Surveys and valuations

Surveys

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There are 3 main types of survey:

Basic valuation. This carried out for the purposes of the purposes of mortgage and is prepared for the lender.

Homebuyer's report. This type of survey is prepared for you, and details the basic state of repair of the property. It almost always provides a basic valuation as well.

Full structural survey. Also known as a building survey, this report is much more thorough than the other types of survey. It looks for major and minor problems and details all of them in a long report.

The level of survey that you choose is partly dependent on the age and type of property you're buying. When you are buying a relatively new home built to standard construction, a basic valuation is often sufficient. If you are in any doubt go for one of the more thorough (and more expensive) options. For any property over fifty years old, you should generally get a full structural survey done.

It is not necessarily in the interests of an estate agent to recommend a homebuyer or full structural survey. They don't particularly want you to do anything that may risk the deal falling through. In estate agency, like most businesses, time is money - the quicker they can sell the property the better.

Why have a survey at all

It is easy to dismiss the need for an independent surveyor's report. With so many other costs stacking up when you buy a place to live in, it is one of the things that often gets pushed down the pecking order. It probably shouldn't do.

As the buyer, it is your responsibility to find out what you are committing yourself to. The seller has no liability whatsoever once the purchase is complete. Having a survey done can help minimise the risk of committing to a property that turns out to be rather less than the dream home you had hoped for. Seeking the opinion of a trained professional before you part with a vast sum of hard-earned cash is the best way to reach an informed decision about the transaction.

Surveyors are bound by law to tell you every detail of what they find. A survey will tell you exactly what work needs to be done to the building and whether there are any problems with the property you didn't know about. This can help avoid unpleasant and costly surprises after you have moved in.

Once you have received the results of the survey, you are free to reconsider your offer. You may well decide not to go ahead with a purchase if a survey turns up a major problem that you do not want to spend time and money resolving. Then again, you may be able to renegotiate the price. If the problem can be resolved for a definite sum of money, the survey can help pressure the seller into reducing the asking price.

A survey will also help you to find out independently whether the price is reasonable. Your mortgage lender will almost certainly insist on a basic valuation to make sure that the property is worth the amount you are paying for it. They want to ensure that you will be able to sell it again and therefore that it is a safe investment.

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