When searching for your next property, it’s all too easy to fall in love with how a home you’re viewing — especially if you’ve been house hunting for some time. The size, location, and budget might seem perfect, but how do you understand what the property is really worth? The answer is simple: Get a survey done.
There are things that affect a property’s value that you can’t necessarily see by standing in it, and getting a survey will expose the deeper issues that might cost you down the line. Depending on the scale of the issues you uncover, you might also be able to use the survey to negotiate on the asking price.
Read on to learn more about the value of getting a surveyor in, and how much a surveyor costs in the UK.
What is a survey, and why do I need one?
Before we dive into the cost of a surveyor, it’s first important to establish the difference between a survey and a valuation.
A property valuation is the process of determining the value of a property so the lender can sign off on your mortgage with the knowledge that their investment is safe, and the property isn’t at risk of losing its value. It also helps the lender make sure the property is worth what you want to borrow to pay for it. Property valuations take local market, location, size and other factors into account — but doesn’t go into detail about the condition or structural integrity of the property.
A property survey is an in-depth, comprehensive analysis of the property which takes into account the condition of the building, structural integrity, identity defects, and other repair work or deeper issues which might affect the value and quality of the property long-term. Because of the level of detail involved, surveys generally take longer to complete than valuations. You’ll also need to get more experienced professionals involved, called surveyors, who’ll offer expert insights on the materials used to construct the building (e.g. double glazing on the windows) and advice on anything that might affect your quality of life in the long run.
Surveys should be carried out by qualified surveyors members of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Getting a local RICS surveyor will give you the added benefit of knowledge of local market values.
There are three main kinds of house surveys you can get:
- A condition survey, which is the most basic of the surveys and designed to complement a property valuation. It’s also the cheapest type of survey you can get, and usually takes less than a few hours.
- A homeowner survey, which is the most commonly used survey and includes a valuation and an insurance reinstatement value. It’s more detailed than a condition survey, but still not as intrusive as a building survey.
- A building survey, which is the most expensive, detailed, and intrusive survey you can get. The surveyor will check the attic, behind walls, underneath floorboards, above ceilings, and sometimes even drill holes in order to deliver an extensive report. While it’s an investment (and often an inconvenience), it could be worth it if the property you’re looking to buy is very old, listed, or unconventional.
How much does a surveyor cost in the UK?
How much a house survey costs can vary hugely depending on the type of survey you get, as well as the size, value and location of the property you’re looking to buy.
According to the Homeowners Alliance, the cost of surveys falls into three key bands (2022):
- A RICS Level 1 Home Survey (aka a condition survey) usually costs between £300 and £900.
- A RICS Level 2 Home Survey (aka a homeowner survey) usually costs between £400 and £1000.
- A RICS Level 3 Home Survey (aka a building survey) usually costs between £630 and £1500.
If your surveyor uncovers more serious issues — such a damp, dry rot, or asbestos — that require additional surveys, or specialist surveyors, you may end up paying more.
While you’ll be the one fronting the bill for the surveys, surveys that highlight specific problems that affect the property’s value means you can use the information to renegotiate the price. You may want to find out from your surveyor exactly how much fixing a problem will cost, so you can ask the seller to knock it off the asking price.
Bigger problems, however, might make you think more closely about whether buying the property is a good investment at all. If there are structural or conditional issues with the property which will make it expensive to run, it might not be worth the maintenance involved in the long term.
Buying any property is a big financial commitment — especially for older or riskier properties. While an in-depth building survey is expensive, the price is definitely justifiable if it saves you the cost of a bad financial investment.
Getting a surveyor in is the best way to assess the condition — and value — of the property you’re looking to buy. In some cases, it’s a necessary step in securing a mortgage.
Getting a surveyor in won’t necessarily yield negative results, or put you off buying a property altogether. But it will make you aware of small issues that could turn into bigger issues down the line, so you can fix them while they’re still cheap.
If you’re planning on living somewhere long term, a survey will also help you determine the maintenance involved in running the property — as well as the quality of life you’ll have. Homeowners investing in buy-to-let properties could run into legal trouble with their tenants if they don’t get their home surveyed, or ignore the issues the survey brought up. The same problems could also be a spanner in the works when it comes to selling houses fast. So be sure to take the results of the survey seriously, and take immediate action to address more serious issues like damp or dry rot.
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