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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Property surveys

Before you buy or sell a home, it's important to get a report about the property's overall condition. This report is known as a survey and there are different types. Find out what types of survey there are, who can carry them out and how to complain about a survey.

Why get a property survey?

A detailed property survey may save you money in the long run

Before buying a property, it’s a good idea to get a professional to carry out an inspection. Their inspection (often called a ‘survey’) can tell you if there are:

  • problems with the property’s structure
  • repairs or alterations that need to be made 
  • risks associated with the property

If your property survey uncovers any of these problems, you can consider things like whether to:

  • buy the property
  • negotiate a new price with the seller
  • ask the seller to fix the problems before you buy 

There’s also benefit in getting a survey before you sell, to alert you to any issues that might affect the sale of the property.

Who can carry out a property survey?

Make sure that the person carrying out the survey is qualified to do so

A property survey should be carried out by a qualified surveyor. A qualified surveyor is someone who is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). They will have the letters MRICS, FRICS or AssocRICS after their name.

All RICS surveyors are regulated and professional indemnity insurance is compulsory.

You can find a qualified surveyor in the telephone directory or online by using the RICS website.

Types of property survey

A property survey is different to the ‘valuation’ carried out by your mortgage lender

A property survey is different to the mortgage valuation report (or ‘valuation’) carried out by your mortgage lender. A valuation checks the value of the property and whether it’s suitable for a mortgage. It isn’t a detailed inspection of the property’s condition.

The three different types of property survey are shown below. The one you choose depends on the amount of information and advice you need. Some detailed surveys may include a valuation. 

RICS Condition Report

This is the most basic, least expensive survey available. It’s best suited to conventional properties and newer homes that seem to be in reasonable condition and are built from common building materials.

It reports on the condition of the property only, flags up matters for your legal advisors and gives a summary of problems that need attention. It doesn’t include advice or a valuation.

It’s also suitable for sellers.

RICS HomeBuyer Report

This survey is suitable for the same property types as a condition report. It involves a more extensive visual inspection and goes into more detail. It also includes extra information, like a valuation, insurance rebuild costs and advice on repairs and maintenance.

Building survey

Formerly called a structural survey, this type of survey provides more detail than any of the other surveys. It’s recommended for older, unusual or altered properties and those in need of work, or if you have any doubts about the property’s condition. It doesn’t usually include a valuation, but the surveyor may include this as an additional service.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has more information about the different surveys and how to choose the right one for you.

The cost of a survey

The cost of a survey depends on the type of survey you want. It also depends on factors like the type, size and value of the property you’re buying or selling.

What to do if things go wrong

You may find that the property you have bought has a problem that you feel should have been discovered during the survey. If so, you should complain to the person or organisation that carried out the survey in writing.

If you are not happy with the response, and the surveyor is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), you can complain to RICS.

If the surveyor is not a member of RICS, you should seek advice from a lawyer or Citizens Advice Bureau.

Warranties for new properties

A building warranty is a guarantee that covers you if there are any defects that come to light and need fixing

If you buy a property that is less than ten years old, it may be covered by a building warranty. The warranty provider may offer to fix or pay out money if certain defects or problems arise with the property.

You should make sure you know what types of defects are covered by the warranty and which are not. The warranty will usually transfer to the new owner if you sell the property within the period of the warranty.

For more information on warranties for new properties, see ‘Buying a newly built home – things to check’.

Energy efficiency

If you’re buying a property, you should be given an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). This tells you about the property’s energy efficiency rating and how you can make the property more energy efficient. You should be able to get an EPC from your estate agent.

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