Do I really need a survey?

No you don’t. A survey is for your benefit alone and if you feel you don’t need one then you do not have get one.

Some people rely on the ‘Mortgage Valuation’ which is often incorrectly referred to as a survey. A valuation is just that, a valuation. It is carried out by a Registered Valuer and is for the benefit of the mortgage company so they know they can sell the house and get back their investment in the property.

Various studies have suggested that people save money by renegotiating the purchase price of the property following the findings of the report but that is very dependent on the market at the time. More typically you should consider them as a heads-up on what parts of the property require attention.

Types of Survey

There are three levels of Residential Survey, from level 1 being the most basic to level 3 being the most in-depth.

Level 1 Survey:

RICS Condition Report – Often the cheapest way to get a Chartered Surveyor into the property and provides you with an easy to follow ‘traffic light’ report highlighting any significant issues. The report doesn’t involve much investigation into the structure of the property and details are assumed where not readily accessible.

Level 2 Survey:

RICS Homebuyer Report (Survey) – A new product under development by the RICS. It is essentially a new version of the RICS Homebuyer Report (Survey and Valuation) as below but without the valuation. This is a report offered by Pete Flint Murray Ltd.

RICS Homebuyer Report (Survey and Valuation) – By far the most commonly asked for survey. This is a more in depth version of the Level 1 survey. The surveyor will typically spend an 1 ½  to 2 Hours on site. The ‘traffic light’ report goes into detail about the various elements of the building and any issues found. This level of survey does not require the surveyor to move items in cupboards, move furniture or investigate the detail of the structure. This survey comes with a valuation and insurance reinstatement valuation.

SAVA Home Condition Survey – Offered by SAVA registered Surveyors this product is similar to the RICS Homebuyer Report (Survey) but in a slightly different format.

Level 3 Survey:

RICS Building Survey – Sometimes referred to as a structural survey, this is the most involved of the residential surveys and the one advised for any non-standard or any older properties. The RICS Building Survey gives you a detailed report on the different elements of the building along with the ‘traffic light’ guide to issues found. This survey requires the surveyor to look in cupboards, move items and move furniture. It also requires that the surveyor investigates the structure thoroughly and enter any hard to reach places, within reason. Where you have specific concerns you can ask the surveyor to investigate these further and report them via this survey type. A Surveyor will be on site for 2 to 3 ½ Hours.

Bespoke Surveys – If you would like to commission a surveyor outside of the usual suite of surveys then you can discuss with them putting together a bespoke survey. This could take the form of a detailed condition survey or  a short form report on an issue raised by your mortgage valuation.

Choosing a Surveyor

It is important that you choose a surveyor who understands your building thoroughly. There is little point in having someone identify a crack in a property if they do not understand the likely cause. What could be some localised plaster repairs could be a substantial claim for mining damage or vice versa.

Do some research, does the surveyor have experience with that type of property? Are they qualified to issue that type of Survey? Use a site such as the RICS ‘find a surveyor’ website. If you’re using a big firm, ask for the details of the specific surveyor and look up their details. Every Chartered Surveyor is listed on the RICS website giving the date they qualified and their specialism.

Most importantly you must feel free to ask questions. This is a report produced for your benefit on what could be the largest purchase any of us is ever likely to make.

About the author

Pete Flint-Murray is a Chartered Building Surveyor and Chartered Building Engineer. He has over ten years’ experience in the industry and currently runs a practice undertaking residential surveys, specialist property reports and offering consultancy services to larger property companies. He specialises in stone built Victorian properties but has experience with a wide array of structures.
01937 520059

2 Replies to “Do I really need a survey?”

  1. Thanks for the advice to choose a surveyor that understands your building. If they understand what you have, it could help them know what to look for. In order to figure out their experience, you’d probably want to set up an appointment so that you have the chance to learn more about their experience and services so you can make sure you choose the best surveyor for your building.

    1. I don’t know if it is the same in Australia (that’s where the website provided pointed to) but I usually get called in at the last minute. As a consequence there is rarely an opportunity to meet with clients before the survey but I’m happy to do so if that is their preference.

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