In general terms, a property survey examines a property’s condition, highlighting structural faults and suggesting any repairs or maintenance work that needs to be done. It’s often very detailed, providing a clear insight into the state of your property. There are in fact many types of property survey. What separates them is the level of detail they include which is reflected in how much they cost. Read on as we discuss the different types of property surveys.
Reasons to get a property survey
First off, why might someone wish to have a property surveyed? Surveys cost anywhere between £250 and £2000 after all, so it’s not a decision to be taken lightly! The answer is, as a safeguard against unforeseen problems with a property purchase. A thorough survey will highlight any problems with the condition of the property you’re buying, any risks to your safety as the occupier, and any legal issues that may arise once you become the owner.
This helps in two ways. Firstly, it helps to ensure your decision to purchase isn’t based on any withheld information (i.e. cover-ups) – the last thing you want is to find a nasty, costly surprise as soon as you’re given the keys. Secondly, you become acutely aware of the property you’re buying which helps you to determine your offer. For example, if the survey finds that there’s structural damage that requires attention and will cost £7,000 to fix, it may be reasonable for you to offer below the asking price.
Different types of property surveys
There are two major organisations that provide property surveys in the UK. Ensure that you only hire a surveyor who is an accredited member of one. They are the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA).
Condition Report (RICS) – Level 1
Ideal for: People buying a modern property seeking confirmation of its condition
The Condition Report is the most basic of all property surveys available. It highlights any risks or defects with the property and notifies you of any legal issues you may face once you take ownership. The report itself uses a traffic light system to denote the status of different parts of the property. Green means it’s in good condition, orange means something requires your attention, and red means it’s in urgent need of repair. This is as much detail as the RICS Condition Report goes into and it doesn’t offer any advice; as a result, it’s the cheapest of all property surveys, starting at around £250.
This type of survey is most suitable for those who are buying a modern property that they are confident is in good condition and just want some formal confirmation of this.
HomeBuyers Report (survey only) (RICS) – Level 2
Ideal for: People who want a more detailed report of their property
The HomeBuyers Report is a more detailed type of property survey. It includes everything in the Condition Report and more. The surveyor will check for structural problems and any issues that are likely to affect the value of the property, such as damp and subsidence. The biggest benefit of this survey is that it not only gives more detail on the issues found, it also includes advice on how to deal with them.
It’s important to note, however, that the HomeBuyers Report is non-intrusive, meaning the surveyor will only assess visible “surface-level” areas of the property. In other words, they won’t look behind furniture or under floorboards, so while it’s a thorough inspection, it’s not 100% fool-proof. Prices start at approximately £350 and the survey can last several hours.
HomeBuyers Report (survey & valuation) (RICS) – Level 2
Ideal for: People who want to ensure they’re paying the right price for a property
This is the same survey as the above but it includes a valuation. People often opt for the valuation because it shows them if the price they’re about to pay for the property is accurate. If the surveyor values the house significantly lower than the asking price, then you may be able to renegotiate with the seller. The surveyor’s report will significantly strengthen your case and it’s likely that the seller will concede. The cost of a HomeBuyers Report survey and valuation starts at £450.
Home Condition Survey (RPSA) – Level 2
Ideal for: People who appreciate a more consumer-friendly reporting style
This is a very similar survey to the HomeBuyers Report above, but it’s provided by the RPSA instead of RICS. The checks are largely the same, but they differ in a few key ways.
Firstly, the Home Condition Survey is independently verified by another surveyor to ensure that it’s accurate and offers quality advice. Secondly, they are produced in a more easy-to-understand format, with accompanying photographs to make their assessment crystal clear to the customer. The cost of an RPSA Home Condition Survey can be anywhere between £400 and £900, depending on the size and value of the property.
Building Survey (RICS) – Level 3
Ideal for: Those buying older properties or properties in noticeably poor condition
The Building Survey from RICS is the most comprehensive property survey available, and as such, it can cost as much as £2000, depending on the size of the property. It includes an analysis of the building’s structural integrity and condition, delving beyond the HomeBuyers Report to check behind walls, below floorboards and behind furniture. Additionally, it provides detailed recommendations for repairs and informs you of timings and approximate costings for these repairs. It also forecasts what is likely to happen if the suggested repairs aren’t carried out.
Given the exhaustiveness and cost of this type of property survey, it’s not recommended for everyone. It’s most suited for older properties (50+ years) or houses in noticeably poor condition.
If you’d like some guidance when deciding which property survey is most appropriate for the property you’re buying, get in touch with us here at James Anderson. You can also use our free online property valuation tool to get a rough estimate for the area in which you’re looking to buy or sell.