Tips on how to arrange a thorough property assessment

Unbelievable though it may seem, recent research shows that only 20 per cent of people buying a property commission a proper survey!

Why? Well experts tell us that it is because many think the mortgage lender’s survey is sufficient (it’s not; it is simply a mortgage valuation and will not point out any structural defects or indeed give you a true house valuation or property valuation). Arranging an independent property survey is vital and could save you money in the long term, providing impartial advice and an opportunity to either negotiate a more realistic price or perhaps cease negotiations altogether.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors has more than 80,000 members who work to the highest standards offering property valuations and the best advice on property (as well as land, construction and environmental issues). There are three types of survey: the mortgage valuation report the Homebuyer’s Report and the Building Survey.

Mortgage valuation report

As a home/property buyer, unless you are lucky enough to be paying cash, you already pay for a mortgage valuation report if you require lending against the property in order to get a mortgage offer. The report ensures the property is worth at least what the bank or building society is lending you – it is not its responsibility to point out any faults or issues that won’t affect lending and therefore this should not be confused with a survey. The mortgage valuation report merely confirms to the lender that the repairs need doing.

Homebuyer’s Report

The Homebuyer’s Report is for properties that seem to be in good condition and are less than 150 years old. This type of survey focuses on immediate problems, assessing whether the property is worth the price and clarifies what actions should be taken.

Building Survey

A Building Survey is more thorough and will include details of major and minor defects and the implications of them. This type of survey is suitable for older properties or buildings with unusual structures and extensions. Although more expensive these surveys will unearth any major or minor structural problems. The RICS has a survey-finder service, whereby you simply type in your postcode and it will come up with a list of RICS approved surveyors in your area.

Often the surveyor will only list visible defects dependant upon which property valuation survey that you have request. It is not their job to check behind every cupboard and lift up every carpet. The surveyor will not be able to give you a definitive answer to whether you should buy the property, the property valuation is only a guide and you specifically need to ask for the house valuation or property valuation as an aside to the building survey. Remember that often a buyer may view a defect in a different light. Surveyors will attempt to list every defect they can find when commissioned to perform a building survey and even the best houses may seem to be riddled with faults judging by the size of report, so do take into account that the majority of properties will have some defects.

Use the survey to re-approach the seller and negotiate a lower price. If the house price plus the cost of the necessary work is higher than the market value of the property, you should seriously consider whether the house is worth buying.