Buying a house can be a long and stressful process, and the pandemic certainly didn’t help ease the anxieties. In fact, 94% of homebuyers in the last year said they felt rushed into the purchase. The pandemic has created a hectic market with people rushing sales through, but this may have encouraged people to skip key stages in the process, which may be problematic further down the line.

Home buyers surveys for example are usually not a compulsory requirement for mortgage lenders and are at the buyer’s discretion. With the sense of urgency hanging over the market, many people skipped this stage, to rush the purchase through. However, surveys are vital for ensuring there are no hidden surprises and major issues with the property you are buying. For example, there could be subsidence issues, which will not only make reselling difficult, but it could in fact be dangerous.

Chartered building surveying practice, Munday + Cramer, has been working with home buyers to offer them peace of mind when purchasing a house and raising any red flags that may need to be addressed on a property. Here their director Lee Hatwell shares his insight into home buyers surveys and thoughts on why it’s vital prospective buyers don’t skip this important stage in the process.

What is a home buyers survey?

Before discussing why they’re so important, we need to look at what home buyers surveys actually are and how they can help. In short, they are an inspection of a property, carried out by a RICS Chartered Surveyor who assesses the condition of a property and highlights any current or potential defects. They can be carried out on three different levels, depending on your needs and the certain elements of the property. A level 1 survey for example, is a basic condition report looking exclusively at the condition of the property. Whereas level 2 is a Full Building Survey, usually recommended for older properties, or those that have had extensive renovations. A Level 2 Home Buyers Survey sits in the middle of the two and are the most common.

A level 2 survey inspects the easily accessible areas of the property, highlights any current or potential risks and defects, as well as advise on repairs and regular maintenance requirements. The homebuyers will then receive a full report of the surveyor’s inspection, their observations and recommendations. This will ensure the potential buyer is fully informed before any exchange of contracts occurs.

Do you really need one?

For many people who aren’t aware of what a Home Buyer’s Survey is, they may appear to be an unnecessary expense. If they’re not legally required, then why spend all the money? The answer to the question ‘do I really need one?’, ultimately comes down to how much of a risk you’re willing to take. Surveys often find defects that won’t have been seen on initial viewing and could go undetected for many years – for instance, in the case of subsidence. However, in the long run, these issues could have detrimental effects on a property and end up costing a homeowner, tens (and sometimes hundreds) of thousands to rectify. In this instance, a few hundred pounds upfront would be a minimal cost to save such an amount of money, time and inconvenience.

The Home Buyers Survey really is about mitigating risks and preventative measures. If you can highlight defects early enough, you will be able to ask the current home owner to rectify the situation, financially subsidise repairs, or have the knowledge to pull out of the sale all together. In the lucky cases where there are no major issues, you will have peace of mind that the property you are buying is in good condition, alleviating any additional worry and stress surrounding the sale – and you can’t put a price on that!

If you’re unclear on whether you need a survey, which survey would be best suited for the property you’re purchasing, or need some additional reassurance, the best thing to do would be to speak to a RICS Chartered Surveyor who will be able to point you in the right direction.

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Daniel Peacock

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