Which type of survey do I need?
The RICS has two main types of survey: the RICS Homebuyer Report and the Building Survey (formerly known as a Structural Survey). These are the most popular survey types with the Building Survey the more comprehensive of the two, although it should be noted that it doesn't include a valuation as standard - you will have to request that separately if required, and there is likely to be an additional cost.
The RICS describes the Homebuyer Report as:
"most suitable for conventional properties which are in reasonable condition"
There are two forms for the HomeBuyer Report - survey only, and survey with valuation.
A Homebuyer Report (HBR), also known as a Homebuyer’s Survey, is a survey completed to a standard format set out by RICS, and it’s most suitable for conventional properties built within the last 150 years, which are in reasonable condition.
It doesn’t detail every aspect of the property, and only focuses on urgent matters needing attention. It’s not usually suitable for properties that have been significantly altered, or are in need of renovation, or if you’re planning major alterations.
A standard HomeBuyers Report includes details of:
- The general condition of the property
- Any major faults in accessible parts of the building that may affect the value
- Any urgent problems that might need inspecting by a specialist before you sign a contract
- Results of tests for damp in the walls
- Damage to timbers – including woodworm or rot
- The condition of any damp-proofing, insulation and drainage (though drains aren’t tested)
- The estimated cost of rebuilding the property for insurance purposes
If you require a HomeBuyer Report with valuation, then an "open market valuation" will be provided, but you will need to check with your surveyor if this is included. Only surveyors who are also RICS Registered Valuers can provide a valuation, and there is usually a higher cost.
The Building Survey is described as:
“a comprehensive inspection of a property reported in a style to suit the property and your specific requirements"
A full Building Survey, also commonly referred to as a Structural Survey is suitable for all properties, but especially:
- Listed buildings
- Older properties
- Buildings constructed in an unusual way, however old they are
- Properties you plan to renovate or alter in any way
- Properties that have had extensive alterations.
It examines all accessible parts of the property - and you can ask to have specific areas included, so it covers any particular concerns you have about the building. It is a product which can generally be tailored to your needs, agreed between you and your surveyor.
A Building Survey can include details of:
- Major and minor defects and what they could mean
- The possible cost of repairs
- Results of damp testing on walls
- Damage to timbers – including woodworm and rot
- The condition of damp-proofing, insulation and drainage (though drains aren’t tested)
- Technical information on the construction of the property and the materials used
- The location
- Recommendations for any further special inspections.
A Building Survey usually doesn’t include a valuation, but your surveyor may provide this separately if you need one, but again any valuation has to be prepared by a RICS Registered Valuer, and there will be an additional charge.
It is worth noting that not all surveyors adhere to the RICS format when conducting Building Surveys - many will use their own version, very often more comprehensive, and often tailored to the alternative building construction materials and methods common in their areas. Because the Building Survey is more flexible and can be tailored to your requirements, when instructing a surveyor to carry out a Building Survey it is well worth a discussion to check what is to be included and anything that will be omitted.
It is worth stressing that all standard survey types are 'non-destructive' - in other words won't cover areas that cannot be easily accessed; surveyors aren't usually able to raise carpets or flooring, insulation in roof-spaces, or remove contents of cupboards to gain access for example.
Access may also be limited by the current home owner. If you have concerns about any specific aspect of the property where access might be restricted, it's worth speaking to your surveyor about the options available, including the possibility of improving access arrangements.
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