Be on your guard for scams when getting a survey carried out




Want to get a survey done on your new home, but worried about the cost? Be wary about cutting corners or you could end up falling for a scam.

While it’s not a legal requirement to get a survey carried out on the flat or house you’re purchasing, it could end up saving you a lot of time, money and stress over the longer term.

A survey assesses the condition of a property and identifies any problems before contracts are exchanged.

If you do decide to commission one of these ‘health-checks’ on a property, you may be looking for ways to keep costs down – and be tempted by more affordable surveys.

But you need to tread carefully because a cheaper option could be a scam.

Surge in online survey scams

A number of recent instances have come to light in Scotland where scammers – impersonating reputable firms of chartered surveyors – have offered home sellers cut-rate Home Reports over social media platforms. 

This is according to DM Hall, one of Scotland’s largest independent firms of chartered surveyors, in an article published on Estate Agent Today

Under the Scottish sales system, Home Reports are required by law by all vendors. A seller must produce a Home Report pack within nine days of marketing a property and buyers get access to the pack free-of-charge. 

But even with this system, it may still be worth getting your own survey, especially if you are at all worried about the state of the property.

What does the ‘cut-price survey’ scam involve?

With this scam, criminals have been exposed for doctoring Home Reports which may have been carried out some years ago, and which are in the public domain, by re-dating them and passing them off as the recent work of established firms of chartered surveyors. 

Not only are the reports false, but when lenders realise the Home Report is not genuine, they will withdraw their offer of finance, potentially causing the planned transaction to collapse entirely. 

How to spot a survey scam

If you are in the process of organising a survey in any part of the UK, you need to be vigilant to avoid falling for a survey scam. 

Here are some of the things that should set the alarm bells ringing:

  • If a firm is offering a surveying ‘service’ on social media at significantly less than the usual rate.

  • If a firm is demanding to be paid in cash.

  • If you can’t find any clear contact numbers and company names.

  • If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

How much should you expect to pay for a survey?

There are essentially three types of survey to choose from: 

Home Condition Report this is the most basic and cheapest, and will usually cost from around £250, though prices vary according to the value of the property.

HomeBuyer Report – this is the mid-table version and costs start between £350 and £400. Once again, prices vary according to the value of the property.

Building Survey – this is the most comprehensive type of survey and costs start at around £750, though prices vary considerably according to the property and its value. 

What does each survey cover?

Home Condition Report – this survey will highlight significant issues, but does not go into detail. Only really an option if you are buying a relatively new property that you don’t have any major concerns about.

HomeBuyer Report – this highlights big issues, such as damp, and anything that doesn’t meet building regulations. That said, the surveyor will only really identify ‘surface’ issues as they won’t look under floorboards or carpets, or behind furniture. They also won’t climb up into the loft or check fences or outhouses.

Building Survey – this is the most in-depth type of survey and provides the most comprehensive analysis of the property’s condition. It is particularly recommended if you are buying an old property, or one that is timber-framed or thatched. 

Which survey should you choose?

The right choice will depend on the age and condition of the property you are purchasing and your personal attitude to risk. 

But be wary of scrimping on costs, as this could prove a false economy in the long run. 

What is a valuation?

As a buyer, you may be confused by the ‘valuation’ and think this is another type of survey. This is not the case. 

If you’re getting a mortgage, the lender will carry out a valuation, but this is purely for its own benefit to check the property you are buying is worth at least the amount it’s lending on it – before it approves your mortgage. 

Crucially, it won’t highlight any structural problems or issues such as damp, dry rot, subsidence, woodworm or Japanese Knotweed.

The message is simple: do not settle for a basic survey carried out by your mortgage lender.

Still not sure if you need to pay for a survey? Get the full lowdown in our guide: Common survey myths: busted

How to find a reputable surveyor?

When searching for a surveyor you can trust, it is worth asking family, friends and work colleagues for recommendations. 

You can also search on the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) website, as all members are regulated by a code of conduct. 

Another option is to visit Zoopla’s partner, GO TO Surveys. This firm offers all three types of survey: Condition Report, Homebuyer Report and Building Survey, and employs RICS-accredited surveyors. 

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Talk to our partner GOTO Surveys to find out which kind is best for you and arrange for a surveyor to visit the property.

Use a survey to help you negotiate on price

If your survey does raise problems or issues, you can use these as a bargaining chip to negotiate a reduction on the property price. If this isn’t possible, you can factor the cost of fixing these issues into your budget. 

Read more at: Bad survey for your new home? What to do next?

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