Once you’ve had an offer accepted and appointed a solicitor, the next thing to consider is a survey. There are three main types of survey; mortgage valuation, homebuyers survey and building survey. You should note these are sometimes referred to by different names.

Please note the below information is for buyers in England and Wales. The process in Scotland is slightly different.

If you need help finding a surveyor, please contact us for recommendations. We believe you should choose an experienced and local surveyor. Over time, surveyors learn what to look for in certain roads or types of property. The same issues can often manifest themselves which means surveyors get better at spotting them.

Mortgage Valuation

Most lenders require this basic level of survey. If you are buying a property and need a mortgage, the lender must check you aren’t paying too much and the property is suitable for lending. This is because if you don’t keep up your repayments, the lender needs to know they can resposess the property and recover their money.

Valuations are generally very brief visits, often only around 20 minutes. The surveyor conducting the valuation checks the property is structurally sound and suitable for lending. All lenders have their own suitability requirements. For example, these can encompass location, construction type, condition and lease length.

Next, upon return to their office, the surveyor will look for comparable evidence. Comparable evidence is the details of properties which have recently sold. Properties which are on the market and haven’t yet sold are not generally considered acceptable evidence. Most lenders require evidence of three sold comparable properties.

You probably won’t receive a copy of the mortgage valuation. This varies between lenders, though.

The lender or financial advisor contacts you in the event of a problem. it is unlikely you will have direct contact with the surveyor. If you don’t hear anything, no news is generally good news and the mortgage offer will follow in due course.

Please note that mortgage valuations don’t always include an internal inspection. Sometimes a surveyor will look from the outside only. In some instances, the lender might even conduct a desktop valuation with no visit to the property whatsoever. This very much depends on your ‘loan to value’ and the type of property you are buying.

Your lender sets the price of the mortgage valuation. Sometimes you can add it to the loan amount. Occasionally, mortgage valuations are free of charge but this is more common when re-mortgaging.

Homebuyers survey

We find homebuyers surveys to be the most popular type of survey for buyers wanting a more thorough report. Homebuyers surveys are suitable for most properties which are in reasonable condition.

If there’s no obvious cause for concern but you want to check there’s no hidden problems, this is probably the survey to choose. The survey will check for issues such as structural defects, damp, rot and highlight anticipated maintenance items.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) have a standard format which many surveyors use. This incorporates a traffic light style rating system making the report straightforward to understand.

Sometimes lenders give the option to upgrade your mortgage valuation to a homebuyers survey. Because only one visit is required, the total cost is usually less. The downside to taking this option is that you probably won’t get to choose your surveyor. Many people prefer to choose their surveyor, or already have a surveyor they have used in the past.

Building Survey (Structural survey)

These surveys are especially good for properties which need work or are more likely to have problems. Equally, if you suspect there is a problem a building survey will usually give more detail about it than a homebuyers survey.

Building surveys give more detail on the cause and the necessary repairs compared to a homebuyers survey. They are very extensive reports and can be very helpful if you are buying a project and need to understand how much work is involved.

General notes
Surveyors can only conduct inspections of accessible areas. Items such as furniture, floor coverings and full loft spaces will limit the inspection. Gas and electrics are usually flagged as needing attention unless evidence of their condition is available to the surveyor. This is because such items can only be checked by appropriately accredited gas engineers and electricians. Should this be the case, ask the seller if they have paperwork to confirm their condition. Failing that, arrange for accredited tradespersons to inspect these for you. If you are buying an empty property, the water supply might be off. Leaks may not be visible to the surveyor or new leaks may occur when the supply is turned back on. The risk is higher in winter where pipes can freeze.