When you're buying a house, it's a really good idea to get a survey done.
A survey will reveal potential issues that may need fixing before you sign any contracts. And if it does throw up any problems, it gives you wriggle room to negotiate with the buyer.
Either you can ask the buyer to fix them before you move in, or you can negotiate the price down if it's going to cost you a lot of money to fix them.
A HomeBuyer Report is the most popular type of home survey chosen by buyers. It's the mid-weight one that looks into any obvious defects at the property.
It's more detailed than a basic Level 1 Condition Report, but less in-depth than a full Level 3 Building Survey.
If a survey reveals a lot of expensive-to-fix problems, you may even opt to pull out of the sale entirely.
How to find a good surveyor
When having a survey done, you'll need a qualified, accredited surveyor to do the work.
It’s best to choose one that's a member of a recognised governing body, such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors - or RICS for short.
What's included in a HomeBuyer report?
A HomeBuyer Report is suitable for the majority of modern, conventional properties that are in a reasonable condition and less than 50 years old.
Background information on the property and location
Information on the cost of re-building the property for insurance purposes
Inspection of the visual parts of the services, eg gas, water and electricity
The condition of boundary walls, fences and areas of shared use
Damp-proofing, including damp tests of the walls
Drainage (although drains are not tested)
Assessment of the building’s timbers, checking for woodworm or rot
A list of issues that need attention
Advice on repairs and ongoing maintenance requirements
A round-up of any legal considerations
And crucially, details of urgent problems or defects that need fixing or which may affect the property’s value.
It doesn't cover:
Anything that isn't immediately visible. The surveyor will not lift carpets, access the loft or remove any panelling to check anything that might be hidden (you'll need a Level 3 survey for this)
An inspection into contamination or other environmental dangers, such as the use of asbestos. (But if the surveyor suspects a problem, they should recommend further investigation)
The preparation of an Energy Performance Certificate, or EPC. However, the surveyor will obtain the most recent certificate from the appropriate central registry and review it
Some HomeBuyer Reports also include a valuation for the home. If the surveyor’s valuation says the house is worth less than the mortgage lender’s valuation, you may be able to lower your offer to the seller.
A HomeBuyer Report uses a clear traffic-light coding system to highlight defects, with green being fine and red being a warning sign that something’s not right.
How much does a HomeBuyer Report cost?
The cost of a HomeBuyer Report ranges between £400 to £1,000.
The price varies according to the size, age, type and condition of the property.
This compares to £300 - £900 for a Condition Report (level 1 survey), or £630 - £1500 for a Building Survey (level 3 survey).
Different surveyors will charge differing amounts, so make sure you shop around to get a few written quotes before deciding who to instruct. Around three is ideal.
How long does it take to get the results of a HomeBuyer Report?
Once your surveyor has inspected the home you’re planning to buy, you should receive the report within a matter of days.
Having read the report through, it’s a good idea to call the surveyor and talk it over with them.
You can request further specialist surveys if the report has thrown up anything you’d like to investigate in more detail.
Are HomeBuyer Reports worth it?
Having a survey done on a home you’re buying isn’t a legal requirement. But it can save a lot of time, stress and money in the long run - potentially tens of thousands of pounds.
It will offer peace of mind and should reduce the risk of costly repair bills once you’ve moved in.
You may also want to use the results of the HomeBuyer’s Report to reduce the asking price.
If it’s going to cost you £3,000 to carry out work on damp walls for example, you may want to reduce your offer by £3,000 too.
How is a HomeBuyer Report different from a valuation?
People often assume that a valuation is the same as a HomeBuyer Report. It's not.
A valuation is commissioned by the mortgage lender and is purely for its benefit. It's to judge whether the property is worth what they're willing to lend you for it.
A mortgage valuation is just a cursory inspection and may take as little as 20 minutes. In some cases, the lender may not even visit the property, carrying out a remote ‘desktop’ valuation based on its database of addresses instead.
In short, a valuation should not be confused with a survey. It won’t point out repairs or other problems – and it's not for your benefit as a buyer.
You may need to pay separately for a valuation, which will typically cost around £100-£150, though some lenders will offer free valuations with certain mortgage deals.
What’s the difference between a Building Survey and HomeBuyer Report?
If you’re buying an older property or more unusual building – or one that has complications of any sort – you should always spend money on a more thorough investigation.
The safest choice is a Building Survey, which provides a full breakdown of the fabric and condition of the property. The report will include diagnosis of defects, along with repairs and maintenance advice.
With this type of survey, the surveyor will come dressed in work overalls, and should lift carpets and floorboards.
The surveyor should also remove bath panels, and bring a ladder to access the roof and other areas.
Building Surveys cost more than HomeBuyer Reports because they are more comprehensive.
Where can I find a surveyor?
It’s best to choose a surveyor that's a member of a recognised governing body, such as RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors).