buying a place that could need a lot of work, you’d be wise to get the Full Building Survey.

What’s included?

The report will include:

  • background information on the property and location
  • an assessment of any damp-proofing, drainage or insulation in the building (but the drains aren’t tested)
  • the condition of the building’s timbers, including woodworm and rot
  • damp-test results taken from the walls
  • details of any urgent problems that need specialist attention
  • major faults in ‘easy to get to’ parts of the house that might affect its value.

Although it’s tempting just to read the summary at the front and the urgent repairs at the end, it’s a good idea to read the whole thing.

The good news is that it’s written in (mostly) plain English, without a load of technical jargon.

(That’s the idea, anyway.)

How do you get one?

You’ll need to get a RICS Chartered Surveyor. They’ll all charge different prices. You can search for quotes from qualified surveyors on our website.

What do the condition ratings stand for?

Basically, there are three levels of rating when it comes to the condition of the property:

Condition Rating 1

It doesn’t need to be repaired or replaced right now

Condition Rating 2

It needs to be repaired or replaced, but not urgently

What if your survey uncovers a problem?

Most surveys will find some sort of issue, especially in older houses. Some of the most common are:

  • electrics
  • roofing
  • central heating
  • damp
  • structural problems

If you’re worried about any of these things, you can tag along with the surveyor and ask questions as they go. If they find any issues you might need to:

  • ask the surveyor how much it might cost to fix
  • get a quote for the work
  • renegotiate the asking price – or ask the seller to fix the issues before you complete.

What does it cost?

The average cost starts at £400. But there’s no set price. So definitely shop around and get a few quotes before choosing a surveyor.

Do you really need one?

It might seem like just another expense, but the upsides are:

  • you can rest easy knowing you’ve spotted any serious problems before you buy
  • you might be able to use it to renegotiate the price, if things need doing
  • you could agree with the house seller that they fix things before you move in
  • it might make you rethink whether it’s really the right property for you
  • you can plan ahead for the cost of any repairs you might need to make.

What other types of survey are there?

There are a few other kinds of survey, for different kinds of properties. So it’s best to choose the right survey for the job, rather than just the cheapest option. It could save you thousands in repairs later on.

RICS Condition Report

This is the simplest. It covers the basic condition of the property, plus any potential legal problems and major defects. There’s no advice or valuation. So it’s only really good for modern homes, in good condition.

RICS Building/Structural Survey

This is the most in-depth. You get a detailed analysis of the property’s issues and condition, plus advice on defects and repairs.

In a nutshell

When most people say ‘homebuyer’s survey’, they mean a RICS HomeBuyer’s Report. It tells you what condition the property you’re buying is in. It’s not as detailed as a Full Building Survey, but more detailed than a Mortgage Valuation survey – and it will highlight any urgent or major issues.

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