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Buy a house without a survey – are you mad!?

by admin

Ian Cowie wrote a fantastic piece for The Telegraph recently entitled ‘A nasty surprise for ‘penny wise’ homebuyers despite falling house prices which made a salient point that home buyers who opt to buy a house without an independant survey often have to pay for unexpected building works after moving in.

This stems from a recent report by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), which found 25% of people who bought houses solely based on the mortgage valuation report later needed unexpected building work costing them on average over £1800 after they moved in.

The purpose of a mortgage valuation is for the lender to assess whether the property you’re dying to buy is actually worth what you think it is – and what you’re trying to borrow.  Mainly so that if you can’t pay your mortgage they can take the house and not lose money.

For that reason alone the lenders valutation is for the benefit of the lender, not for you the buyer.  Although it can be a good guide for you concerning the value of the property,  it can be a very basic survey and doesn’t look at the structure and condition of the building in any great detail.

Many lenders now offer buyers the opportunity to pay a little extra and get a more detailed condition report as part of their basic valuation  survey and it is this that you really need to highlight any rising damp, dry rot, dodgy chimneys and wonky walls.

If you’re not getting a mortgage you can arrange a home condition survey yourself by contacting an RICS surveyor to get a house survey quote who will be qualified to assess the structure and condition of the property and provide advice and likely costs of any work that needs doing to the house – before you complete the transaction, let alone move in.  This can be most useful for picking up underlying issues before you buy the house and giving you the opportunity to discuss these with the seller and if necessary adjust the price to reflect the cost of any works that need doing.

You can expect a home survey quote to cost between £350 and £400, and if you instruct a buildings surveyor yourself and not through your lender you have the added advantage that if anything is missed you will have some come-back under the Surveyor’s professional indemnity insurance – effectively insuring yourself against any unforeseen problems.  Although in the vast majority of cases the surveyor will pick up any issues in his detailed building condition report prior to you buying the house.

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4 responses to “Buy a house without a survey – are you mad!?”

  1. Jonny says:

    My mother has been trying to buy a flat for the last 8 months – the first one she put an offer in then afterwards the surveyaor found a big crack in a wall under a window – the seller and freeholder couldnt decide who was liable and she walked away after 3 months of waiting for them to sort it out.

    The next place looked fine structurally but when the solicitor found she was liable for 25% of the costs of maintaining the building it was the survey that showed the flat roof on the shop extension on the ground floor would need wa whole new roof soon!

    As my mother is a cash buyer there would be no lender to require a survey and she only got one because I told her to.

    The moral of the story? Get a surveyors’ report every time!

  2. I agree when buying a house but buy an apartment your wasting your money on this

  3. admin says:

    @Property Goal – really? If, like Jonny’s example above you’re responsible for 25% of the building maintenance – wouldn’t you want to know it the whole building was subject to subsidence, or the electrics needed updating, or a raft of other issues that effect apartments as well as houses?

  4. A few tips and probably the most important thing to get right in the first place when buying a property.

    As a chartered building surveyor (FRICS) with over 45 years experience within the building industry together with being an expert witness for the Courts now for over 20 years, I can only recommend people to get an ‘independent’ surveyor or ‘independent’ practice to undertake their professional work and where the surveyor is in his or her forties or more. The reason why I advise this is because professional negligence cases usually involve young qualified surveyors or professional people in my experience still learning their trade, as we all have to do. Therefore it is not the size of the chartered consultancy/practice that you employ but down to who undertakes the professional works for you and to whether you get an excellent service or not. In this respect I have known many cases over the last few decades where qualified surveyors have undertaken reports and where they have left out substantial elements. As one example of these to indicate what can happen, a survey in the Pontefract area where I was asked to undertake a second opinion. This second opinion found that the first surveyor had overlooked nearly £14,000 of remedial building works that needed undertaking. If this had not been identified the unsuspecting purchaser would have had to foot the bill for this or fight the matter through the Courts (expensive and time consuming). As it was the buyer had the asking price reduced by the near £14,000.

    Indeed, when an estate agent or financial institution specifies a chartered surveyor or engineer there is usually a commercial tie somewhere between the two. With this you do not get an independent assessment in the true sense of the words (through possibly being economically with the truth) as estate agents in particular are basically just looking for a sale. With that, compromise may occur down the line.

    My recommendation is therefore always to get someone yourself and where then you will know 100% that there are no ties at all and no possible vested-interests lurking in the background. The surveys and chartered reports will also be much cheaper as the possibility of commission is also eliminated totally. Common-sense really.

    Dr David Hill
    Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

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