Many people think a valuation and a survey are the same and use the terms interchangeably. But the two are actually very different.
We’ve set out the key differences and what you need to bear in mind when deciding whether to have a survey done.
What’s a valuation?
A valuation is purely for the mortgage lender’s benefit.
The purpose of a valuation is to satisfy the lender that the property is worth the amount you’re planning to pay for it – and what they're willing to lend for you to buy it.
As a result, a valuation is done before a mortgage is approved.
The valuation is not done for your benefit as a buyer. It also won’t point out structural problems or issues such as damp and dry rot.
If you are buying a property without a mortgage, you won’t need to get a valuation done.
What’s a survey?
A survey is like a health-check on a property. It will be carried out by a qualified surveyor and will provide you with an independent account of the property’s condition.
It will highlight any potential problems that you may not be able to spot, such as non-compliance with building regulations.
How long does a valuation or survey take?
A valuation is just a quick inspection which could be done and dusted in minutes. They are sometimes called drive-by valuations, as it is joked that the person doing it just drives slowly by the property.
In fact, many mortgage lenders won’t even visit the property. Instead, they'll carry out a remote ‘desktop’ valuation using their own database of property values and an algorithm.
A survey takes much longer. The amount of time it takes will vary according to the type of survey you're having done and the size, age and condition of the property you're buying. But in general, a survey is likely to take a few hours to complete.
What types of survey are there?
There are three main types of survey: a Condition Report, a HomeBuyer Report and a Building Survey.
1. A Level 1 Survey (Condition Report)
A Condition Report is the most basic. It offers a snap shot of the condition of the property, and flags up any significant problems.
It uses a traffic light system to summarise any risks. It's not a thorough survey though, so some issues could be missed. It's most suitable for newer properties.
2. A Level 2 Survey (HomeBuyer Report)
A HomeBuyer Report is the next step up. It involves a more in-depth survey of what's visible to the surveyor.
It will pick up problems such as damp or subsidence. It lists issues that might impact the property’s value and flags up anything that's not inline with current building regulations.
It also includes a valuation and the cost of rebuilding the home if it were to be destroyed.
3. A Level 3 Survey (Building Survey)
A Building Survey is at the top of the tree. It includes a full structural survey, highlighting any problems with the property, even minor ones. It also sets out options to address these problems.
The surveyor will conduct a thorough inspection, including looking in the loft and under floorboards.
It's a good option if you're buying an older property, one that's in a bad state or a unique home with an unconventional design.
How much does a valuation or survey cost?
The cost of a valuation ranges from £150 to more than £500 if you're buying a property costing £1 million. The price is based on the value of the property.
That said, many lenders offer it for free as an incentive to take out a mortgage with them.
A Condition Report starts at around £300, although the amount will vary depending on the value of the property. You'll also have to pay VAT on top.
A HomeBuyer Report will set you back around £400 to £1,000. Again, the cost will vary according to the size and location of the property and you'll need to add VAT.
A Building Survey is the most expensive. Expect to be charged between £630 to £1,500 before VAT. The cost will vary not only according to the size of the property but also the condition it's in.
Is it worth getting a survey done?
That depends on the type of property you're buying. If you're purchasing a brand new home, a valuation might be enough.
The majority of new homes come with a 10-year warranty covering any major structural defects. They also typically have a developer’s two-year warranty for fixtures and fittings.
If you're buying an older property it's a good idea to have a survey done. If you're purchasing a home that's more than 50 years old or one that's in poor condition, you should definitely consider a survey.
While you might baulk at the cost, it's important to know what you're getting into before you agree to purchase a home.
If a survey throws up a significant issue that could cost £5,000 to put right, you can use it to negotiate the sale price down.
Apart from anything else, a survey gives you peace of mind that the most expensive thing you may ever purchase is in good condition.
Should I worry about my house survey?
It's important to remember there's no point in worrying about something until you know it's worth worrying about.
The onus is on you to get the most out of the survey. Ask the surveyor if you can accompany them. That way, you can ask questions as you go around the property together.
If you can’t do that, ask the surveyor to talk you through their report by telephone after they have shared it with you.
You can also request another type of survey if the initial survey throws up problems you want to investigate further.
Supporting surveys are available to investigate issues such as damp, timber decay, insect attacks and invasive weed control in more depth.