3 Misinformed reasons you’re not getting a home survey (and how ignoring them might actually save you cash)

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It’s completely understandable that most people seek ways to limit the costs of moving to a new home, but, 4 out of 5 families are actually risking their finances by failing to get a survey before they exchange contracts. Whether they believe that surveys are too vague to be of use, consider them too expensive or simply don’t understand the benefit of having one, professional home surveys seem to be the first thing to be forgotten when budgets get pinched.

Unfortunately, research conducted by RICS has found that the average home buyer spends over £5,700 once they move into their homes, repairing problems that could have been spotted by a surveyor. Unless you can take a several-thousand-pound gamble with your savings, commissioning a professional survey on top of your mortgage valuation really is a case of spending money to save money.

Here are the three most common reasons buyers don’t get surveys on their home, along with the best ways to make sure your survey doesn’t break the bank.

Reason 1: All surveys are vague.

There’s a fairly common belief that home reports are written using vague language, to protect the surveyor from litigation in case they miss something in their investigation. People are understandably put off by the idea of paying for a survey that doesn’t give them any definitive advice about their home.

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To ensure the value of your survey, it’s important to find a reputable surveying firm that offers home surveys backed by an industry body, like the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). This assures buyers that all the work they conduct meets a specific code of conduct, and provides a formal complaint procedure should any problems arise.

Before you settle on a survey, speak to your surveyor to make sure that the depth of the investigation matches what you are expecting from the report – a Condition Report will definitely seem vague if you were expecting a Building Survey report.

Reason 2: Surveys are expensive.

The exact price of a survey will vary according to the type of report you ask for and the size of the property you’re buying, however they typically cost between £300 - £1000. After accounting for solicitor’s fees, Stamp Duty, relocation costs and all of the other expenses that quickly add up, it’s easy to see how buyers might avoid spending that extra bit of money if they think it’s not necessary.

The actual problem here is that buyers are framing survey costs in the wrong way. Sure, £650 seems a lot for a piece of paper, but what about some peace of mind?

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Instead of balking at the price tag, think about it as a percentage of your home’s total value. It adds up to what, 0.5% of your total investment? Less? It’s also worth comparing it against the potential costs of repairing unexpected defects when you move in. If you’re lucky, you might be dealing with a creaky floorboard or two; at worst, damp issues or incorrect Planning Permission could set you back tens of thousands of pounds.

Do some research and speak to a Chartered Surveyor to help you choose between the types of survey and find the most appropriate match for your house. It might be tempting to choose a comprehensive building survey to make sure everything is in good working order, but depending on your property you might find that a Home Buyer report will serve you just as well (and save you plenty).

Reason 3: A mortgage valuation will do the same thing.

A lot of buyers simply don’t understand what a survey entails, and many believe that their mortgage valuation will do the same job. Despite buyers footing the bill, the valuation is actually intended to reassure lenders that the building is a suitable collateral for their loan – not to comment on its condition. Significant faults may be mentioned in the valuation, but serious hidden defects (like rot or subsidence) may not be included or even noticed.

If your survey comes back with recommended repairs? The good news is that you’re under no obligation to complete the sale until you exchange contracts, giving you chance to reconsider the sale. A common tactic is to renegotiate with the seller, reducing your offer by the same amount as the repair estimate. Alternatively, you might choose to request that the seller makes the repairs themselves, or decide that you would prefer to walk away from the sale.
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