Are home surveys worth it?

When you’re buying a property, there are plenty of additional costs to pay on top of the price you agreed, not least stamp duty of up to 5% and solicitors fees, so you may be forgiven for forgoing the additional cost of a survey on the home.

However, it’s something you may live to regret. If you end up buying a place which you didn’t realise has a roof that needs serious work, or has terrible damp issues, it could end up costing thousands to put right.

Highlighted problems can be a bargaining tool

There’s a good chance you could have had this knocked off the price you paid if you’d discovered the problems before getting your hands on the keys.

So why don’t more people have surveys done? It’s estimated only around a third of homebuyers opt to have a survey of some sort carried out on the home they end up buying.

Why surveys can be useful

A thorough survey can be very useful in helping you to identify potential the sorts of problems a home may have which you’re not able to by simply looking yourself.

From the need to re-wire a home, to major faults with walls and ceilings, a survey may identify something which could put you off buying a place altogether, or at least act as a bargaining tool for lowering the price.

If, for example, it’s estimated a home needs around £6,000 spending to put a damp issue right, it’s very common for the seller to agree to come down by that amount, or even more as there’s clearly risk involved.

Whey surveys often aren’t useful

However, home surveys, especially the less expensive, can end up being a waste of time and money.

In the worst case scenarios, you might get an inexperienced surveyor, or one who’s having a bad day and is in too much of a hurry to survey the property correctly.

Many buyers complain that surveys are so full of caveats, or contain recommendations that buyers simply ‘seek further advice’, as to be worthless.

Surveyors can be so keen to cover themselves that they couch their explanations and guidance so cautiously that the buyer ends up not knowing whether the problems need correcting or not.

More basic surveys hardly worth it

Additionally, the most basic of survey options available seem to tell buyers simply that yes, there’s a house there, and no, it doesn’t look like it’s got any issues (but that’s just at a glance), although it certainly might have if a closer inspection is made.

Here are the three types of survey available and the basic functions of each:

1. Condition report

This is the most basic of surveys and often doesn’t actually reveal anything of great importance. It certainly doesn’t include any advice, or a valuation.

Cost: £100 to £300

2. Homebuyers report

This is a more detailed survey which is supposed to reveal any major issues, such as dry rot and obvious cracks. However, it’s a ‘non-intrusive’ survey, so the surveyor won’t be pulling up floorboards, crawling around roof spaces or testing wiring. It does include a valuation and re-build estimate however.

Cost: £300 to £500

3. Building survey

This is the ‘king’ of surveys in that it is the most detailed available and may identify major problems.

Its ‘intrusive’ as the surveyor will be going up into roof spaces, looking under floorboards and behind walls, and checking ceilings and the building’s general structure.

A full building survey offers advice on repairs, including estimated timings and costings. It should also tell you what may happen if you don’t have the repairs done.

Cost: £800 and above

How to get the most from your survey

How good your survey is seems to come down to which of the three you choose, and finding the right surveyor. However, even if you get the best surveyor possible, there will still be decisions which only you can make from the results, and the surveyor usually won’t give you an absolutely categorical ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

Here are a few tips to try and get the most from your survey:

  • Use a local surveyor – It’s best to use a surveyor who knows the type of property you’re thinking of buying and the local area.
  • Get a recommendation – Ask friends and family for suggested surveying companies.
  • Ask for examples of work – A good surveyor should be able to provide you with examples of previous surveys they’ve done so you can see what you might end up with, and if you think it would be useful.
  • Attend the survey with a builder – If at all possible, attend the survey at the same time as the surveyor carries it out, and take a builder with you to ask the sort of questions you probably wouldn’t.

Home surveys and insurance

If a survey finds any major issues, you need to tell your insurer what they are when you take out home insurance on the property that you buy.

Insurers need to work out how much of a ‘risk’ your home is when working out your cover premiums, so if you don’t tell them about  anything serious that’s been unearthed, you may find the insurer won’t pay out on future claims.

Policy Expert

If your home is your haven, you’ll want it to have the best protection. Compare home insurance quotes from our range of handpicked insurers and tailor a policy to suit you. For more information on Home Insurance from Policy Expert, speak to one of our experts on 0330 0600 600 or email ask@policyexpert.co.uk

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