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Which Building Survey Do I Need?

It goes without saying, that buying a property is one of the biggest investments you will ever make throughout your lifetime.

But even though it’s easy to get swept up in emotions when you finally discover your dream home, it’s important to ensure that not all sensible thinking flies out of the window.

Given the enormity of this decision, you’d be surprised how many people fail to get the full picture on their prospective property before parting with their hard-earned cash. A study has found that as few as 20% of people get a professional survey before buying a new home – even though a survey could be the only thing saving you from stumbling across substantial costs in the long run!

With this in mind, we’ve created a guide that explains the ins and outs of building surveys.

Building surveyors

What is a building survey?

Quite simply, a building survey is a report that describes the condition of a property. But it certainly isn’t something to be taken lightly, as research by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has revealed that many buyers unknowingly set themselves up for an average of £5,750 in repairs bills after being handed the keys to their new home. This is because a range of problems that have been festering under the surface, such as structural defects, rot and subsidence, weren’t detected before signing a contract.

With this mind, we offer the following 4 types of building surveys and valuations, dependent on your needs:

  • Market Valuation
  • Building Condition Survey
  • Full Structural Building Survey
  • Defect Report

Market Valuation

Before committing to a mortgage deal, it’s imperative that you ensure it’s a fair one. This is where Market Valuations come in!

Market valuations are reports that are typically commissioned on behalf of a mortgage lender, in order to establish the market value of a property. So regardless of the type of property you are looking to buy, a market valuation is vital!

In terms of the process, a chartered surveyor will inspect the property, outline any obvious defects, and explain how much the property is worth. Then, a mortgage lender can decide whether to lend you the amount that you’re asking for (having seen a market valuation survey), and you’ll have all of the information you need to confidently decide upon an offer or negotiate, if necessary.

However, it’s important to understand that a market valuation is not an in-depth house survey. This means that although it will indicate any serious defects that are visible during the inspection, it will not disclose any underlying issues (however serious they may be), leaving you at risk.

If you are looking for a more detailed survey that will disclose all of the available information about a property, you will need consider commissioning at least one of the following surveys…

Building Condition Survey

Before signing a contract, it’s vital that you have complete clarity on the condition of the property you’re buying. So unlike the limited inspection you would get with a Market Valuation, a Building Condition Survey goes into a bit more detail.

This type of survey provides you with an objective overview of the condition of the property, highlighting areas of major concern and future expenditure, but without extensive detail. With this in mind, it’s most valuable for people buying new or modern homes that are in a good condition, or for those who own a property and are looking to sell it.

From inspecting the roofing, walls and windows, all of the way through the ceilings, flooring, and facilities, a Building Condition Survey will inspect the property, internally and externally. Once a Chartered Surveyor has thoroughly inspected all of the accessible parts of the property, the Building Condition Survey will be written in accordance to the following key areas:

  • The general condition of the property
  • Significant defects and urgent repairs
  • The energy efficiency of the property
  • Issues which need to be referred to you Legal Advisor
  • Maintenance considerations and safety issues
  • Actions that should be taken before contracts are exchanged

Full Structural Building Survey

Compared to the other types of survey, a Full Structural Building Survey is the most comprehensive report and is highly recommended if you’re:

  • Purchasing an older, dilapidated or listed property, since they are more likely to need repairs
  • Buying a non-traditional property that has been extensively altered
  • Looking to renovate or convert a property

During the inspection, a Chartered Surveyor will carry out a very detailed assessment of the structure of the house, starting from the very bottom, and working all of the way through to the very top. This will include an inspection of various structural elements, such as the condition of the roof, the state of the foundations, the materials used during construction, and the integrity of the walls, evidence of damp and woodworm, to name but a few!

And once the investigations have finished, your written survey should also include:

  • Both minor and major defects
  • Advice on the appropriate action to take
  • The likely cost of repair
  • The level of urgency of each repair
  • A photographic inventory of the property, its defects and other issues.

At this point, you should be able to decide whether or not you want to proceed with the purchase, because problems have been identified that you may not have anticipated.

Defect Report

Defect Reports do exactly what they say on the tin. They aim to provide advice on the severity of an issue within a property, its consequences, and suggestions for repair work.

So whether you:

  • Have had a defect highlighted (such as damp, defective roof coverings, cracks in walls, etc.) during Building Condition or Structural Surveys,
  • Have identified an issue yourself and are looking to resolve it before a survey takes place,
  • Or are looking to identify any potentially serious structural and building fabric issues within a property

… a Defect Report should definitely be on the cards!

This in-depth assessment will identify any defects and their root cause, and then advise you on how to rectify the damage by supplying repair costs and appointing trusted contractors. Not only will this give you the opportunity to rectify any issues before a survey takes place, but the report will also provide complete transparency for a potential buyer.

What survey should I get if I’m looking into buying a flat?

Although most flats are bought Leasehold, it’s always worthwhile hiring an expert that can help you navigate through the maze of legal implications regarding maintenance responsibilities in your new lease. If not, you could find yourself having to fork out for an unexpected expense further down the line.

However, if you’re looking to buy a flat that’s either within a larger, older building, is listed, or has some unconventional design features, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and opt for an additional survey.

Unlike if you’re buying a house, you will also need to consider the fact that you may not have access to the whole building, so it may be more difficult to obtain a comprehensive overview of the building structure.

Now, if you’d like to find out more information about the different types of surveys that we offer, either head to our Building Surveys and Valuations page, or speak to one of our experts to discuss your different options, today!

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Building surveyors surveying a house
  • 27th November 2017