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Survey cheat sheet

Have surveys got your head in a spin?

Whether it’s your first home or your fifth, buying a property can be a confusing time, with the most common questions revolving around surveys – what are they, why are they important, why should I get one?

To help, we’ve pulled together a short guide on what the ‘S’ word actually means…

So, what is a house survey?

A house survey is a thorough and expert inspection of a property’s condition, user to alert buyers of any potential problems or issues.

A surveyor will visit the property, carry out an inspection and prepare a report on their findings, which is then issued to both parties. Though the level of inspection varies depending on which type of survey you opt for – more on that below – the surveyor will generally check the structural safety of the property, as well as elements such as windows, insulation and any signs of damage.

What do the different types of survey mean?

There are three main levels of survey available – the RICS Homebuyer Report, RICS Condition Report and RICS Building Survey – and the one you need will depend on factors such as the age, location and condition of the property you are buying.

The Condition Report identifies any urgent defects in the property, but it doesn’t provide a market valuation or insurance rebuild cost, which is why most buyers opt for a Homebuyer Report or Building Survey.

Highlighting any major problems, a Homebuyer Report is sufficient for modern homes that are built to typical construction standards and tends to be the most popular survey type. If you’re buying a property that is more than 150 years old or has been significantly altered, a Building Survey will offer greater analysis and advice and so is likely the better choice.

Why do I need one?

When the costs are mounting up and you have other things on your mind, it can be tempting to skip the survey. But, it’s much better to be aware of any problems before you buy a property and deciding whether to go ahead with the move than running into expensive costs later down the line. You wouldn’t buy a used car that had never had an MOT, would you?

You may also be able to use information from your survey to negotiate with the seller. For example, if the survey finds that you’ll need to carry out repairs, you may be able to ask for a reduction on the property price or ask the seller to do any necessary works before exchanging.

When should I get one?

While it’s possible to arrange a survey prior to making an offer on a property, it’s rarely necessary as your purchase isn’t legally binding until contracts are exchanged and your deposit is paid – meaning if anything nasty shows up, you’re able to pull out.

As long as the survey has taken place before you exchange on the home, there is no definitive timeframe, though most buyers tend to undertake these around the same time as a mortgage valuation and any local searches, once their offer has been accepted.

Who arranges it?

In England, it is up to the buyer to arrange the property survey. Browns will generally be able to help with arrangements.


What about Commercial property?

Commercial property Surveys and Valuations differ to residential property, as there are no standard reports as there are for residential property. At Browns we can advise buyers and sellers on the value of a property and give useful acquisition and disposal advice.

If you are a potential buyer of a Commercial Property, understanding the true value of a property can be confusing as commercial properties vary so much compared to residential properties. As expert valuers who carry out bank valuations for most of the National Lenders, we can give useful private advice to aid your negotiating and ensure you make the right decision. Many of our clients have found this advice invaluable.

Still have some questions about buying a property? Our team are always on hand to help – get in touch on 01642 603604 or admin@browns-survey.co.uk for more information.

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