Property buying: which survey is best for you?

Written on 1 June 2018 by Alistair Boscawen in Frequently Asked Questions


Before you buy a property – any property – you need to know that it is a viable proposition. A property survey assesses the condition of the property and flags up any defects or issues a new owner would have to deal with. It’s important to remember that appearances can deceive, and a newly-decorated, seemingly well-maintained property can be hiding a multitude of problems. Always arrange for a survey to be carried out, whether you’re buying a new-build apartment or a six-bedroom period townhouse, and make sure it is an appropriate survey for the age and condition of the property.

Choosing the right survey for the property

Mortgage valuations

If you are taking out a mortgage, your lender will require a mortgage valuation. The mortgage valuation is not a proper survey and is only intended as a guide for the lender. Always commission a survey for yourself and don’t just rely on a mortgage valuation.

In-depth survey options

If you are looking to buy a larger property or a period property, then a comprehensive, in-depth survey is usually necessary. Examples are: 

  • The RICS HomeBuyer Report – this is suitable for most properties built after the Victorian period, but not so suitable for older properties. It will reveal any structural problems or defects and put forward solutions. Typically, the report will run for approximately ten pages, and will include a condition rating and take into consideration the entire property. It is available as a survey with a valuation or just a survey.
     
  • The RICS Building Survey – this is the most detailed survey available and is suitable for older properties (properties built before the 1890s) and buildings in a state of disrepair or need for renovation and conservation. Typically, it is double the length of the RICS HomeBuyer Report and will highlight any significant structural problems as well as smaller issues. Advice and guidance will also be included.  

Surveys for new-builds

If you’re buying a new-build property, a survey is still recommended. This is known as a ‘snagging survey’ and will highlight any issues which might need to be addressed. If work needs to be carried out, you can then request the developer rectifies any issues before you move into the property, which should make your life easier.  

Another survey option, the RICS Condition Report, can also be suitable for a new property or a conventional house which is considered in a reasonable state of repair.

What to consider when commissioning a survey

Aim to commission a smaller, independent surveyor as opposed to a larger corporate provider. Be guided by the property and make sure to commission a survey which is appropriate for the age, nature and condition of that property. Don’t look to scrimp on the survey, as it is important. And finally, if anything in the survey or report is unclear, make sure you go through anything with the surveyor.  

If you’re looking to purchase property in Belgravia, Mayfair, Pimlico, Knightsbridge, Westminster or Victoria, we offer a professional building survey service to our clients, whether they are looking to buy residential or commercial property. Find out more about our structural surveying services

Alistair Boscawen

Alistair has 32 years’ experience as an estate agent, starting in the country house department of one of London’s main international agencies before moving to the Knightsbridge house department of the same agency and learning the difference in values between freehold, long lease and short lease houses in Knightsbridge, Belgravia, Chelsea and Mayfair.

All articles by Alistair Boscawen

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