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What’s in a survey?


What’s in a survey?

You have chosen your perfect house in, say, Wokingham, and your offer has been accepted and now you need a survey. The problem is which one? There are four different types of surveys and there are no hard and fast rules as to which is best for you. Everyone’s circumstances are different. The best approach is to get a good understanding of how it all works and then decide which one you prefer.

Valuation Survey:

This is carried out by the lender to verify that the true value of the property is more than the amount of money to be loaned against it, as well as to investigate whether it has any major structural defects, such as subsidence, which might adversely affect its value.  You should remember that it is not an assessment of the overall condition of the property, but how much it is worth and is specifically for the benefit of the lender. All lenders will insist on this survey. You will probably have to pay for it, but you will not necessarily be able to read the resulting report. Do not despair if the valuation survey is negative, try and find out why. You can argue your case with the lender, renegotiate the sale price with the vendor or ask for the work to be carried out by the owner before the sale is completed. Clearly, if there are major structural problems then this may not be possible.

 RICS Condition Report:

The RICS Condition Report is the cheapest option. It will outline the overall condition of the property, identifying any risks and highlighting any urgent defects. It’s most suited to new-build properties, of which there are many, in and around the Wokingham area, or homes that are in obviously good condition. It’s a very basic ‘traffic light’ survey and costs around £250.

 Homebuyers report:

The service is carried out to a standard format defined by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and is the most common report type. It is commissioned by the purchaser, either through their mortgage company or directly with a surveyor. It is not as comprehensive as a full survey but will provide peace of mind when making one of life’s largest investment decisions. The survey covers all areas of the property that are visible and will give a good indication of the overall condition of the building. However, it is not all-encompassing, it will highlight problem areas, but will then recommend that you speak to a relevant expert for further information or for an estimate of the work involved.  It will give you feedback on the value of the property, point out any local issues that you need to discuss with your solicitor, such as rights of way, access roads, etc and will prioritise the urgency of any repairs that are required. Costs start at around £400. The site visit normally take a couple of hours and then the finished report is delivered four or five days later.

Full structural survey:

This is the most comprehensive and expensive of all the surveys. It is especially relevant if you are considering buying any building that is in poor condition, whose structure is out of the ordinary, or for any older buildings. The surveyor will examine the property in detail and will investigate and offer estimates for any problem areas that he discovers. The report is much longer than a Homebuyer one, will take up to two weeks more to produce, and will typically cost around £1,000.  Surveyors have a tendency to be cautious in their approach and you should be aware that these reports have a reputation for pessimism. There are endless defects to note and the guide budgets for sorting them out tend to be excessively generous.

You can of course tailor your own survey. You can mix a Homebuyers Report with a consultation with a relevant specialist, such as a roofing contractor if there are any obvious issues to tackle. You can also commission a full survey if the homebuyer’s report warrants further investigation.

Finally, when you commission a survey you should remind yourself that you are not buying a new car, you are buying something that may be over a hundred years old and is therefore far from perfect. All older houses will have problems, the issue is whether they are serious or not. Even if they are serious, these problems may even be already reflected in the asking price.

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