A guide to your choices for a pre-purchase home survey
Buying a home is, for most people, a hugely significant and exciting life event. It can also be a complicated, frustrating and stressful process.
In the midst of numerous information requests and queries flying around between you, your estate agent, mortgage adviser and legal adviser, there’s an important and crucial part of the process – your pre-purchase building survey, which doesn’t have to be stressful.
The purpose of a survey is to assess the condition of a property pre-purchase, giving you a snapshot of the property on the day of inspection. The content of the resulting report is an essential milestone in your buying process. Depending on what you read, you may have to regretfully decide to withdraw from the purchase.
It is a no-brainer that getting a professional and thorough survey completed on the property you’ve chosen to purchase is the right decision to make.
When you are buying a house, you are obviously spending a lot of money and you need the peace of mind, let alone the financial security, to know that your purchase is a sound investment. Cutting corners here, trying to save money by not paying for a survey, thinking ‘it looks all right to me’ and ‘my moving fees are high enough already’ could prove to be a very costly mistake.
You may have invited a builder to look at the property, with a view to making alterations and, if they say the property looks okay to them, you might feel this is all you need to know, making a survey unnecessary. We would strongly advise you to still have a survey. Builders are not usually trained or experienced in how to inspect buildings. A specialist building surveyor would normally be at the property for well over two hours and it is very unlikely that a builder would be able to offer the same detailed level of inspection.
Incidentally, regarding any plans you may have for alterations or an extension, it is a good idea to run your ideas past your building surveyor, as they are likely to have some useful pointers for you to bear in mind before spanners are potentially thrown into the works further down the line.
There are two types of survey that you can commission on the property you have chosen to buy. One is the HomeBuyer Report (Level 2 Survey) – this used to be called the RICS HomeBuyer report, and the other is the Level 3 Building Survey. We will refer to them here as the ‘Level 2’ and the ‘Level 3’.
Both surveys give you a non-intrusive visual inspection of the property.
The Level 2 provides you with detailed information on the condition of the property and what the building’s elements are made of. It flags any defects and potential future pitfalls the surveyor finds, as well as some ideas on how to remedy those defects. It also inspects the services from a building surveyor’s perspective and includes some commentary around that. The Level 2 also provides you with advice regarding ongoing maintenance, and provides guidance to your legal advisers.
This type of survey is recommended for houses that have been built by conventional construction methods within the last 100 years, and that appear to be in reasonably good condition.
The Level 3 provides you with everything that the Level 2 does, and more. It is a really versatile product, providing a more comprehensive report that is recommended for larger, older or complicated properties, those in poor condition, or where you are planning extensive works or alterations. It can also be the right choice for a newer, more straightforward property if you want the extra reassurance of a ‘next level’ overview.
In a Level 3 report, some surveyors, like Harrison Clarke, also include the building surveyor’s cost estimates for remedial work, in accordance with your requirements and your specific written instructions. The Level 2 does not include cost estimates for remedial work.
If you are not sure whether the Level 2 or the Level 3 survey will be the most appropriate for your potential property, have a quick chat with Harrison Clarke, or another building surveyor of your choice, and they will be happy to advise you.
As soon as possible after you have had your offer on the property accepted. The earlier you get a survey done, the quicker you will be able to consider any potential defects that are uncovered by the surveyor’s report. Having been given the opportunity to think very carefully about whether you still want to proceed, if you do choose to withdraw from the purchase it makes sense to do so as soon as possible – minimising the professional fees you will be incurring across the rest of the house buying process.
The surveys are thorough and a building surveyor will pride themselves on their attention to detail. However, it is important to note that they have to exclude from their detailed report any inaccessible areas of the property, for example any areas that are blocked by the vendor’s belongings. Also, they do not include inspection of kitchen appliances as this is outside of their expertise. They do not test the property’s service connections for gas and electricity, but will inspect them from a building surveyor’s perspective, and may advise you to ask a specialist to inspect those further.
Costs of the Level 2 and Level 3 reports vary greatly, depending on a number of factors including the size and complexity of the property, the type of construction and its geographical location. As you would expect from the descriptions of both, the Level 3 survey is slightly more expensive than the Level 2. Please get in touch with Harrison Clarke, or another surveyor, to find out more about specific survey costs for the property you would like to have surveyed.
Tip: If you are comparing Level 3 quotes from more than one surveyor, make sure that the quotes are ‘like for like’ and cost estimates for any remedial work are supplied as standard, as they are at no extra charge with Harrison Clarke’s Level 3 Building Survey.
To arrange to have a property inspected, contact Harrison Clarke, or another local surveyor. When you have given them the address of the property in question, they will do a little research, just to make sure they recommend the right survey type for you. Then, they will talk through the property’s details with you and confirm with you whether the Level 2 or Level 3 survey would be most appropriate.
After that, if you choose to give them the go-ahead they will take care of everything else, starting with contacting your estate agent to arrange the inspection at a convenient date.
Different building surveyors will have different service levels. If you use Harrison Clarke, you can expect them to provide you with your completed survey only two working days after their site inspection. They deliberately turn this around as quickly and efficiently as possible, appreciating that the information that the report contains can affect your decision-making process and any another professional costs you are committing to.
Buying a house can be a long and convoluted process – Harrison Clarke is mindful that the whole process can be fraught so they do everything they can to take every aspect of stress away from you, making sure that the building survey, whether Level 2 or Level 3, is the smoothest part of the process. It is gratifying when clients tell them how surprised they are at how easy the survey was to get done, compared to the rest of the house buying process!
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