Understanding Surveys & Valuations
When you buy a home, there are procedures in place to make sure it turns out to be everything you hoped it would. Two you are likely to come across are surveys and valuations, which are designed to alleviate any concerns you may have about your new home before you decide to make an offer or place a reservation.
What is a survey?
Surveys help you find out more about the condition of the home you're hoping to buy. Surveyors, who are often qualified members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), perform an inspection to see whether your home has structural issues, needs major repairs or has other problems.
There are three different types of RICS survey: Condition Reports, HomeBuyer Reports and Building Surveys. The one you choose may depend on various factors, such as the age, condition and cost of your new home, as well as your budget.
Each survey will include different features, so you will need to know exactly what you are getting for your money.
RICS Condition Report
- The most affordable option
- Gives you an overview of your home's condition and any urgent defects, but it doesn't go into detail
- It’s most suited to new homes with no previous problems.
RICS HomeBuyer Report
- Includes everything in the Condition Report, as well as a valuation and the cost of rebuilding your home, which will come in useful when taking out home insurance
- Gives you more information on defects and how they may affect the value of your home
- Offers advice for repairs and ongoing maintenance.
RICS Building Survey
- You’ll get a detailed analysis of the home's condition, including recommendations for repairs and maintenance
- Popular for people buying larger or older homes
- This is the most expensive option, but it might be the best if you're planning large-scale renovations.
Surveyors who are registered under the Surveyors and Valuers Accreditation (SAVA) scheme also offer a Home Condition Survey, which is similar to the RICS HomeBuyer Report but doesn’t include a valuation.
What is a valuation?
Mortgage valuations are different to surveys in a number of ways, although you will find there is some overlap.
Valuations also involve an inspection of the home you’re hoping to buy, but they are commissioned by your mortgage lender on your behalf. The point of a valuation is to assess how much the property is worth so they can approve your loan.
The valuation will take different factors into account, such as where the home is located and the prices at which similar properties have sold in the area. The surveyor will also let your lender know if there are any defects or features of the home or its surrounding area that could affect its value in the future, such as being in a high-risk flood zone.
In most cases you will have to pay for the valuation, although some lenders might include it as part of your mortgage offer. Valuations can cost anything between a couple of hundred pounds and several thousand, depending on how much you’re paying for your home.
It's worth remembering that valuations are for the lender's benefit. You won't be told what repairs and maintenance are required on a home and you might not even be allowed to see a copy of the final report.
If you're looking for peace of mind, especially when buying an older home, you may want to go a step further than a valuation and commission a survey. Surveys are not part of the mortgage process and you must arrange them independently.
A RICS study of home buyers found a quarter of people who just relied on mortgage valuation reports when buying their home had to undertake unplanned renovation work within the first year, at an average cost of £1,100. Read More
Why do I need a survey?
You don’t have to get a survey carried out on your home, but they can be reassuring especially when you are investing in an older property.
Surveys are becoming more popular for spotting problems such as damp, subsidence and unstable roofs ahead of purchases. Only 9% of people didn't commission a survey before buying a new home in the 12 months to August 2016. Read More
Condition Reports are the most popular, with 16% of home buyers deciding to go for the cheapest option, whereas 13% chose HomeBuyer Reports and 6% commissioned a full Building Survey.
If surveys find major defects with a home, you can use the information to either negotiate a lower price or ask the current owners to fix the place up before you commit to buying. You may even decide to pull out of an offer entirely if the problems are severe enough.
Ultimately, buying a dream home is a significant step and many people feel safer in their decision knowing a professional has given it the seal of approval.
How much will a survey cost?
How much you pay for a survey will depend on the value of the home you want to buy and the type of inspection you want.
Condition Reports are the most affordable, but surveyors will only perform a basic inspection and will often tell you to seek further advice on problem areas. Building Surveys are the most expansive, although you can be more confident that the inspection will cover every aspect of your home – and it may last a whole day.
HomeBuyer Reports are the middle ground and have traditionally been the most popular.
As a rough estimate, you can expect to pay around £250 for a Condition Report, while HomeBuyer Reports begin at about £400. Read More
Building Surveys cost £500 at the lower end of the spectrum but can easily set you back more than £1,000 if you’re buying a more expensive home. Read More
Bear in mind that no matter how expensive a survey may seem, the potential savings of identifying major defects before you buy a home can outweigh the costs.