Home Buyers Survey
Your questions answered by a RICS Surveyor in your area
BSc Dipl. HI MRICS, MRPSA
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Should we go for a Full Structural Survey, Building Survey or HomeBuyer Report on a home in UK and which is cheaper?
The Full Structural Survey has been renamed by RICS as a Building Survey, although it is essentially the same level of survey.
If the UK property is an apartment, or is 100 or more years old, or has been substantially modified, or is of non standard construction, RICS advise the cheaper Building Survey.
If you are planning to do any major works on the UK property, you should you go for a Building Survey. The Building Survey is less cheap but it will offer an in-depth analysis of the UK property's condition as well as advice on defects as well as maintenance options .
For more detailed advice get a UK Home Survey Quote via our website or call 0800 038 6667 to speak to our survey team.
What is a home survey, and what will the surveyor actually do?
There are three main types of home buyers survey, the HomeBuyer Report, the Building Survey and the Property Valuation Report. Each of these has a different focus, so buyers should consider which of the three is the right choice for them:
HomeBuyer Report - A general survey of a home, including any visible defects or issues. If the property to be surveyed is of standard construction, and was built after 1900, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) recommend that the HomeBuyer Report is usually the best choice. The report is delivered in a standardised format for easy reference. The HomeBuyer Report includes a valuation.
Building Survey - A more in-depth survey of a property, including all accessible areas of a home. RICS recommend the building survey for older properties, or those of non-standard construction. Building survey reports are tailored by the individual surveyor, and can address any additional questions or concerns. Note that this home buyers survey does not include a valuation as standard.
Property Valuation Report - The most basic of the three, this report is primarily a valuation, and will not include details of particular defects.
For more detail please see the detailed survey comparison table.
Does a qualified surveyor give details on the state of repair of the gas installations?
Yes. A chartered surveyor will visually check any easily accessible parts of the gas system. This will include gas (and oil heaters) for instance, in addition to gas affiliated fittings for example - chimney linings. However, the UK surveyor won't remove any fittings and he or she won't carry out any tests on the system or appliances. Needless to say, gas is potentially hazardous, should you have any concerns relating to gas installations, call a gas safe engineer.
If the property is a listed building, what additional considerations will the surveyor make?
There are great benefits to owning a listed building or a home protected within a conservation area. The unique character of a property or locale is preserved, and the sense of continuity and history can increase both residents' enjoyment, and property prices.
Unfortunately, these benefits are not without a cost. Grade I and II listed buildings are identified as being of special historical or architectural interest, and worthy of preservation. Although this listing is not intended to 'freeze' the building at a point in time, in practice it does heavily restrict what changes you can make, even with consent. Major alterations, especially external, to a house in a conservation area also require consent from the local authority. Worse, in cases where a previous owner has made changes to a property in a conservation area without consent, the current owner will be liable to pay for remedial work to 'undo' these modifications.
The surveyor will be unable to confirm if previous changes had consent from the council (this should be confirmed by a solicitor during the conveyancing process), but they will be able to investigate the appearance and construction of the property. They can then advise as to whether any recent or 'out of character' changes have been made. Listed buildings must usually be repaired in a 'sympathetic' manner, with appropriate materials and methods, and new owners should not underestimate the additional cost of this.
In general, listed property will be well maintained, which the building survey will confirm, but where a property has deteriorated, a buyer can find themselves saddled with an order requiring them to make necessary repairs. Any repair or upkeep recommendations in a property surveyors report should therefore be carefully considered, and the responsibility of owning a listed building taken seriously.
Is mining related subsidence common?
Mining related subsidence is considered common enough in certain parts of the UK for it to warrant a specific search of the Coal Authority database during the conveyancing process. The Coal Authority owns the definitive database of coal and brine mining which includes the locations of all known opencast and deep mining activity - past and present. It is hardly surprising that subterranean mining activity should impair the stability of the surface and any property which is built upon it. The search will certainly indicate if the property is in an area of big risk such as Cheshire where Brine mining was commonplace.
Ultimately however, it is for the Surveyor to note whether any settlement has actually occurred during the Homebuyer report or Building Survey. Subsidence is the biggest cause of concern for home buyers (and insurance companies) as remedy is typically expensive. Your surveyor will bring their knowledge of the local area and the associated ground conditions to give a context to any cracks they may discover during a survey (for example - homes in North London commonly exhibit signs of historical settlement (as clay sold is prevalent) and a local surveyor will be aware of this.
Typically, when cracks are found, the debate as to whether they are due to historical or on-going movement ensues. This can mean a protracted period of monitoring and ultimate buildings with buildings insurers. It is therefore imperative that the cause of any suspected subsidence is uncovered before buying a property to prevent potentially serious unplanned expense.