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    4 Key Reasons for Arranging a Pre-Purchase Survey

    If you’re about to buy a property, don’t skimp on the home survey. Why? Because it’s your best opportunity to get a qualified building surveyor to take a look ‘under the hood’ and give you their professional opinion about the condition of the asset you are about to invest in. Plus, buying blind is a huge risk to take when you’re about to make what could well be the biggest financial commitment of your life.


    When it comes to major transactions such as a property purchase, commissioning an independent home survey should be a no-brainer. A pre-purchase survey is typically carried out after your offer to buy the property has been accepted but before contracts are exchanged.

    If the survey report flags up problems with the apartment, this is key information you can use to:

    • Budget for urgent repairs and renovations
    • Ask the seller for a price discount equivalent to the identified remedial needs, or
    • Pull out from the transaction. 

    Furthermore, if no issues are found, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that your investment is sound. Unfortunately, too many homebuyers believe that a survey is an unnecessary expense, largely based on the myths and misconceptions still circulating. In fact, according to recent figures, around 12% of property transactions take place without any kind of pre-purchase survey. 


    So, let’s take a look at the key reasons why a pre-purchase survey is so important.

    1. Access to independent information

    If you are buying with a mortgage, the lender will commission a Mortgage Valuation Report to check whether their lending criteria have been met and whether the property is worth the loan you have applied for. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this in any way constitutes an independent survey. On the contrary, a mortgage valuation is carried out by the mortgage company (or their appointed assessor) for their sole benefit. You may not even receive a copy of the report.


    A mortgage valuation often consists of no more than a short site visit and tick-box exercise, and sometimes doesn’t even require visiting the property. If it is a standard build, a drive-by assessment may be all that’s needed to satisfy the lender.


    However, if you instruct a Chartered Surveyor to conduct an independent survey on the property you are thinking of buying, they will be acting in your interests. Their job is to make you aware of any structural defects and potential problems. In this way, you are fully aware of the condition of the building and can make an intelligent purchasing decision based on all the salient facts.

    2. Option to get professional guidance

    Unless you are a surveyor or building professional yourself, chances are that you won’t be able to spot symptoms of serious building defects when you view the property. That crack in the wall may well look harmless to you but it could actually be a tell-tale sign of subsidence! There are many more examples of problems that are simply impossible to recognise without proper training. It takes a qualified property professional with years of experience to make an accurate assessment. Without the benefit of their professional expertise, you will effectively be buying blind, which is a huge risk to take.


    The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) endorses three types of home survey: Level 1 Condition Report, Level 2 HomeBuyer Report and Level 3 Building Survey. Each one is different in its scope and depth of investigation and the right choice depends on the specific property you have your eye on and your plans for it. If you are buying a new-build, a basic Condition Report may suffice. If you are buying a period home or a fixer-upper, only an in-depth Building Survey (formerly known as a Full Structural Survey) will do the property justice.


    Whichever type of survey you opt for – and your surveyor should advise you on this – take it as a golden opportunity to access a wealth of valuable specialist expertise that you yourself don’t possess. With an experienced Chartered Surveyor on your team, there’s every reason to be optimistic about making the right purchase decision.

    3. Evidence to support a price reduction

    One of the most valuable aspects of having an independent home survey before you buy is that you can use the findings to give extra credibility to your request for a price reduction, should you decide to ask for one.


    If the survey report has identified serious defects such as damp or structural movement, you are perfectly within your rights to reassess your offer in view of the new information that has come to light. Remember that your offer was made subject to survey and contract.


    Without a survey, you may not realise the extent of the problems with the property and end up paying over the odds. Or, if you do request a reduction, you have little ammunition to help bolster your case. Having an impartial building professional identify serious defects lends weight to the argument for a lower price and may even provide robust cost estimates to guide your request. It’s a great bargaining tool!

    4. Protection against unexpected repair costs

    Completing your purchase without a survey can lead to nasty surprise discoveries after you move in. This can cost you thousands of pounds in unplanned expenditure. According to recent figures, typical costs for fixing common problems are as follows:

    Full rewiring                                                     £4,000

    Damp and damp proofing                         £2,500

    Asbestos removal                                          £2,500

    Upgrading insulation                                   £1,500

    Woodworm/beetle infestation             £1,000

    A professional pre-purchase survey is such a powerful tool for any buyer, highlighting the scope and urgency of existing issues, and providing you with detailed information to make a sensible investment decision. Think of it as an independent due diligence process to help you do what’s right for you.


    Written By Annie Burton

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