If you’re in the process of buying a house, you may have already started to ask whether you need a property survey. Carried out by a Chartered Surveyor, property surveys involve a visual inspection of your home-to-be and a report of any damage, concerns or potential risks you might want to know about before finalising a purchase. However, research carried out by the leading industry body, RICS (the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors), has suggested that the majority of buyers – as many as 80% – do not commission a survey.
Why is this? Well, there are a number of factors. Firstly, there’s still a misconception that the mortgage valuation carried out by lenders will flag up any major faults. Secondly, purchasers see, to simply see a property survey as a needless expense when they already know they are going to buy the property.
Given that some of the most expensive defects are often the hardest to spot with untrained eyes (like roof damage or rotten timbers), buyers should know better. If you’re still on the fence about having a survey, here are eight reasons why you shouldn’t be.
1. A Mortgage Valuation is not a survey
A Mortgage Valuation is for the benefit of your lender – not you – and simply confirms that the property you’re buying is worth enough for them to recoup their losses if you can’t make your mortgage payments. Even if the property is down-valued, you’re unlikely to get details about why this is the case. All you will know is that your lender will either proceed with your discussed loan, or revise (and reduce) their offer.
2. Caveat Emptor
So, you’ve had a viewing (or two, or three) and can’t see anything that a lick of paint won’t fix… but just because you can’t see the problem yourself doesn’t mean it’s not there.
The UK market generally operates under a “buyers beware” policy (known as “caveat emptor”, which means that sellers aren’t legally obliged to disclose information about defects within the property. Of the homeowners that did not get a survey, 20% end up paying an average of over £5,000 in remedial work – many, many times the cost of a survey.
3. Age doesn’t equal quality
Some people think that traditional building techniques and materials are superior to modern construction, which is why historic buildings are still standing.
The truth is that, just because a building has been standing for centuries doesn’t mean that it’s ready to stand for centuries more. Historic materials need special care and attention, so if previous owners have been even slightly neglectful, you might end up with an expensive wreck on your hands. A Building Survey will flag up any causes for concern, and also advise on short- or medium-term repair work.
Likewise, even new-build homes can suffer from problems – they’re still made by human hands, after all. Your 10-year NHBC warranty only covers minor and major defects in the first 2 years, and you’ll be surprised at what isn’t covered.
You might not want to fork out for a comprehensive Building Survey on a new or nearly-new home, but for a much lower cost, a RICS Condition Report will confirm that there are no major issues in the eyes of a surveyor.
5. Professional liability
If a professional surveyor misses a substantial fault with the building, they carry professional indemnity so you can claim against them for any losses incurred.
6. Be prepared
Finding out that your new home has damp or subsidence doesn’t automatically mean you should walk away from the sale. However, it does give you the opportunity to make the seller fix these issues or try and renegotiate the asking price before you close the deal.
7. Think beyond your four walls
Surveys take into account more than the physical condition of the property. Understand some of the legal aspects of ownership, like boundary disputes, maintenance history, leasehold information, appropriate Listed Building Consent and adherence to planning permission and building regulations.
8. Sleep better at night
If you’re certain there’s nothing wrong with the property, what’s the point in paying a few hundred pounds for a document that says “I told you so”? That depends – will it really hurt to have a little reassurance from a qualified professional that the roof isn’t about to cave in?