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Valuation, Homebuyers or Building Survey?.. What’s the difference?

A quick and handy guide to the various types of property surveys you can buy and their pros and cons!

Buying a new home can be a stressful and confusing experience: lots to take into consideration and lots of money at stake. Making sure the property you are buying is up to scratch and isn’t going to fall down any time soon should be treated as a priority, as getting it wrong could cost you a fortune. There are three types of survey you can choose between and each has a different level of service and a different price tag:

Valuation Report:

If you are applying for a mortgage, you will have to pay for a mortgage valuation as a minimum requirement.

This is not a “survey” as such. It is for the benefit of the lender, to judge whether the property has enough collateral for them to lend money against it. Although you will have to pay for the report, it is arranged by the lender, who retains legal ownership of the documentation. So should the valuer fail to spot a costly defect, you will have no claim against them.

Typical cost for an average size property: £250-£350
Pros: Cheapest of the reports, likely to flag up anything severely major
Cons: Owned by the lender, no protection, very basic
Pages: 2-3

Homebuyer’s Report:

Can be purchased directly or though a lender as an add-on to the valuation. This uses RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) standard wording to comment on the condition of the property. Since you are employing the surveyor directly, you can take legal action against them if they fail to spot a defect, or at least make a claim on the surveyor’s public liability insurance.

Surveyors are acutely aware of this possibility, of course. This is why their reports are full of caveats and exclusion clauses, such as, “…the xyz appear to be in good condition”, and “…floor coverings and furniture have not been moved”. Surveyors know that to be found guilty of negligence, it will have to be proved in court that the overlooked defect was clearly visible at the time of the inspection.

They are unlikely to bring ladders to inspect the roof space. Neither will they lift manhole covers to inspect the drains, nor remove bath panels to check for plumbing leaks. They will state that they have not tested the heating or electrics, and recommend that other specialists are called in to do this.

Typical cost for an average size property: £350-£450
Pros: a detailed report, owned by you and offers an element of protection
Cons: doesn’t go into total detail, lots of caveats
Pages: 25-30

Building Survey (previously known as a Full Structural Survey):

More in-depth than a homebuyer’s report. A much more thorough investigation will take place. You should expect the surveyor or engineer to bring ladders and wear overalls. Under normal circumstances they should open manholes, remove bath panels and even lift carpets and floorboards (with the permission of the vendor).

Because of the thorough nature of the report it is the survey of choice for those looking for peace of mind or have any worries about the property that they wish to know more about.

Typical cost for an average size property: £600-£1000
Pros: the most detailed survey, good level of protection, owned by you
Cons: expensive
Pages: 30-40

We do hope this quick guide explains the differences to help you make an informed decision. If you need any further help please do feel free to give us a call on 01342 826 741 or email advice@fordyceplayle.co.uk if you would like to instruct a survey let us know and we can put you in touch with a Fordyce & Playle recommended partner.

The blog postings on this site solely reflect the personal views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views, positions, strategies or opinions of Fordyce & Playle Limited. All comments are made in good faith, and neither Fordyce & Playle Limited nor the author will accept liability for them. No advice is given in any posting. Please contact your Financial Adviser for more information or advice.