What type of survey should I get?

A recent survey suggested that more than half of all homebuyers questioned, who found that their new home needed major work said the issues were serious enough that it would have influenced their purchase decision had they had a comprehensive survey and known of the problems before they bought.

So, getting a survey is important.

But what type of survey should you get? A Condition Report, a Home Buyers Report, a Home Condition Survey, a Full Structural, a Building Survey? Or is the lenders mortgage valuation sufficient?………. It’s no wonder many homebuyers are confused!

So let’s try and help make it clearer.

A mortgage valuation is simply that. A very brief look at the property, often as little as 15 minutes, and sometimes without the property ever being visited at all, purely and simply to establish the market value. It’s not a survey. It’s not designed to give the buyer information about the condition of the property. And, most important, it may not even identify serious defects such as failure of the roof structure, drains or floors.
Every lender now highlights in their literature the importance for homebuyers not to rely on the mortgage valuation, but to get independent advice about the condition of the property.

So your next stop is your local surveyor who may offer you a range of survey products.
To me, this seems illogical. If you come to me you are asking me, as a professional expert, to advise you about the condition of the home you are about to buy. So why would I, as the expert, ask YOU to advise me on what type of survey to do?
I’m of the opinion that, if you are buying the whole house (and I think it’s a reasonably safe bet that you are!), then it’s my job to look at the whole house.

It doesn’t matter what I call the survey, what matters is what I do. And what do I do? Well, I look at everything that I can possibly, reasonably, look at. It’s not possible, in the context of a pre-purchase survey, to pull up fitted carpets, dig holes in walls, erect scaffolding to inspect the roof, or bring in an army of removers to shift all the large heavy sofas and tables. So, as with all surveys, I will carry out a methodical, visual inspection of all those parts I can reach, and use my experience, and knowledge of building construction and pathology to form an opinion about the condition of each part of the property. I might not be able to see some areas, but circumstantial evidence will often tell me what’s going on behind the scenes.

I have a duty of care to you, my client, to give you reliable advice. And only by carrying out a full inspection can I do that. If I said I could do the job more cheaply and quickly then I would have to look at less. And if I look at less, then I can tell you less. And I would have to fill the report ever more exclusions about what I didn’t do.

The guidance tells you that my survey inspection is that of a Building Survey (what used to be known as a “full structural”), but I prefer to call it a “proper survey”. Because, anything less than a full, thorough and proper inspection cannot give the reassurance that you, as the homebuyer, deserve and need.

So while it may look attractive to save a couple of £00’s by getting a lesser type of survey, the chances are that the surveyor will have to reduce the time he spends on site, and reduce the amount of information he can give you. And, as the research tells us, many of those who select the cheaper survey options end up regretting their choice when faced with unexpected repair bills.

So whether you are asking me to look at a 1990s estate type house, a Victorian semi, or a 16th century listed timber framed historic home, my approach is the same. Of course, the more modern house will be quicker to inspect than the much older building, and this is reflected in the fee I will charge, but the job is the same. Look at the property as thoroughly and completely as possible, and report in as much detail as is necessary to ensure that you have the right information on which to base your purchase decision.

Unlike many surveyors, I don’t need to confuse and bamboozle my clients with multiple survey options. For me, the simple approach is the right approach. And, when I walk away from a property, after 3, 4, or more hours on-site, I know, in my own mind, that I’ve unraveled all of its secrets, and can give you clear advice about what you are intending to buy.