Buying a house is likely to be the biggest investment you make, so much like all other financial decisions, you need to mitigate the risks as much as possible. Although you can’t predict what the market will do, you can ensure the property you’re purchasing has no hidden surprises, with a Homebuyer Survey. However, many people don’t fully understand what a Homebuyer survey is and why it’s essential for any house purchase.
What is a Homebuyer Survey?
In short, a Homebuyer Survey is an inspection of a property; it assesses and summarises the quality of the property. The surveys are carried out by a RICS Chartered Surveyor who will assesses its condition and highlight any current or potential defects. The time this takes will be dependent on the property, for example, whether there is any unique factors – for example a swimming pool – or any defects that need further investigating in order to effectively advise. However, they usually take 2-4 hours in total. Potential buyer’s or homeowners do not need to be present when survey is taking place, as the surveyor will arrange this with the estate agent.
Homebuyer Surveys are carried out prior to the exchange of contracts, to ensure the buyer is fully informed before proceeding onto the final stages of the purchase. A report is then issued, outlining the chartered surveyor’s findings, to advise the potential home owner accordingly.
Which survey do I require?
Home surveys can be carried out on three different levels, depending on your needs and certain elements of the property. A level 1 survey is the most basic survey that will provide an overview of the property, highlighting only major issues. However, a level 2 is the most in-depth Full Building Survey, usually recommended for older properties or those that have undergone extensive renovations and alterations. Level 2 Homebuyer Surveys sit in the middle of the two and are the most commonly requested.
A level 2 survey inspects the easily accessible areas of the property, highlights any current or potential risks and defects, as well as advising on repairs and regular maintenance requirements. This level of survey includes photographs in the final report and will offer much more detailed advice and observations than the level 1 option.
What are the most common findings?
Although every property is completely different, some of the issues that arise are more common than others. The issue most regularly seen is damp, which usually occurs from leaks and lack of ventilation. The surveyor on a level 2 survey will point out the areas in
which mould is present, the potential damage, and how to deal with them accordingly. Following this, issues with roofs are similarly very common. Their varying and sometimes complex structures means there can be a lot of hidden issues the previous buyers weren’t aware of. However, inadequate insulation and blocked, overflowing gutters are commonly highlighted on Level 2 reports and will indicate how severe this problem may potentially be.
Finally, lack of certification is a common problem highlighted in homebuyer surveys. This is usually related to boiler and electrical testing, which are both vital for ensuring the safety of the property. The current homeowner should have their electrics checked every 10 years and the boiler annually. They should also be able to provide the correlating certificates.
What happens after the Homebuyer survey?
A full survey report will usually be issued within five working days of when the initial inspection was carried out. This will outline all of the findings, both positive and negative, informing the buyer which assessments have been carried out and their findings.
When the defects and potential problems are highlighted, the chartered surveyor will advise on the next stages you should take to either resolve the problem or investigate it further. Often this will be to go back to the seller with further questions, or to employ a specialist to carry out specific and more in-depth assessments.
The homebuyer will then be fully informed as to what the condition of their property is and what remedial work needs to be carried out. This therefore, allows them to decide on whether to proceed with the purchase, go back to the seller to negotiate terms, or continue with the purchase with peace of mind.
Do you really need one?
For the many people who aren’t aware of what a Homebuyer Survey is, they may appear to be an unnecessary expense. If they’re not legally required, then why spend all the money? The answer to the question ‘do I really need one?’, ultimately comes down to how much of a risk you’re willing to take.
Surveys often find defects that won’t have been seen on viewing and could go undetected for many years – for instance, in the case of subsidence. However, in the long run, these issues could have detrimental effects on a property and end up costing a homeowner, tens (and sometimes hundreds) of thousands of pounds to rectify. In this instance, a few hundred pounds upfront is a minimal cost in order to save such a vast amount of money, time, and inconvenience.
The Homebuyer Survey really is about mitigating risks and taking preventative measures. If you can highlight defects early enough, you will be able to ask the current home owner to rectify the situation, financially subsidise repairs, or have the knowledge to pull out of the sale altogether. In the lucky cases where there are no major issues, you will have peace of mind that the property you are buying is in good condition, alleviating any additional worry and stress surrounding the sale.
If you’re unclear on whether you need a survey, which survey would be best suited for the property you’re purchasing, or need some additional reassurance, the best thing to do would be to contact Munday + Cramer to speak with a RICS Chartered Surveyor who will help advise you. Click here to get in touch with our expert team.