Charlie Penrose, surveys and valuations partner at Arnolds Keys, discusses the importance of having a property surveyed.

Buying a home can be an expensive business, what with raising a deposit, and paying for stamp duty and removal expenses, so it’s perhaps understandable why some buyers decide to avoid the expense of a survey. But that can be a costly mistake.

Some reason that the mortgage company’s valuation will do the job. But this is not a survey, it simply tells your lender whether the property is reasonable security for your loan.

Charlie Penrose, surveys and valuations partner at Arnolds KeysCharlie Penrose, surveys and valuations partner at Arnolds Keys (Image: Arnolds Keys)
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has simplified how it describes the various tiers of surveys available, which has made it considerably easier to decide what level a buyer should go for.

The Level 1 Survey is a basic assessment of the property, with no tests of the building fabric or services, and no valuation – as such, it is not something I would recommend. 

The Level 2 and Level 3 Surveys are the ones that will be more relevant. The Level 2 Survey (broadly equivalent to what some people know as a ‘Homebuyer’s Report’) is ideal if you are buying a reasonably modern home that is built of conventional materials. It is offered with or without a valuation.

The more comprehensive Level 3 Survey is what most would term a ‘full survey’ and provides more detailed information about the structure and fabric of the property.

Although more expensive, this is the one to go for if you are buying an older property, or one that is built in a non-standard way or from non-standard materials.

This might, for example, include flint – common in north Norfolk – which can suffer from delamination if it has not been properly maintained.

You may also want to consider the Level 3 Survey if the property has been extended or altered, as there is no guarantee that this has been done to a high standard, or even in compliance with building regulations.

A survey can identify serious problems, enabling the buyer to require the vendor to rectify problems before they exchange, or else negotiate a lower price to consider potential future bills.

But it is important to realise that anything other than a completely modern property is unlikely to be perfect, and the survey may reveal issues that you might expect with age, and which shouldn’t be a barrier to the sale. 

But it does allow the buyer to go into the transaction armed with enough information to make an informed choice, and that alone can be worth the cost of the survey.

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